THIS YEAR THE kUDOs AWARD HAS BECOME A COMBO OF HARDNESS AND HYLAND'S HAPPY HELPER. THIS AWARD IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE WE HONOR AND IT CAN ONLY GO TO SOMEONE WHO BRINGS A SPECIAL SPIRIT AND POSITIVITY TO THE BWR THAT TRANSCENDS PERFORMANCE TO A HIGHER LEVEL OF SELF EXPRESSION
Natalie Maclean, Nats, staN, Hardwoman, Badass, Happy Helper,
Doctor, Mom, Inspiration, Competitor
This person, new to the sport, will forever leave her mark on the community and event that is the BWR. It'll be hard for someone to out-waffle, out Dubbel Head or out inspire people to greatness. In fact, we've never had so many different anecdotes and submissions from people who don't know each other nominating natS for Hardwoman, kUDOs and Hyland's Happy Helper. We had to choose one of these and because the kUDOs Award in honor of our fallen friend, Udo Heinz (who had an infectious laugh and love of the dirt), is the highest honor we can bestow on a rider. Nate / staN is the Winnaar of the kUDOs award. And, this honor isn't just for her exploits on Saturday and Sunday, for fixing her own mechanicals, getting up after a gnarly crash, helping others on the course and never quitting in the face of adversity. No, it's for the months of work, support, love and camaraderie she gave to everyone along the way. This is her recap of the weekend...
THE HELL OF THE WEST I may be on StanTime to the BWR post party, but I hope at least I provide some life for it. I have been riding gravel almost exactly 11/2 years, having never cycled before, and in that time I’ve completed two BWRs and now my third, capped off with the Dubbel. These things are always difficult for me to recap, because there is so much experience and learning and life in each one of them. This year I meticulously studied the course, starting with the Source Endurance BWR Survival Camp in January and taking on some of the best people in Zack Allison, constantly trying to 'uncoach' me, and Kristen Arnold who dialed my nutrition, and Brian Crilly at Ambition Athletics who kept me strong. I also rode with the best friends and support anyone could ever have, the Dirty Mouseketeers, all within the larger families of Coureur and Gravelstoke Teams. That’s not to say it was easy to get to the start line. I'm a mother of four, have a full medical practice, and am nursing two fractures. Foot surgery has been delayed; this early in my season and with this A race upcoming, after all this work, nothing was going to keep me from the start line.
I start the race strong and by Roofvogel Bergkam ended up in a chase group, cajoling my friends and asking people to “kindly” ride their bikes or move away. On the other side of the Roofvogel though, I slid in a sharp sandy corner, gashed my knee badly, bruising and scraping my braking arm muscle and destroying my drivetrain. I knew every inch of that course and was angry and frustrated at my costly mistake. At the bottom of the descent, my gears were slipping, then jammed and my chain almost snapped under tension. I had no functioning bike. I was barely functional myself. I was effectively out of the race. I hauled my bike off trail, swapped out the derailleur hanger and fixed it. I have never done this before. Under pressure, I pulled it out. There wasn’t any other option. Quitting isn’t an option. Let’s f#$king go. It’s called racing.
Now racing from behind, I settled into what I do best... rallying and working to advance myself and other riders. Know where the kickers are. Know where the sand traps are. Know when to push or conserve. Heisenberg was where I turned on the afterburners and never looked back, reaching my stride in the dirt. Leading the charge into the ball fields and cleaning the sector. Sweeping people up the truck trail and screaming down. “Let it go. LET IT GO!” Picked up my finishing boys on Pamo climb and this aero compact brick sent the HVR descent, flying past groups of men, telling them to "pick it up, let’s go!"
By Questhaven though, I was in trouble. I was heat exhausted. Crusted in salt, shivering but not sweating, I knew the signs. My reserve 'lytes' I gave to a puking man in need of aid on the HVR climb and now I was struggling. Double Peak was left and there was nothing to leave on the table. So what do you do? Break it down. Go back to fundamentals. Downs for the ups. Push over the tops. On the last Questhaven kicker, I put everything I had into a one minute effort, dropped several, and emptied the tank all the way to the top of Double Peak, singularly focused on finishing hard and clean. 28th overall.
There are so many stories, victories and losses, but always lessons from these races. Late into the night, I waited for the remainder of my friends to finish, the ones who believed in me just as much as I believed in them, with the cumulative victories greater and much sweeter. The best part of the day was hearing “Is that you, Stan?” shouted across canyons, “Go get ‘em, Stan” whispered in pacelines or “Well, there she goes!”, with a “Yeeeew” or a “Come with me” or a “You got this” given in return. In this community, you get what you give.
This midpack 'Fruity MD Mama', in retrospect, is pleased with that effort, from an effective DNF to clawing back to a top thirty finish behind pros, putting in best 20 (4w/kg! what?), 10-, 5- and -min efforts, and picking up Strava cups, and many friends, along the way.
… then I did it all again on the Wafer on Sunday.