Tue, 6/22 · 5:52 PM20:150:03

Veloworthy’s Brian Co, talks with Adam Mills from Source Endurance and John Murphy from Gulo Composites about BWR Survival Camps.

Brian:
Hey guys, I’m joined with Adam Mills and John Murphy, and we are here to talk about BWR Survival camps. And if you don’t already know who John is, he is a former pro for United Healthcare and Rally and he’s seen and done it all on the US domestic and international circuit as well.
Welcome, guys. Good afternoon, it’s good to see everybody. Everyone’s fresh back from either Unbound or Tulsa. Today we’re going to talk about the BWR survival camps that we have going on. Adam, why don’t you sort of take us through what these survival camps are and what experiences to expect.

What are these BWR Survival Camps are and what experiences can a participate expect?

Adam:
So it all started a few years ago when I moved to California and saw this like horrible attrition rate the Belgian waffle ride had and knowing what I knew about the sport, I thought these people just need a way to prepare for this better than whatever they’re doing. So we launched the San Diego BWR Survival Camp, and a few years later, our San Diego survival camps are complete sell-outs. Unfortunately, the San Diego BWR Survival Camp did not happen because of COVID in 2021. We are expanding to the other events this year, and that brings in a Mr. Murphy here and with Gulo Composites as a partner for running Asheville Camp.

The BWR Survival Camps are kind of your luxury training camp, preparation camp and recon camp. We look at…ride the course, have fun, eat good food, have an adult beverage, ride it in a way that makes you remember it as opposed to suffering and only staring at the wheel in front of you for the entire day.

Brian:
All right, and John you attended your fair share of camps when you were on the pro scene. Those I would say are a little bit more different, so if your reconning like a Belgian classic or spring classic, that’s all business. Are there some advantages to actually going to the course you’re going to race in the future?

What kind of experience did you gain from not just pre-riding, but being out there a little bit early, scouting out the course?

Are there some advantages to reconning the course before you race?

John:
Yeah, thanks for having me, Brian, and Adam as well.

You know, one of the biggest correlations that is made between the Belgian Waffle Ride and road racing, which is what I’m most familiar with is probably the Paris-Roubaix. And when it comes to Paris-Roubaix, the most important thing you can do before that event is pre-ride the cobble sections, pre-ride the critical moments and see for yourself, have a look at it, and also test equipment. I think that’s probably the most notable event that we would recon. We would do it every year, no matter if you’d written the race 10 times or if it was your first time you would always recon with your whole team, maybe even a couple of extra reserve riders also do the recon. So, we knew how important it was to see the cobblestone and see the entrance to the sectors and the exit to the sectors. You would always want to be visualizing and focusing on the actual course you’re going to be racing on.

Brian:
So let’s say you have two riders have equal ability equal equipment, everything’s the same but one person actually does their homework, they pre-ride they do a BWR Survival Camp versus someone who shows up on race day. Could that be sort of the determining factor of having a great day on the bike versus not.

John:
Oh my goodness. It only takes one mistake, one moment of intention, one little bit of focus to slip for your entire strategy or plan to be derailed. Whether it be choice of equipment, choice of positioning before an important section, or not realizing how quickly a section is coming up. Even something as minor as not knowing exactly when you should be eating your food or drinking out of your bottles all have impacts. All these tiny little marginal gains that happen all day long during an event like this. They add up and, yeah, it can be any little slippage mentally or physically, that can make or break the ride. It’s never apples to apples out there.

Brian:
Adam, I’m ashamed to say I am one of those people I’ve actually never attended a camp before. So, if I sign up, and I’m not a pro and I’m not doing a gravel race to win it. I want to maybe go for my best time or even finish in some cases, if I sign up for a camp, what would the experience be like for a first-timer like me?

What would the experience be like for a first timer BWR Survival Camper like me?

Adam:
First and foremost, we would give all the campers the tools to be successful regardless of what their end goal is. Looking at the Belgian Waffle Ride events, most of the people riding are not racing to win, and if they think they are they have some hard lessons coming their way. But most of them are rightfully intimidated by the prospect of completing this event in a reasonable time and not like, suffering horribly all day long and so we give him those tools to help negotiate the ride. We start with registration and then send out e-newsletters that talk about how to prepare for the camp… because you can’t just show up without ever riding your bike. BWR Survival Camp week, each day we talk about the type of sectors and how to ride them. We talk about how to keep your equipment intact, nutrition, strategies, and tactics. You will get guidance and skill sessions from the instructors, and then when the rides are over, you get some good food, some good times, and you can all sit around the campfire, so to speak, and reminisce about the good and bad decisions that we all made.

Brian:
So you’re saying that even though these camps are designed to get the best out of you, the friends you make at the camp create a bond. You don’t run teams in gravel racing. These guys are the same guys and girls you’re going to be doing the race with and you’re not necessarily trying to beat them, it’s more of like a camaraderie.

Adam:
John knows a lot about this. The alliances are always fragile in cycling. Even though you’re at camp with these people, and you’re suffering all day with these people, you know when you hit the finish line and you can see it, sometimes you just have to race them. A fair number of people do that and just go for it and a fair number of people just want to finish. They roll in and they’re happy with that. For the most part, to build the camaraderie it’s always nicer to do an event like a Belgian Waffle Ride amongst friends, right? Because, if you’re going to hang out with someone all day it should probably be a friend.

Brian:
John, I hate to throw you under the bus like this, but pro cyclists are notorious for being terrible at working on their own equipment…you know, a pro gets a flats and they’re like, where’s my team car, right? And they’re training out in the middle of nowhere. So, not just for pros, but for everybody else gravel racing, you oftentimes have to be self-sustained and self-aware. Will survival camp go over equipment and how to fix failures for people who are mechanically challenged…like the average Pro.

Will survival camp go over equipment and how to fix failures for people who are mechanically challenged

John:
I think it’s gonna be a great opportunity for industry partners like Gulo Composites who will be present. We will have wheels and tires and options for everybody to not only test on the course itself but also learn how to change a flat or if you bend a rotor, try to work on getting yourselves out of the woods. You’ve got to take care of yourself out there, you’ve got to know how to survive the elements, and you’ve got to be able to not only ride your bike, but also make sure the bike survives the course.

Brian:
Adam is teaching bike maintenance basics, something that the experts teach at these camps, do they actually teach you a little bit about bike care and bike maintenance. I mean, I’m showing up to races and forgotten my shoes. And that’s just a crit so I can only imagine all the factors of tubeless sealant and tires and camelbaks and nutrition. Is all that covered in these camps?

Adam:
Yes, we also have a lecture series, with the camps we do one morning, and then one in the evening or afternoon as well. And then, on the rides, we’ll even talk about changing flats, and how to get you to the aid station if you have to get there. John mentioned changing a flat and it made me realize like, man, these people, a lot of people that are going from tube-type tires to tubeless, but changing a flat process is a lot different, and it can be a lot more messy. So it’s not necessarily all the same set of skills, but it’s a little bit different so you have to know how to do both. Or just to get yourself to the a station or out of the woods is a great analogy, and we go through all of that. Bottom line you need your equipment to make it, at least to the aid station. I think Belgian Waffle has a mechanic at every station. If you can get there they can probably get you limping home if nothing else. You don’t have to sit there at the aid station until someone picks you up, whenever that would be.

Brian:
Right, so I would say that for people to have a good day out there on the bike you need your equipment to work. You also need your body to work. Does the camp go over like hydration, nutrition, I mean, Unbound was basically a competitive eating contest with the amount of calories, some of the pros were taking in. What can people learn about what’s going to be talked about when it comes to nutrition at these camps?

Does the camp go over like hydration and nutrition?

Adam:
So nutrition and hydration strategies are definitely a talk. And that’s where it’s great to have someone like John who will provide real-world experiences on exactly how much it takes. The survival camp in North Carolina, it’s in August before the event, and North Carolina is not known for being cool and dry in August. The humidity, the heat that changes how much you got to eat and drink and why you should eat and drink. John lives there and he knows the course and so who’s better to offer their expertise about the kinds of things that will and won’t work. For example; you drop a Snickers bar in your pocket and Asheville in August, it’s like ‘congratulations, you know how chocolate pudding’. You don’t even realize that until the time you eat your delicious Snickers bar and you realize it’s just chocolate pudding. So things like that will and will not work and the experience that you’re getting will help minimize mistakes.

Brian:
John, you’re basically not only an experienced pro, you have 1000s of kilometres or miles under your belt, you also have the added knowledge of knowing what’s out there and the topography. In a sense, you’d be like, if somebody was traveling to a far off land, you’d be the local guy getting them through the jungle.

Any insight you can tell us about what challenges people from sea level and perfect weather if you’re in San Diego versus what you would find in North Carolina? Are we’re looking at snakes or what are we looking at here?

Terrain and Weather Challenges

John:
With Gulo based in western North Carolina we are obviously very familiar with the elements and terrain. I’m also the course designer for the North Carolina Belgian Waffle Ride so we are uniquely position to not only help you recon the course but we can help you test products like our Gulo’s carbon wheels on the course. I know firsthand every inch of the course so I can help campers make good decisions in terms of what gear to select, and how to fuel for this ride, but also how to hydrate and feel differently, fuel differently because of the heat, the humidity, like Adam mentioned earlier, but also we’re temperate rain forest and we get rain, nearly every day. So, you’re most likely going to deal with some weather out there, whether it’s rain or wind or heat or humidity. Aside from whether we do encounter snakes.

So you never know what you’re gonna see. And my goal is to help guide the crew through, probably one of the gnarliest gravel courses I’ve ever designed so I’m pretty excited to help everybody out.

Adam:
I would like to add something there too. The Belgian Waffle Ride courses are notorious for being just severe, to the point where you start to question your equipment choices. Do you go full gravel or do you hedge, with a not quite as severe gravel setup. Whereas a San Diego ride do you go with a cyclocross tire type setup or do you just go with a road bike and try and finesse it through? Or, the Utah camp do you go with really big beefy tires, or do you need something faster? Michael and the course designers have always been really good at making it so you kind of question what you’re going to do. That’s where the local guides, really the local gurus like John. John obviously is the man to know, the person to know in North Carolina. In our Kanas survival camp, the Steve Tilford Foundation is probably riding the course as we speak, or different parts of it. They basically design the course there and then in Utah, we have a couple of instructors that we will announce coming up, that train on the course on a daily, weekly basis so you have all this very, very high-quality local knowledge, and that helps everyone.

Brian:
That’s that’s great. I don’t know, can we use the term course doping, by having so much knowledge that it’s almost an unfair advantage even though you’re not doping or cheating. It’s just having that extra bit of knowledge and insight that’s going to help. It’s going to be huge. Not to mention, gravel, at least what I just saw Unbound last week is getting so much more competitive, not just on the pro side but everybody from the weekend warrior to that someone who has a full-time job. Everyone’s stepping up their game so why not add this into the mix.

How can people find out more about where to sign up for the survival camps, the dates, and all the pertinent information?

Adam:
There’s a link from the Belgian waffle ride page, that will take you to all the camp and clinic offerings for the event. They’re all mentioned right there. You can sign up for the Gulo Composites, BWR N. Carolina Survival Camp on their website. So there’s a number of ways to get there. Ultimately, if you just type it into Google it’ll pop up as the first thing.

Adam:
And John, what sort of one last bit of insight, advice you can give to people maybe on the fence about going well, I don’t need to go to a camp or maybe I want to, what’s one piece of advice you could give those people who are maybe just unsure about this kind of experience.

John:
Personally, if I was trying to do this ride and have the best experience possible, knowing the course as well as I do, I would want to see it, I would want to ride it, I would want to feel the heat, I would want to test my tires, and I would want to ride it with the local crew who know exactly how these types of roads can punish your bike over the course of 100 plus mile race. I would want to see it before I raced on it.

Brian:
All right, and that is only a risk, the daring, the absolutely daring will take, thank you so much guys, I appreciate it.

Adam:
I had one quick thing to add. John hit the nail on the head, earlier when he alluded to the fact that if you want to succeed, or to have a high level of success, pre-riding something as important is a necessity. So, I will say that.

Brian:
Nice, that makes a lot of sense. As I was told as a junior “never experiment on race day”, which includes going into a race completely blind. So the days of winging it are over. Good to know.

John:
I would also add that if you’re North Carolina or western North Carolina local, you might think that you don’t need recon the ride or to see these roads via survival camp, because you’ve ridden all the gravel in the area and you think you know whats coming. But you don’t know what direction we’re riding this stuff in, and there could be some other stuff that we throw your way that surprises you. This course will not be publicized until after this camp has been concluded, so you’re not going to see this course, before the event. At the very least you’re not going to know the direction we ride stuff and the combination that we put it in. So something to think about.

Brian:
All right, keeping it under wraps in the last minute, I love it that way. Everyone surprised at the same time. Thanks so much guys and we look forward to seeing you at the camps.

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