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On Friday afternoon, L39ion of Los Angeles pro Freddy Ovett was standing in the long registration line at Belgian Waffle Ride with everyone else, as one of some 3,000 slated to race this weekend. He was eager to jump into his first BWR, which is celebrating its eleventh anniversary this year in San Diego County, California.
“I have heard many tales, many war stories, so I thought I had better give it a crack,” Ovett said.
The Scottish-born Australian has raced road bikes all over the world for the likes of BMC, Israel Cycling Academy, and other teams. Part of his attraction in signing for L39ion for 2021 was the ability to race a variety of disciplines, from road to gravel to esports.
Ovett was second to Jay Vine (Alpecin-Fenix) at the 2022 UCI esports world championships on Zwift.
While Ovett has raced a number of gravel events, this will be his first time at BWR California.
Related: Freddy Ovett on the Bobby & Jens Podcast
“It’s one of the biggest gravel races in the world, isn’t it?” he said. “I’d put it up there with Unbound and SBT GRVL, and if you want to call yourself a top gravel racer you’ve got to come to the top ones, don’t you?”
Ovett was fifth at SBT GRVL last year, behind winner Alex Howes,(EF Education First-Nippo), Ian Boswell (Wahoo), Pete Stetina (Privateer), and Adam Roberge (Pinarello), and ahead of a number of gravel specialists like Colin Strickland and Ted King.
Ovett said he was looking forward to getting in the mix at BWR, and staying out of trouble.
“It’s always stressful at a gravel race. There’s a lot that can go right, and there’s a lot that can go wrong,” he said. “I’m feeling great at the moment, but you just want to manager your effort and stay of trouble. So I’ll just be looking to stay out of trouble and stay at the front of the race as long as possible.”
Race organizer Michael Marckx changed the start for this year, adding a stout, 2km climb at 8 percent pretty much right out of the gate to help break up the massive field. In the past two years, the race into the first singletrack section was aggressive and, for many, dangerous, averaging nearly 30mph for the first 20 miles. Many BWR veterans have applauded the new start, and expect it to whittle the front group down to 50 or so.
The course also includes more dirt than before, with a few chunkier off-road sections that have some riders going with bigger tires.
Ovett is racing in his road cleats — “Yeah, always. I’m a road guy, and you’ve gotta stick to your guns,” he said — and has 38mm Specialized Pathfinder tires on his bike.
“I’d rather be on the safe side and blame the legs and not the tires at the end of the day,” he said.
Belgian Waffle Ride California kicks off Saturday. Check back Saturday afternoon for race coverage.