Belgian Waffle Ride California: Matt Beers Recap

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By Michael Marckx (BWR) — Two years ago, the BWR CA was Matt Beers’ first ever ‘gravel’ race (though we all know this is an Unroad Race). It’s hard to believe such a prolific rider hadn’t done any gravel yet, but now we can say he’s also a gravel rider. The South African cyclist who specializes in cross-country mountain biking has won the Cape Epic three times, in 2021, 2023 and 2024. He has won multiple national titles in South Africa including the cross-country marathon and the gravel race.

During that second-place finish to Alexey Vermeulen in 2022, Matt set 9 KOMs and displayed his trademark horsepower in scary ways to the other contenders. He did have a few mechanical issues that year, so, as his story will suggest below, he had some unfinished business.

This year, those of us in both the lead vehicle and in Matt’s wake got to experience what a VAM of 1791 feels like on the very first of 24 KOMs on the day (the last one was the overall course time). Matt set the tone for the day on that first clmb just five miles into the race and that was it. And for roughly the first 51-miles, as evidenced in the photos below, Matt was almost always on the front driving a relentless pace, except for an early attack by Ian Boswell and another by Lachlan Morton. Alas, with 69-miles to go Matt didn’t attack, but he rolled quietly, forcefully, gracefully off the front, with his pursuers either unwilling, unable, or uninterested in taking his power move with the significance it commanded. And when it came time to truly get together and address this extending threat to victory down the Unroad, it was too late. It was ultimately Alexey Vermeulen’s attacks that broke the pursuing group in two, and then later left Alexey as the lone chaseur gnawing into Matt’s lead. And while Alexey made up a lot of time in his chase, Matt had enough cushion and gas in the tank to sail into his most glorious Gravel and Unroad victories ever.

You can review Matt’s ride here: https://www.strava.com/activities/11286906396/

By Matt Beers — I was super excited to come back to BWR San Diego. The race that started my Gravel journey in the USA in 2022. I placed 2nd that year and the hunger definitely grew after missing it in 2023. I learnt a lot the year I came in 2nd, regarding equipment choice strategy, etc. so coming back this year now being on the Specialized Off-Road Team I knew I had all the resources possible to pull something special off. The day started much like 2022 I set the pace really hard up the first climb up toward Double Peak. My plan was to go over the top with a small group to keep it safe on that decent with the two cyclocross style dismounts.

From there we had a good small group of riders heading to the lake Hodges single track sector. We continued to rip along there all the way to raptor ridge, a few riders started to loose contact and when we got back onto the long road sector that group started rolling pretty well. It was a very strong group of riders with one big rider missing… Valverde who punctured out early in the race.

Matt Beers, winner of the 2024 BWR California. Photo courtesy BWR

At around Km 80 I rolled through for my turn and noticed a gap… After that I had a plan. The next time I rolled through I kinda built speed and created a small gap, I knew there would be hesitation from the group and as I saw that I started pushing pedals really hard. I knew it was a long shot 110km or 69 miles to go but I was confident in my ability to pull that off as I knew the whole course.

From there we had a good small group of riders heading to the Lake Hodges single-track sector. We continued to rip along there all the way to raptor ridge, a few riders started to loose contact and when we got back onto the long road sector that group started rolling pretty well. It was a very strong group of riders with one big rider missing… Valverde who punctured out early in the race.

Matt Beers, winner of the 2024 BWR California. Photo courtesy BWR

At around Km 80 I rolled through for my turn and noticed a gap… After that I had a plan. The next time I rolled through I kinda built speed and created a small gap, I knew there would be hesitation from the group and as I saw that I started pushing pedals really hard. I knew it was a long shot 110km or 69-miles to go but I was confident in my ability to pull that off as I knew the whole course.

I committed to the pain and suffering and settled in for the day. We had amazing support out there receiving bottles every hour from my team. which was crucial on such a long race attack. I kept the gap steady trying not to overreach, as I knew double peak was looming over me. I started to back off a bit heading to double peak knowing the gap would shrink a little, but I needed that respite to tackle the climb and not be caught. I got a time gap to Alexey who was coming like a freight train, I had 2min. I just had to crest double peak with 45seconds to be safe and keep my lead. That’s exactly what happened, it’s not often such a long-range attack works but when it does it makes for a spectacular race.

Matt Beers, winner of the 2024 BWR California. Photo courtesy BWR

As I crossed the finish line I was so relieved to finally crack the American code and win a huge gravel race. It felt full circle coming to the USA racing BWR San Diego as my first ever gravel race in the USA and now winning the race as my first
Big gravel race in the USA. It’s a very cool story and one that show’s perseverance.

Over and out!

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