Michael Marckx is the founder and CEO of Monuments of Cycling which organizes the Belgian Waffle Ride series across the United States. We caught up with him to learn about how the events have gone so far this year, what to expect at the remaining rides in Utah and North Carolina and more.
Peloton: Michael, what’s the best thing that happened at BWR San Diego?
Michael Marckx: We produced the BWR TV Documentary for Outside TV, which is called ‘THIS IS NOT A GRAVEL RACE,’ and in it we got to capture all the zaniness of the largest race ever and just why they call it ‘the most unique cycling event in the country.’ And, we did so by not only capturing the experience through the prism of the lead women and men but also through following interesting mid-pack riders who have their own special motivations for taking on such a grueling event in 100-degree heat over 135-miles and 12,000 feet of elevation gain across 20 off-road sectors. It will premiere in November!
Peloton: For those on the fence about Cedar City, what will they be missing if they don’t make the pilgrimage?
MMX: The BWR Utah in Cedar City is truly a unique gravel race. It’s not one of those rides that endlessly rolls along the same midwest gravel road with no change in scenery. This one is 75 percent off-road, but each off-road sector is quite different from the previous one. There’s gravel that leads to red soil truck trails that lead to undulating groads that lead to sand-ridden single track that lead to forested backcountry climbs that lead to heinous technical descents that lead to more gravel roads over to a diabolical final climb before the mayhem of a 4.4-mile mountain bike sector called The Tolweg. It’s refreshingly all over the map and challenging way beyond just riding on the same gravel road for the better part of a day. It takes technical skills, endurance and the knowledge of when to dig deep and when to wait.
Peloton: If you could name three songs that define the San Diego, Cedar City and Lawrence, Kansas, events what would they be?
MMX: For BWR CA it is ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ from Guns N’ Roses because it juxtaposes the touchy-feely gravel scene with the harsh, insane and lawless environment of a 10-hour cyclocross race. For BWR Utah it would be U2’s “In God’s Country.” Utah, with its conservative politics, history of a robust environmental movement and world-famous national parks and monuments, is often referred to as God’s country for myriad reasons. Edge’s guitar on the track is lively, open and filled with the same promise the initial 13 miles of the race offer.
For BWR KS, a race that hasn’t been run yet and thus without historical reference, the track would be Foo Fighters’ “Times Like These” because this new race for Kansas offers something exciting and different than what gravel riding has been for them to date. It symbolizes a bright future for someone seeking a better day. And the chorus of the song basically states that when you’re having to negotiate adversity in life, you’ll be a stronger person after overcoming it. During that time, you will learn to love, live and give. For us, this race is about overcoming the recent challenges and using creativity to fashion a new reality. We think BWR KS is going to become something really special.
You didn’t ask about BWR NC, but I am going share its song, which is “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” by Daft Punk.
Peloton: You have quickly become the event series that leads the way with gender parity, inspiring new riders, and general post-race mayhem. Why is it then that all media outlets, including us, only seem to focus on the pro events? How can we improve there?
MMX: What’s been important to us is being a melting pot of cycling’s most glorious elements, male and female. We’ve been proud to offer the women more prize money than the men, but we also offer them their own wave and their own support crews and their own media contingency. Our races are the only ones where you will find BMX stars, triathletes, WorldTour riders, cyclocrossers, mountain bikers and even gravel grinders all in one happy place. It isn’t for one group; it’s for everyone and any one who wants to reach, aspire and grow to new heights through challenges that transcend one day on a bike.
The media tends to want to focus on either just the top level story of who won or bring up and exploit the negative. In between those things are the real stories of inspiration: the CEOs of corporations mixing it up on the trails with aspiring high school mountain bikers. And what about the mother of three, who is also a CEO and a badass, out there showing the men what is possible. Or, what about the former U.S. national road champion who flats out of the race early and then spends his day doing nothing but helping others get to the finish line. That’s what Alex Howes did this year at BWR CA. Underneath the surface are stories that deserve the spotlight. And when we shine a light on those people, we can attract more people to what we do and what we believe.
As a former publisher of Surfing Magazine in a past life, I always found our readers wanted to know more about the surfers and how they lived than what their score was on their third wave of the heat. With just a little rock turning, editors can find the kind of stories than change people’s lives. I want to see more of those inspiring stories and less about who drafted who to win.
Peloton: If you were to say 50 words on why all our readers should sign up for Utah and/or Kansas, here’s your chance. The kicker is you have to include the words ‘jentacular” and “adumbral.”
MMX: The Belgian Waffle Ride is a unique celebration of life. It’s a jentacular Belgian waffle feast that precedes an insane day that takes riders to adumbral places before delivering them back to the light of an all-out Belgian ale bender amongst survivors and revelers of the greatest one-day bike race in the country.
Peloton: Any teasers about new locations for 2022 and where do we send our readers to grab registration slots for these next two events?
MMX: We have new venues in the works in Canada, Nor Cal, Austin and Japan. To learn more about the BWR or simply register, go to www.belgianwaffleride.bike
We have also created a cycling, music and food festival, Blazing Saddles, which will include 6-, 12- and 24-hour MTB and gravel racing, plus many other events. Of course, there will be rad music and food on offer, all of which will be supported by our favorite breweries and distilleries.