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Belgian Waffle Ride cycle challenge to make Canadian debut on Vancouver Island

Multi-surface cycling challenge coming to Cowichan Exhibition Park, nearby mountains in May 2023
Cyclists compete in a past edition of the Belgian Waffle Ride, which will make its Canadian debut in the Cowichan Valley in May 2023. (Jake Orness/BWR Photo Pool)

A major cycling series has picked the Cowichan Valley for its first stop outside of the U.S.

Monuments of Cycling is bringing the Belgian Waffle Ride to Vancouver Island in May 2023 for three cycling races as well as a festival with live music, a beer garden and all kinds of family fun.

According to Alison Keple, a Valley resident and avid cyclist who made it her mission to bring the event to the Cowichan Valley, the Belgian Waffle Ride is a combination of surfaces, including road cycling and single-track mountain biking, making it a unique challenge.

“Part of the fun is that there is no perfect bike for this event,” she says. “You can choose your bike and choose your tires, but there is no perfect set-up.

“It challenges you. Everyone is going to have parts that they’re good at.”

It also features three distances — the Waffle Ride, about 210km; the Wafer Ride, about half as long; and the Wanna Ride, half as long as the Wafer — which allows amateur riders to compete alongside pros and Tour de France alumni.

“A lot of pro races don’t have amateur races at the same time,” Keple says.

The Belgian Waffle Ride got its start about 12 years ago in San Diego, and eventually expanded to other locations in the U.S., such as North Carolina, Utah, Michigan and Kansas. Keple did the race in San Diego, and was hooked.

“When I learned they were thinking of expanding [internationally], I thought Cowichan was perfect,” she says. “So I gave them a call.”

The event will be headquartered at Cowichan Exhibition Park, with close access to Mount Tzouhalem, Maple Mountain and Mount Prevost, as well as the Trans-Canada Trail.

“To have BWR come to Canada, especially in B.C., is the perfect fit given the limitless possibilities of trails, gravel roads, and varied terrain that we have to offer,” says Jon Watkin, CEO of Victoria’s Panache Cycling Sports, who will serve as race director. “Combined with excessively polite Canadian hospitality, great food, and incredible brews, we are looking forward to providing an experience that participants will rant and rave about.”

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