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Recap of BWR 2021– Hell of the North (Carolina)

by Reny Townsend

I’ve had a lot of thoughts running through my head since the BWR NC event. All of them are good, except I wonder if I could have ridden faster;) To put my experience into perspective, BWR NC will be the keystone event I target next year. My son and I showed up Friday afternoon before the event, we were immediately greeted by one of the race organizers on a golf cart who gave us a ride to the sign-in tent. Next thing I knew my 12-year-old was signed up for the 30 miler and he was getting all kinds of encouragement from the promoters!

In preparation, I had the luxury of pre-riding the course since I live fairly close. After the pre-ride, I concluded the course was very demanding and was not to be underestimated. I have always heard that getting a good start at a Gravel race is important but after my pre-ride, my strategy was to be conservative at the start as to not go too deep early and then end up in a death march on the final climbs. I stuck to my strategy and sat up out of the initial group I was with. I ended up in a smaller group with some equally fit riders and we worked well together. We caught riders and lost riders throughout the course and in the end, there were only two of us that finished together.

cyclist and son
Reny and son

My strength came on the gravel descents thanks to my GULO GGX-SL’s wheels. I was either leading the group on the technical sections or bridging back up after getting pealed on a climb. We caught multiple riders fixing flats and/or mechanicals but I had no issues, I ran IRC Doublecross tires on my GULO wheels. I was also able to finish without any core or back pain which I partially attribute to the GULO carbon spokes. It’s a combination of all the little things that add up to make the difference, right!

My mind goes back to the mantra “the start of a Gravel race is important”. I now wonder if I would have made the effort to stay with my original group, which consisted of approximately 20 riders including the lead women, would I have ridden a faster time? Maybe I would have been able to conserve energy and hide more in a larger group, and ultimately rode a faster time. We’ll have to wait until next year to find out.

There are multiple aspects of this event that still stand out in my mind, one is being able to line up with some of the top Gravel racers in the county in a mass start format, love it! The next thing is all the support throughout the course. Receiving water bottle hand-ups at the aid stations may seem standard but for an amateur racer, it was epic to receive that sort of support.

Another experience enhancer was the number of cameramen and motorcycles that were on course, it seemed as if there was always something going on, another aspect that lifts the experience.

After my pre-ride, I guessed the leaders would ride the course in around 5:30 and I was hoping to ride it in under 6:30. Boy was I wrong, the leaders came in around 4:45 and I rode it in under 5:30. I point this out to show the caliber and depth of riders that the BWR attracts. I’m still amazed at what the power of a strong group and the drive of competition does to bring out the best in us.

My 12-year-old son finished the 30 miler. It took him over 3:30 minutes and he has all kinds of stories and memories from that day including an immense sense of accomplishment for being able to persevere through the roller coaster of emotions he must have gone through to make it unassisted to the finish line. He then proceeded to gather signatures on his helmet from the pros at the finish line, this day will be forever embedded in his memory. ALL in all what a day of intense emotion and fulfillment that continues to live on. A month after the event has passed and I just received a link to photos from the BWR, another first for me and another stoking point for a participant!! Lastly, every rider received a cold wet towel draped across their neck immediately after crossing the finish line!! The little things

See you next year, 
Reny Townsend