From the iconic routes of Belgium to the rugged terrains of Arizona, the Monuments of Cycling took the leap into the heart of America’s southwest in 2023 bringing cycling enthusiasts the Belgian Waffle Ride BWR Arizona. Set against the scenic backdrop of Cave Creek, nestled just north of Scottsdale, the inaugural BWR Arizona was the latest addition to the Quadrupel Crown of Gravel Series and was a great success. Drawing cyclists from across the globe, this event is not just a testament to the endurance of the participants, but also to the versatility and dynamism of the cycling community. The tantalizing mix of road and ‘unroad’ that cyclists get to maneuver, in Scottsdale’s spring bloom, is an experience like no other.
The BWR Arizona is unparalleled in its ruggedness. And for those who have participated in BWR events across the country, the Arizonan edition stands out starkly. It’s not just gravel cycling; it’s borderline mountain biking at times with the sheer unpredictability of the Unroad. Arizona’s landscape – a vivid mosaic of desert rock and cacti – only adds to the challenge. Belgian Waffle Ride BWR Arizona kicks off the first event of the year for the producer’s Quadrupel Crown of Gravel Series and has become one of our Best Gravel Cycling Events in the Southwest as rated by the Strambecco team.
Event & Course Info
The inaugural Belgian Waffle Ride BWR Arizona event will take place in and around Cave Creek, Arizona, just north of Scottsdale. Although the official route has not been announced, BWR events are all designed to showcase a challenging ‘unroad’ multi-surface course that takes advantage of each beautiful location’s unique topography. BWR course formats start with the most challenging Waffle routes, lengths from 120 to 144 miles. Wafer courses run between roughly 68- and 84 miles. Some venues have Wanna Rides, which are typically around 40 miles. Elevation gain range from 6,500 feet to 14,000 feet for the various Waffle courses.
Events kick off Friday & Saturday with the BWR Expo, pre-rides, and a comprehensive rider briefing. Sunday, race day, starts bright and early at 5 am with waffles and coffee to fuel the riders. By 7 am, the riders set off, with the first expected finisher zooming in around 1 pm. However, the course remains open until 7 pm, giving everyone a fair chance to complete the ride and claim their bragging rights.
Three routes cater to different stamina and skill levels, ensuring everyone has a fair chance to bask in the glory of completing the ride and as with other BWR rides, you can expect incredibly dynamic, multi-surface ‘unroad’ parcourses replete with single track, sand, rocks, gravel, water crossings, cyclocross features, and even some asphalt.
The Waffle Ride – Spanning approximately 122.3 miles, the Waffle challenges even the most seasoned cyclists with its staggering elevation gain of around 8,400 feet. It’s not just the distance, but the fact that nearly 40% of this course is unroad that makes it so daunting. From rugged single tracks to fast-paced descents, the Waffle is a beast waiting to be tamed.
The Wafer – The Wafer is no less thrilling. Covering a distance of about 79 miles and a commendable elevation of 5,601 feet, this route has more than its fair share of the unroad, making it a challenge to remember.
The Wanna – For those looking for a gentler but equally rewarding experience, the Wanna offers a 37-mile route with an elevation of approximately 3,700 feet. A blend of easier unroad and smooth roads, it’s perfect for those testing their mettle in the world of gravel cycling.
Throughout the ride, cyclists can find solace in the well-stocked aid stations situated every 20 miles. With the Arizonan sun beating down and the trail throwing surprises with every turn – be it a flowy descent or a loose corner – these stations are nothing short of oases.
Area Accommodations & Things to Do
While there is no official partner hotel for the Belgian Waffle Ride BWR Arizona, there are plenty of options in the immediate area including the Hilton Vacation Club, Boulders Resort, Hampton Inn, and Spur Cross B&B. If you prefer a more home-like experience, check out the many vacation rentals from cowboy bunkhouses to guesthouses that suit a variety of needs. If you enjoy camping, look into Cave Creek Regional Park Campgrounds or one of the unique one of a kind camping locations in the area.
Cave Creek, AZ, and its surrounding area boast a vibrant culinary scene that marries Southwestern flavors with eclectic global influences, creating a unique dining experience set against a backdrop of desert landscapes and cowboy charm. From authentic Mexican eateries and rustic steakhouses to contemporary cafes, the region offers a diverse palate reflective of its rich cultural history and modern flair. Local favorites include the Grotto Cafe, Local Johnny’s, and Brunch.
Nestled just north of Scottsdale, Cave Creek, Arizona, is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream, particularly in the gentle warmth of March. As spring breathes new life into the desert landscape, athletes find a myriad of activities beckoning them amidst the cacti and sunlit mountains.
A lush green gem in the heart of the Sonoran Desert, the Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area spans over 2,154 acres. March is an ideal time to visit, as the desert bloom is in full swing, with vibrant wildflowers carpeting the trails. For an immersive experience, opt for the Dragonfly Trail, a 1.6-mile loop known for its rich biodiversity. For a more challenging hike, the Elephant Mountain Trail offers a 7-mile round trip that rewards athletes with panoramic views of the Tonto National Forest and Cave Creek.
If you have room to pack your mountain bike, Cave Creek’s proximity to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve makes it a hotspot for mountain biking enthusiasts. The preserve boasts over 200 miles of trails, perfectly tailored to cater to both novices and experts. The Gooseneck Trail, with its 2.4-mile loop, offers a moderate ride with slight elevations, while the more adventurous can tackle the 15.4-mile Bell Pass and Windgate Loop, known for its challenging ascents and breathtaking desert vistas. The cooler March temperatures ensure a comfortable ride, even during mid-day.
A less athletic but no less exciting option is to experience the true essence of the Wild West by saddling up and exploring Cave Creek’s rugged terrain on horseback. The Cave Creek Regional Park, with its expansive 2,922 acres, offers guided horseback tours that promise an authentic cowboy experience. For a serene evening ride, the Slate Trail, spanning around 4.8 miles, offers gentle terrains with mesmerizing sunset views over the desert. For those seeking a more extended riding experience, the Quartz Trail provides a 4.9-mile journey through diverse landscapes, from saguaro forests to panoramic hilltop views.
Monuments of Cycling is a purveyor of classic one-day bicycle races in the United States. They are best known for the Belgian Waffle Quadrupel Series, challenging races in the spirit of the great European one-day Spring Classics, all with a Belgique theme. Belgian Waffle Ride BWR Arizona not only offers diverse and challenging courses but also serves as a required race for those vying for the Quadruple Crown of Gravel Series. The Quadrupel Crown, comprised of all the BWRs, is billed as the largest gravel series in the world, which will be contested in a points-based omnium format across all the 2023 BWRs. Riders competing for the Quadrupel honors and prize purse will be able to take the points of their top four (Quad) races to vie for the win. The series will recognize professional riders and age groupers alike. Their namesake event, Belgian Waffle Ride California, started ten years ago. These events are unique because they are classic, long bicycle races featuring various off-road sectors emulating the pave or cobblestones of Europe, making the varied terrain challenging for riders’ technical skills, equipment, endurance, luck, and versatility.
Like other BWR Series events in Kansas (also part of the Gran Fondo World Tour Gravel), California, N. Carolina, Utah, Canada, Michigan, Mexico and Arizona, you can expect a deep field of professional riders and an expansive list of hungry amateur riders drawn to the unparalleled opportunity to race alongside some of the best. Each event consistently makes it in to our list of the Best Gravel Cycling Events in California, the Northwest, Southwest, and the Southeast.
For the multi-sport athletes out there, check out some of our best rated Road Cycling, Trail Running, and Mountain Biking events that are held in Arizona and the broader Southwest. Some of them include the El Tour Series road cycling events – El Tour de Zona, Mesa, and Tucson, while trail runners have their pick at a multitude of top shelf events in-state, including Black Canyon Ultras, Old Pueblo Endurance Runs, McDowell Mountain Trail Run and the Xterra Black Canyon Trail Run which are both part of the Xterra Trail Run World Series. Epic Rides is a top producer of mountain bike events in Arizona including the Tour of the White Mountains, The Whiskey Off Road, and 24 Hours of Old Pueblo.