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Sarah Max rides to redemption at Belgian Waffle Ride Asheville

After an Unbound she wasn't satisfied with, Max wins the day in North Carolina. Kaysee Armstrong and Carla Williams round out the podium.

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Less than a week ago, Sarah Max didn’t even know she would race the Belgian Waffle Ride Asheville, but on Saturday she proved that she made the right decision.

The 47-year-old, who rides for Bend, Oregon’s Argonaut Cycles, tackled the 130-mile course (13,000 feet of climbing) with finesse, making up for her mechanical the week prior at Unbound Gravel.

170 miles into her race at Unbound, Max was in third place. A creek crossing caused her electronic shifting to unpair. Someone helped her fix the issue and she ended up 11th. But, Max was unsatisfied.

On her way to the Kansas City airport, Max changed her ticket from her hometown of Bend, Oregon to the second of five BWR events in Asheville, North Carolina.

“Actually I really wanted to do this race,” Max told VeloNews. “But I didn’t think I’d be recovered [from Unbound,]”

She talked to her coach and decided to go for it.

Max’s bike was set up for Unbound, not 13,000 feet of climbing. Her max gearing was 44×44. In Asheville, the owner of Gravelo Workshop offered to swap out his entire drivetrain so Max could have adequate gearing for the ride.

How the race went down

Men and women started together and immediately headed into the hills. Max said that in the past, she’s struggled with the early portion of races. At BWR Asheville, she wanted to change that.

“I decided I was going to be better in the start,” she said. When hit the first dirt climb at mile seven, Max was in second, with only Flavia Oliveira up the road.

It would be hours before Max started to feel good on the bike. The men she was riding with were strong descenders, and Max was able to use her climbing ability to help them roll well on the climbs.

Max isn’t exactly sure where on the course she caught Oliveira, who had punctured, but she said that she didn’t celebrate Oliveira’s misfortune.

“I don’t like to see a competitor have bad luck,” Max said. Her focus instead, was on her riding processes.

“I tried not to focus on the result. Any time I did, I made myself sing a song.”

Max didn’t pay attention to elevation or distance statistics on her bike’s computer either. Her focus was on her ride. She repeated mantras: “What goes up, gets to go down, be confident, not cocky,” and “be competitive, but classy.”

At 47, Max is proving that age isn’t slowing her down. She stayed out front the rest of the day and took the women’s overall victory.

kaysee armstrong sarah max
Max and Armstrong celebrate at the finish. (Photo: BWR)

Second on the day was Kaysee Armstrong, who was able to bounce back from a bonk and have a great day on the bike.

At one point, Armstrong was within two minutes of Max. As she worked to chase her down, she, Oliveira and several other riders took a wrong turn. Apparently miscommunication from course volunteers led them down a long descent they had used previously in the day. They had to climb back out.

Armstrong figured she was still in second place and gave it everything to finish the race.

“I was a shell of a human,” Armstrong said at the finish line.

BWR Asheville women’s results 

  1. Sarah Max (Argonaut Cycles), 8:24:31
  2. Kaysee Armstrong (Liv Factory Racing), 9:10:10
  3. Carla Williams (CarboRocket), 9:15:32
  4. Sarah Hill (Liv Factory Racing), 9:30:11
  5. Kathleen Mitchell (Greenville Spinners Racing), 9:30:54

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