Sofia Gomez Villafañe soloes to early season win at BWR Arizona

Anna Yamauchi and Alexis Skarda stage a smart race for second and third.

Photo: John Segesta

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The inaugural Belgian Waffle Ride Arizona produced a storyline we’re familiar with — a huge attack by Sofia Gomez Villafañe — as well as hints of more exciting women’s racing to come.

Up and comer Anna Yamauchi finished second just ahead of Alexis Skarda, while Whitney Allison and Cecily Decker rounded out the podium.

After a winter where most riders — even those spending their time in Arizona and southern California — have had to battle weather to get their training in, the level of competition at BWR Arizona was intense from the gun.

Read also: Swenson wins ‘insane game of cat and mouse’ with Blevins at BWR Arizona

“I told my coach I would not be surprised if I set a new FTP in the first climb, and sure enough, I had one of my all time best powers for 20 minutes,” Gomez Villafañe said. “It was a savage start.”

Yamauchi, 22, who is making her gravel debut this year, said that her approach going into the day was to see how long she could stay with the front group. Once the race started, she even surprised herself.

“At this point, I still don’t know how I stand racing against Sofia and Alexis and these other well-established girls,” she said. “On the first climb as it started to break up, I was in a really good position, I was even the first girl I think. So I kinda eased off looking at where the other women where. I think they looked at me like ‘what the heck?’ and they put the hammer down. So I eased up and sat a couple wheels back. I pushed it for sure and tried to hold on.”

Gomez Villafañe and Skarda went ahead while Yamauchi paced herself but stayed on the gas. When she reached McDowell Mountain Bike Park, she found the two ex-XC pros paused for a moment where Gomez Villafañe was getting a mechanical fixed.

All three women agreed that the men who Yamauchi had rolled up with were pushing a pace they didn’t like and decided to ride the trails together.

“I was just happy to have us three racing each other, not really who can stick on the men’s wheel the longest,” Gomez Villafañe said.

“Going through McDowell a highlight,” Yamauchi added. 

Gomez Villafañe FTW (Photo: John Segesta)

After the the singletrack-heavy section in McDowell, Gomez Villafañe decided it was time to try something.

“It was around hour five, and that’s where race begins,” she said. “So I went for it.”

Yamauchi said that she was riding behind Skarda and didn’t know what was happening. But Skarda didn’t respond to Gomez Villafañe’s move, and Yamauchi waited a moment too late.

“Alexis and I found a group of guys going super fast and we tried to sit in,” she said. “But since we worked so hard to catch them I redlined and blew up. So I dropped off the back. There were still about 30 miles to go, and I’m feeling it. So I sat up, ate, and drank and took care of myself. I settled into slower pace and thought, ‘I’ll make sure fourth doesn’t catch me and I’ll be ok.”

Meanwhile, Gomez Villafañe was in “full commit mode” up ahead, unsure of how Yamauchi and Skarda would be able to work together. After 45 minutes of pushing herself, she figured she had a minute or two on the other riders — she’d later find out it was closer to 10. Then, she traded pulls with a “really big guy named Tanner” until the end.

Yamauchi eventually caught Skarda on a descent, hit the final singletrack climb, and opened up a gap. When she hit the final paved section, she got as small as she could and pedaled against a headwind to finish in second.

The singletrack-heavy course received rave reviews from many riders, namely the winner herself.

“If all gravel races were like this, I would have become a gravel racer five years ago,” Gomez Villafañe said.

BWR Waffle Women

  1. Sofia Gomez Villafañe
  2. Anna Yamauchi
  3. Alexis Skarda
  4. Whitney Allison
  5. Cecily Decker

Full results to follow

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