Belgian Waffle Ride to attract thousands to San Marcos this weekend

Cyclists in the 2013 Belgian Waffle Ride on a dirt trail surrounded by yellow flowers.
About 4,000 cyclists will ride 132 miles over roads and dirt trails in North County on Sunday as part of the 10th annual Belgian Waffle Ride. The photo is from the 2013 race, and this year’s start and finish will be in North City, San Marcos.
(Courtesy Michael Marckx.

The three-day event kicks off Friday at North City


The largest bike ride of its kind will be held this weekend in San Marcos, and spectators can watch 4,000 riders from around the world compete over a grueling course while also enjoying music, food trucks and a film premiere.

And of course, waffles will be part of the 10th annual Belgian Waffle Ride.

Ride founder and Cardiff resident Michael Marckx, who is of Belgian descent, said the race name is an homage to the country’s large one-day spring cycling events and to its strong connection to cyclecross, which combines road racing and mountain biking. The Belgian Waffle Ride on Sunday is a 132-mile race that includes paved roads and trails.

“The race itself is sort of a celebration of Belgian bike racing here in the U.S.,” he said. “And we have the Belgian waffle feast both in the morning and after the race. And most partake in the Belgian ale available to them after the race.”

The Lost Abbey, known for its Belgian ales, has been a sponsor of the ride for the past decade.

The race is Sunday, but activities begin Friday at North City, a new location for the 10-year-old event. North City is near CSU San Marcos, east of Twin Oaks Valley Road and north of Barham Drive, and the three-day expo will cover much of the area.

The event also will be the soft opening of the Cohn Family of Restaurant’s Draft Republic, which is moving into the site vacated by Urge Gastropub and Common House, and Marckx said the expo will operate like a beer garden, with permission granted to drink beer outside throughout the expo.

The Crit-Cross race, open to all riders, kicks off at 5 p.m. Friday. Marckx said a few hundred riders are expected to participate, and cyclists ride a one mile circuit for 30 or 40 minutes, depending on their category, continually passing by the same group of spectators who either cheer them on or dose them with beer. The ride goes to 9 p.m.

The Lost Abbey Libation Station is open from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, and the premiere of the documentary “The Impossible Route” screens at 8:45 Draft Republic. Marckx said the documentary was filmed by some of his friends and follows a group of cyclists as they ride from the Mexican border to Mammoth over seven days.

The expo continues Saturday and features a BMX exhibition with ramps and live music starting at 3 p.m.

On Sunday, the first of seven waves of racers takes off at 7 a.m., and expo activities begin at 10 a.m. Marckx is not racing, but plans on riding the course on Thursday. Riders will be briefed about the course Saturday, and Marckx said he will write about his experience so participants will know beforehand that it can be done.

The race if grueling and attracts some of the best riders in the world. Top cyclists may finish in six hours, and others will take up to 15, Marckx said.

“It’s totally unique from any event,” he said. “You ride on the road, and then all of a sudden you’re off road in a single track, say through Del Dios Gorge and then up through Lake Hodges.”

The nature of the course makes the ride a challenge for both cyclists and their bikes. Riders may choose to equip their bikes with thin tires that are best on roads, wider tires that handle better on trails, or something in between.

Eighty miles are on roads and 52 are off-road, and riders will encounter sand, gravel, rocks and water crossings.

“So it’s really, really slow,” Marckx said. “And then there’s 12,000 feet of climb.”

Cyclists will ride 11 miles up to reach Mesa Grande at the base of Palomar Mountain, then continue riding on the Black Canyon section, which he described as pure gravel.

Marckx said the biggest crowds of the weekend will begin forming at 1 p.m. as people welcome the first wave of returning riders. Spectators and riders can dine on a barbecue that afternoon and have waffles and ice cream for dessert, which they can wash down with some Belgian ale.

“It’s pretty fun to see 4,000 drunk cyclists all hugging and kissing each other,” Marckx said about the after-race festivities.

The Sunday Belgian Waffle Ride is the largest and first of four Belgian Waffle Rides in the country. It will be followed by a North Carolina ride in August, a September ride in Utah and an October ride on Halloween in Kansas.

Registration information is available at