Photos by Gregory Klein
Kristin Mayer isn’t exactly one to shy away from a challenge. After all, she is responsible for creating the women’s apparel brand Betty Designs that has grown into one of the most recognizable brands in women’s cycling and tri apparel. So, when Kristin first caught wind of a an event called the Belgian Waffle Ride that was being held right in her backyard and promised to be the outright toughest day on a bike she might ever face, there wasn’t a whole lot of convincing needed before she was in.
The Belgian Waffle Ride is in its sixth year and has established itself as the premier mixed-surface event in the country. Although the course route changes each edition, this year’s was 132 miles in length over terrain that varies from pavement to dirt roads, to single track trails complete with rock gardens. To say that the BWR is an extreme challenge for even the most accomplished cyclists out there is putting it lightly.
For Kristin, who comes from a background as a triathlete, riding dirt on a road bike isn’t exactly a natural thing. “I was not a good cyclist. The bike was just a vehicle to get to the run”, she said. Regardless, after being intrigued with the marketing style of the event back in 2015, she decided to try the shorter Wafer route (around 70 miles). “I wanted a new challenge, so I decided to give it a go. That kind of riding for me was so uncomfortable I wanted to see if I could do it”.
That’s all it took and Kristin was hooked on the new challenge and opportunity to use the experience to inspire other women. “I had such a blast! After I did the Wafer, I looked at the results and saw there are very few women doing the full Waffle route, so I wanted to be one of them. It was never with a racing mindset, I just wanted to do it and prove to my Betty Squad that it could be done.”
Even though Kristin wasn’t looking at it from a racing mindset, she did have a slight competitive goal going into riding the long route in 2016, and that was to not be the last female finisher. She achieved that goal, finishing second to last, which inspired her to approach the 2017 edition with a new fervor. “I told myself, ‘This year I’m not going to be second to last’, so I hired my old triathlete coach to write me a plan so I didn’t just ride myself into oblivion. I wanted to be able to push the pace, ride in the pack and be more aggressive. He built a program around the event that gave me a lot of confidence, with training weeks reaching 15 and 17 hours–I didn’t know I was capable of riding that much!”
With a newfound cycling confidence and her disc brake-equipped Trek Domane SLR with ENVE 4.5 AR wheels, Kristin was ready for whatever the BWR course would be dishing out. Yet, as it turned out, the biggest challenge of the day wouldn’t come from the course itself, it came from the heat, with temperatures near 100 degrees. “I felt kind of uncomfortable all day, but in a controlled way until I misjudged my electrolyte intake and the wheels came off late in the ride. I felt my calves and hands starting to cramp and really just had to spin after that. I said, ‘I’ll be damned if I don’t finish this thing!’
And finish she did. Kristin accomplished her goal of bettering her result from last year and, even greater than that, paved the way for more women to realize they too could achieve a similar goal. “For Team Betty, we have normal people as ambassadors who just want to get out and push themselves. We had two ambassadors come out this year and do the Wafer route, and I think we’ll have 10-15 next year. The girls think it’s so cool that I’m out there doing it. It was difficult, and there were a lot of people really suffering, but I’m trying to show you just need the mindset to accomplish it.”