Pain, Suffering, Bikes, and Beer

berry breakfast cake close up

After five flats, five crashes, and five mechanical issues, nine Cal Poly Cycling athletes completed the 2022 San Diego Belgian Waffle Ride— one of the most competitive, challenging, and well known gravel races in the nation (where each finisher ~over the age of 21~ is rewarded a bottle of beer).

The course was a total of 134 miles of road and gravel with over 10,500 feet of elevation gain.

The riders began the daunting race at 7:30am, April 30th. Finishing times ranged anywhere between six and eighteen hours— an incredibly long time to spend on a bike.

“It felt like someone took a jackhammer to my lower back for 8 hours,” said Cal Poly fourth year engineering student Zachary Colwell. “It was definitely the hardest physical thing I’ve done in my life.”

Pro cyclists from around the nation battled the daunting route, and even some of the professionals wound up with a dnf next to their name.

The Belgian Waffle Ride is held every year, and this years course has been deemed the hardest yet. With the most gravel than ever before, roughly a 50/50 split between road and dirt, finishing the brutal course is a major accomplishment in itself. 1,114 racers started the race, and 901 finished.

Two time BWR champion Peter Stetina rode with a broken wrist and was dethroned by Alexey Vermeulen.

Pro triathlete and offroad cyclist Isabel King took 6th place for the women, acquiring an injury as well.

At mile 132, Cal Poly third year and Vice President of the Cycling Club, Kenny Rapmund suffered a mechanical issue which led to a fall. Luckily with the help of his teammate Dylan Pollard, a second year Cal Poly biochemistry major, and a lot of will power—he was able to finish the race.

“I flatted once on mile 132 which caused me to crash. I was totally crushed and thought I wasn’t going to finish even though the finish was only 2 miles away. I got passed by 15 people as I tried to collect myself,” remarked Rapmund. “Thankfully, Dylan was only a few spots behind me and stopped to help me fix the flat. He was super selfless, calm, and composed while I was bonking, cramping, and delirious. It would’ve taken me at least 5 more minutes to get rolling without him. Big props to him.”

Despite the setback, Rapmund accomplished his goals and surpassed his expectations in the process.

“My goal was to finish in under 9 hours and I finished in just over 8 hours, including the flat/crash. The last 1/3 of the race was the most mentally difficult thing I’ve ever gone through,” Rapmund said. “Everything hurt and I had so little energy left, but I wanted to hold my pace. It’s amazing how much more you’re capable of when you just put your head down and grind it out. I still can’t believe I pushed through it.”

First year Cal Poly biomedical engineering major, Trinity Mak sustained a notable crash as well, but was able to get back on her bike and take second place for the U23 category.

The race pushed the limits of every single athlete, testing their strength, determination, and willpower. The ten Cal Poly athletes proudly represented CP cycling and left everything out on the course.

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