In football, teams often adopt a “next man up” mentality when teammates get hurt. Someone goes down, it’s your job to step into your place.
Turns out, the same principle applies to professional cycling.
When DNA Cycling’s Amy Charity suffered a torn ACL and could not race the 2019 Belgian Waffle Ride, teammate Hanna Muegge, who had never done a race like it, stepped into her place just two weeks before the 133-mile spring classic.
“This was absolutely new territory for me. My first kind of adventure, endurance race. And I loved it,” Muegge said about the experience.
Muegge comes from a primarily road background, but facing the dirt sectors of the BWR, she was a consummate pro in taking on the unique challenges of the SoCal adventure race.
“The key to racing this ride on a road bike is simply being comfortable on your bike and knowing how to handle sand, gravel and singletrack,” the Monterey, California native said. “Living right by Fort Ord in Marina, CA and riding the trails here on a road bike has really helped with my bike handling on rough surfaces.”
Muegge grabbed her Cannondale SuperSix Evo, swapped out her normal 25mm tires for some 700c x 28mm Panaracer GravelKings and headed to SoCal with teammate Lauren De Crescenzo ready for the race.
Well, almost ready. Having a good team around her helped Muegge correct one thing before the Sunday race day.
“Since I am not used to riding on wider tires nor doing this type of race, I was highly encouraged to lower my ridiculous tire pressure for the race,” she said. “Here I was going to run 90 psi! A total roadie, rookie mistake that would have been. Instead, thanks to all the input, I ended up with 80 psi in the front and 85 psi in the rear tire.”
The Belgian Waffle Ride experience went well for Muegge. After riding in second among the women when hitting the final hill, Muegge ended up in fourth just behind 2018 gravel standout Olivia Dillon. Not bad for a first try at a race like the Belgian Waffle Ride.
Despite maybe sort of almost bonking on that last climb, Muegge loved the experience and may or may not be hooked on gravel racing heading forward.
“Enjoy? I think I absolutely fell in love with the alt-racing scene,” she said. “I would be thrilled to do other gravel adventure races this year with my teammates. I’m a new gravel pony at heart already.”
I spoke with Muegge—errrr, Moogy—about her BWR experience. You can read our conversation below.
Cyclocross Magazine: When did you find out you would be racing at Belgian Waffle?
Hanna Muegge: Two weeks prior.
CXM: Did being a pro road racer help making filling in for Amy a bit easier?
HM: Nothing helped more than having the best support network in the world, a positive attitude, getting healthy just in time—thank you Dr. Flis and Dr. Hashimoto for taking care of me—confidence in knowing that my team bike and I could ride on whatever terrain we were coaxed into riding (no matter how teeth rattling it may be) and having a huge appetite for delicious waffles!
But of course, being an experienced racer was fundamental in helping me crash train for all the excitement in such a short time.
CXM: What kind of gear did you use? Saddle bag, hydration?
HM: Thanks to my team and sponsors, I was ready for the challenge. My gear included:
- 2019 Cannondale SuperSix Evo (size 52) road bike beautifully built and customized for limitless domination by our incredible bike sponsor Hangar 15 Bicycles
- Panaracer GravelKing 700c x 28mm road tires
- The awesome mechanics at Peninsula Bike Works (Micah, Shawn, and Nico) & Team Director Lee recommended using tubes with removable cores and adding some sealant. Worked like magic … no flats or mechanicals all race!
- Arundel bottle cages to make sure my bottles always stayed safe and secure
- Arundel saddle pack stuffed full with 2x spare tubes, 2x CO2 cartridges, tire levers and a patch kit
- Just released Bar Fly Race Mini (aluminum) mount, which is even lighter than the Bar Fly 4 Prime, super stable, versatile and perfect for smaller bike computers
- Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt GPS Bike Computer, to make sure I was never off-route and made it to the finish to upload my ride to Strava. If it’s not on Strava, it never happened, obviously
- Rotor2inpower Power meter to capture the day’s awe-inspiring statistics
- Rudy Project Defender sunglasses & Rudy Volantis Helmet
- iSSi Flash Pedals
- Pearl Izumi mountain bike shoes with Shimano Spd Cleats and custom turquoise Boa Fit System making sure I was dialed-in
- 2x Asend Nutrition bottles filled with water and 2 scoops each of my favorite Asend Nutrition Cranberry Tart Cherry Hydration Drink Mix
- Legs lathered in a nice layer of Amp Human PR Lotion to make sure I didn’t start cramping during the race
- Pockets filled with 6x SIS Energy Gels, 2x “Chai and Catch Me” Picky Bars, and a handful of my favorite Haribo Gummies (Twin Snakes)
- Chamois Butt’r for Her for 134 miles of endless comfort
- Of course, my teammate Lauren and I sported the most beautiful kit of all–our DNA Cycling team kit inspired by a hint of Utah mixed with a sprinkle of Italy
CXM: Do you have any experience doing these kinds of races?
HM: This was absolutely new territory for me. My first kind of adventure, endurance race. And I loved it!
CXM: How did the bike and tire choices work out for you?
HM: I couldn’t have asked for a better bike setup. I wouldn’t change a thing if I had to redo everything right now. The key to racing this ride on a road bike is simply being comfortable on your bike and knowing how to handle sand, gravel and singletrack. Living right by Fort Ord in Marina, CA and riding the trails here on a road bike has really helped with my bike handling on rough surfaces.
But I will say this, I am so grateful to have run into numerous people at the Expo before the race, who were experienced gravel, cyclocross and mountain bikers. Since I am not used to riding on wider tires nor doing this type of race, I was highly encouraged to lower my ridiculous tire pressure for the race. Here I was going to run 90 psi!
A total roadie, rookie mistake that would have been. Instead, thanks to all the input, I ended up with 80 psi in the front and 85 psi in the rear tire. The Panaracer GravelKing 700c x 28mm tires are my new favorites. I usually ride on 25s on the road, but opted for the 28s for the BWR. They have a puncture protection and are the best tire suitable for just about any road surface be it concrete, asphalt, dirt or gravel.
CXM: What did you think of the race strategy? Were you prepared for that?
HM: I was not ready for the chaos at the start even though I had received a nice warning from our team managers. My reaction for the first 10 miles of the race—When does the neutral section begin!? It was a race right from the gun.
Had I known how hectic and important the beginning miles would be, I would have sacrificed a few more matches to make sure I was one of the first riders to hit the first off-road section. Instead, I settled for hanging out somewhere in the middle of the huge peloton, which resulted in getting jammed up by the bottleneck as everyone flooded onto the singletrack. I had to get off my bike several times simply because there was no movement ahead of me and no way to pass.
After the first uphill singletrack, the race was on, and I basically spent all race chasing people down. The biggest strategy factor of this race to me was properly hydrating and eating. This is were I failed. With about 12 miles to go, I ran out of water and food and little did I know, there was still one more monster hill ahead of me. At this point, I was in second place for the women and still thinking about making up ground on Sarah [Sturm] , whom I hadn’t seen all race.
When the final hill was upon me … wowza! I bonked as hard as I have ever bonked in my life. Deliriously zigzagging up the final hill, I was passed by Sarah Max, who looked fresh as a daisy. Now in third and barely clinging on for dear life, I made an emergency stop at the final aid station at the top of the climb. Stuffed my mouth full of Hot Tamales, grabbed as many of the chewy, spicy cinnamon candies as my pockets would hold, got a bottle of water and jumped back on my bike.
I made it through the final singletrack section unscathed, but hit just about every red stop light in the final 4-6 miles of the race. Little did I know, Olivia Dillon was making huge gains on me and was rushing up in hot pursuit. With 2 miles to go, I glimpsed another racer speeding along. Next thing I know, the racer was zipping past me, and in tow was no other than the Irish Powerhouse Olivia Dillon.
Having absolutely no matches left and desperately extracting energy from the last Hot Tamale in my jersey pocket, I gave it a last go to hop on their train, but knew I had nothing left to hold on to third and slipped into fourth just two blocks before the finish. Great finishing attack Olivia!
CXM: What did you think of the overall race experience?
HM: It truly was an amazing race. It was the hardest, most diverse route I have ever ridden. From long stretches of rolling road, to Double Peak at a 17% incline, to singletrack trails in the sand, over rocks and through creeks, the Belgian Waffle Ride course provided endless challenges.
My favorite sections happened to be all the off-road portions. More than anything, this race was such a fun melting pot of people from all cycling disciplines—roadies, mountain bikers, cyclocross riders, track riders and the everyday hobby cyclist and commuters. There was something for everyone in the family, and it was incredible to bump into friends from all across the nation. Fantastic event Michael Marckx & team!
CXM: Did you enjoy the “alt” racing scene?
HM: Enjoy? I think I absolutely fell in love with the alt-racing scene. What really got me pumped up for BWR was spontaneously going on race/creative genius Rick Sutton’s 2019 Stone Soup 90-mile gravel ride the weekend before BWR. It really set the scene for me to just have fun and deal with whatever adversity life throws at you with a grin on your face and a hop in your step.
CXM: Plans to add some gravel racing to your schedule with Lauren de Crescenzo and Amy Charity?
HM: I would be thrilled to do other gravel adventure races this year with my teammates. I’m a new gravel pony at heart already.
CXM: Where should we look for you racing the rest of the summer?
HM: Keep an eye out for me racing on the NorCal road scene, doing a few of the USA Crits series races such as the upcoming Tulsa Tough Race and hopping into some longer endurance mountain bike races as well.
CXM: Finally, one of the fun parts of covering gravel is we get to meet a lot of new people. Can you share a little bit about you and your background?
HM: Well, my nickname is Moogy, which is probably not too surprising. Racing for DNA Cycling, I recently decided to resurrect my high school motto of A.I.N.H. I’ll leave it up to you to guess what that stands for.
When not riding my bike, I work full-time for the regional Air District in Monterey and try to help clean up the air as best as we can for the communities around the Monterey Bay Area.
I’ve been riding my bike since 2014, have been racing for DNA Pro Cycling Team for the past three seasons and like to dabble in other sports during the off-season, like running, hiking, swimming and triathlons
Here is a recent development: On Saturday I was crowned the 2019 NorCal Road Race State Champ.
CXM: Awesome. Looking forward to seeing you at more gravel races this summer.
HM: Can’t wait. Thanks.