L39ion’s Freddy Ovett on BWR: ‘Heard a lot of war stories, thought I’d give it a shot’

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SAN DIEGO, Calif. (VN) — On Friday afternoon, Los Angeles L39ion pro Freddy Ovett stood in the long registration line for the Belgian Waffle Ride with everyone else, among the nearly 3,000 who were scheduled to race this week-end. He was eager to embark on his first BWR, which celebrates its eleventh anniversary this year in San Diego County, California.

“I’ve heard many stories, many war stories, so I thought I better give it a try,” Ovett said.

The Scottish-born Australian has raced road bikes all over the world for BMC, Israel Cycling Academy and other teams. Part of his appeal in signing for L39ion for 2021 was the ability to race a variety of disciplines, from road to gravel to esports.

Ovett finished second to Jay Vine (Alpecin-Fenix) at the 2022 UCI Esports World Championships on Zwift.

Although Ovett has competed in a number of gravel events, this will be his first time at BWR California.

Related: Freddy Ovett on the Bobby & Jens Podcast

“It’s one of the greatest gravel races in the world, isn’t it?” he said. “I would put it up there with Unbound and SBT GRVL, and if you want to call yourself one of the best gravel racers, you have to come among the best, right?

Ovett finished fifth at SBT GRVL last year, behind winner Alex Howes (EF Education First-Nippo), Ian Boswell (Wahoo), Pete Stetina (Privateer) and Adam Roberge (Pinarello), and ahead of a number of specialists gravel like Colin Strickland and Ted King.

Ovett said he was looking forward to competing in BWR and staying out of trouble.

“It’s always stressful in a gravel race. There are a lot of things that can go right and a lot that can go wrong,” he said. “I’m feeling good right now, but you just want to manage your effort and stay out of trouble, so I’ll just be looking to stay out of trouble and stay ahead of the race for as long as possible.

Race organizer Michael Marckx has changed the start for this year, adding a steep 2km 8% climb just about right off the exit to help break up the huge field. Over the past two years, the race in the first single-track section has been aggressive and, for many, dangerous, averaging nearly 30 mph for the first 20 miles. Many BWR veterans have applauded the fresh start and expect it to reduce the leading group to around 50.

The course also includes more dirt than before, with some thicker off-road sections where some riders use bigger tires.

Ovett runs in his road studs – “Yeah, always. I’m a road guy, and you have to stick to your guns,” he said – and he has 38mm Specialized Pathfinder tires on his bike.

“I prefer to be careful and blame the legs and not the tires in the end,” he said.

The Belgian Waffle Ride California starts on Saturday. Check back Saturday afternoon for race coverage.

Wiley C. Thompson