Rider Highlight: Blaize Baehrens comes from injury to Top 10 at BWR

Blaize Baehrens had lofty goals after an unexpected crash at Rock Cobbler leaving him with broken ribs and a collapsed lung…plus a series of winter colds leaving him off the bike for over a month. Nevertheless, he continued to move towards his goals, slowly and meticulously with the help of his coach Adam Mills. He found himself with a Top 10 at the Belgian Wafer Ride and was able to support his wife, Sonja Johnson, helping her find the top step at Haute Route San Francisco.

The rides:

Belgian Wafer Ride and Haute Route week – the shorter version of the full BWR kicked off on a Sunday with 450 friends lining up for 73 miles of racing. While far shorter than the Waffle it contains over 30 miles of dirt and is a distance that can be truly raced from start to finish. With tales of 3, 4, and even 5 flats from other competitors and the mileage being dirt or hills the terrain is no joke with nowhere to recover except the finish line.
4 days later Haute Route San Francisco began, a 3 day stage race with Enduro style timed sections along the course. The first two days included over 190 miles and 20000 feet of climbing over the most iconic Bay Area routes like Mt Diablo, Mt Tam, the Golden Gate Bridge, Muir Woods, downtown Oakland (nothing like dodging traffic and potholes to keep you on your toes after 6 hours in the saddle). The final day was an ITT of only 10 miles but on a super hilly course and already smashed legs it was a next level effort.

How’d the race go down for you?

I had two very different goals for these races. For BWR I wanted to test myself and see how well I could do. 9 weeks earlier at RockCobbler I had an altercation with the ground and the ground won (as it usually does). With a few broken ribs and a collapsed lung I literally could not sit up let alone ride a bike. Coupled with a few colds I picked up with the depleted immune system I missed a month of riding and had to come back slowly after that. Three weeks before BWR I was still seeing day by day improvements where one day riding off a curb sent shooting pain through my chest and the following day it didn’t. With steady improvement continuing I just wanted to get through BWR healthy. Goal # 1, don’t crash. Goal # 2, finish. Goal # 3, well, two goals were enough at that point.
For Haute Route I wanted to ride in support of my wife who does more for me than I could ever repay (like spending a week in a Bakersfield hospital bringing me real food and keeping me entertained). I wanted to keep her out of the wind and give her a steady pace to follow the entire race. Her goal was to win, my goal was to help her go as fast as she possibly could, nothing more and nothing less.
BWR was a manic start with the fastest neutral start I’ve ever been part of. 10 miles to the first dirt section among a mix of strong riders and riders about to blow up from the early pace. When we hit dirt I was feeling both spunky and anxious to push it and annoyed at the riders who sprinted to the dirt only to sit up and relax and watch the gaps open up to riders in front. Knowing the course inside and out I locked in a pace I knew I could maintain for the next hour or so and started passing, and passing, and passing. Eventually the madness broke up and small groups formed. I had no idea where I was in the field but was happy to just ride strong and confident and with no pain or discomfort! I ended up with a few strong riders I knew and the lead female (and later number one and two females) and we worked together smashing the course. Eventually the two women attacked each other, sprinted away, and shattered our group. My good friend RV and I kept pushing each other and maintaining pace eventually crossing the line side by side in 8th and 9th overall. Pretty sure that’s proof my recovery is over.
Haute Route started Friday morning out of Oakland. With a little trepidation for what was to come (I hadn’t ridden more than 70 miles in years) we rolled out and I mentally prepared myself to be a rock solid wheel for Sonja my wife. With my eyes glued to my power meter and her shadow, my entire focus was on being steady to the top of the timed sections (ok maybe not my 100% focus, I did look at the view a bit too because it was freaking gorgeous, but I kept my power steady). Magically the pace she needed was a pace I could push and 200 miles later she stood on the top step of the podium for her age group with some 1st place hardware and 5th female overall at the race. I felt strong and confident all day every day and was proud to have my goal for the race, to ride in unwavering support for my wife, executed to perfection. And she won.

Which coach do you work with and how did your training help you prepare for the event?

Adam Mills has coached my wife for a year and a half and I watched him transform her into whatever form her races demanded, all while working with our constantly fluctuating schedule and our penchant for beer drinking. When I decided I wanted a coach too, for the first time ever (15 years of cycling and triathlon without a coach or training program), there was no other choice. When we started working together in December 2017 Adam immediately set a foundation of fitness for me to build on through the year. He only had 2 months of work into me before my crash and then had to navigate the recovery process workout by workout to the last minute before my big spring races. How he managed to pull this kind of fitness out of me with the challenges of the last months I have no idea. I crushed my goals thanks to him.

What advice do you have for someone up and coming in your cycling discipline?

  •  Step 1 – hire Adam or one of his SE compatriots.
  • Step 2 – listen to them and do what they say.
  • Step 3 – don’t get in a fight with the ground.

But more specifically, set real goals that align with what you’re willing to invest personally and trust in the process. Cycling success and however you define it takes dedication and time. The process has to be fun and manageable and trust that your coach knows better than you (because they do).

What is your next event?

 Crusher in the Tushar in July. Typically there are a few former professionals and national champions, and I don’t always do great at altitude, so only hoping for a top 20 overall. No pressure Adam…