British Cyclocross Champion Helen Wyman started her season in the US to showcase her sponsor KONA/FSA Factory team, and get some good racing in with her target of a podium at the World Championships still ahead of her.
In the end, the 30-year old rider won every race she entered, making it nine out of nine races, and of those seven garnered UCI points. Staying mostly in host-housing Wyman, along with her husband Stef and training partner Ian Field, traveled across the New England and Mid-Atlantic region. Their travels took them to Nittany Lion Cross in Brenigsville, PA, Charm City Cross in Baltimore, MD, Nor’Estern Cross in Burlington, VT, Rohrbach’s Ellison Park Cyclocross in Rochester, VT and Midnight Ride of Cross in Lancaster, MA.
We chatted last Thursday afternoon, while Helen was in Beverly MA, just before her final two races at the Great Brewers Gran Prix of Gloucester. Two races that she won completing her sweep. Our conversation covered multiple topics from her wins to the differences between racing cross in the USA versus in Europe and ultimately to chocolate.
Read the interview in a British accent to make it even better.
Podiuminsight: Seven out of seven. Congratulations.
Helen Wyman: Thank you. Seven out of seven so far, I still have two races this weekend but yeah, I’m aiming for nine out of nine but I think it’s going to be a little bit tougher this weekend.
Out of the seven, there were six UCI races.
Five UCI races. Two were non-UCI races, two just for fun.
Tell me about this fabulous, great, I don’t know what else to call it, start of your season. Were you surprised that you’re doing so well?
Um, I don’t know. I don’t know what I expected in America really. The thing that is really strange is that you come over here and then the people that you are actually beating – Laura (Van Gilder) is really good but you know that anyway – and then its Joyce van der Beken, a Belgian girl, and Gabby (Day), an English girl, so you’re kind of bringing your competition from Europe anyway. And yeah it’s been a really good start. I’ve had some good training this year and in the summer I had some really good road racing and stuff and so, I hoped to be better but then everybody hopes to be better so…
Did you change how you prepared for this season?
No. It just seems that every year that you get older, you get a bit stronger and you can train a bit harder. This year, I just trained a bit harder again still (laughs). I have no doubt in my mind that people around me will be going better as well but I feel pretty confident in what I have at the minute and we’ll see how we can step it up against even stronger competition the weekend, we’ll see what happens there really. Until you get back to Europe you don’t really know how the form is going, but I’m feeling pretty confident currently.
Were all your wins in similar conditions and were the courses different too?
The courses were a bit different. The first two days, there were a couple of mud pits in the course but you’re still on standard tread tires so they weren’t really muddy. And then the next weekend was dry, completely bone dry really, but they reverse the courses so it makes the courses quite interesting both ways, it’s quite cool. And then the next weekend we just did, the first day was unbelievably muddy. It was in Vermont, they had all the rainfall and all those places that got flooded out, that was where the race was, just the muddiest thing. And then the next day, was on the side of the hill and it was just tough, so last weekend was a tough weekend. And then on Wednesday night was a midnight cyclocross race, that was just a field really, it was cool.
That only thing is that every organizer obviously goes to the last race and goes ‘ooh not enough corners’. To start with there were too many corners anyway, and the every race we’re gone to since, an other five just for good measure. And then last night, it was just a race of corners, there were two straights and the rest were corners. It was really interesting. I’m hoping for a few less corners or I’m happy with the corners, just a few more straights in between them would be quite nice for the weekend. Because otherwise you can’t actually put in some real effort into the thing.
I’m trying to think about the Gloucester course. (laughs). I guess you practiced your cornering skills.
Yeah. Can we have some straights? (laughs)
So okay what do you think are your strengths as a cross racer then?
I’m quite a powerful rider I guess. I can ride pretty fast when I need to, but to me, I find it easier to get a bigger gap in mud races or races with something really tough in it just because I can ride harder on that bit and that’s where you get your biggest gaps really. There’s only so much time you can get by going faster around a corner than someone else. At the end of the day, as soon as you hit a straight, if you can’t ride as hard as them, they’re going to nail you anyway. For me, I’m that rider that can go hard on the hard bit, and not seem to suffer as a lot of people so yeah anything that falls in tough conditions, like Koppenberg, Aspere, that kind of thing. I think I would have won by a minute 58 last weekend. Amy Dombroski was good on Saturday, she was in second at about a minute and a half and she ripped her rear wheel off on the last three quarter of a lap and then the second-placed girl… so I would have won by a minute and a half. Even so, that’s still quite a big gap.
Yes it is. You’re obviously doing quite well early in the season but it is a long season, so are you concerned about the fact that you’re doing quite well and keeping this great fitness throughout the year?
No because I haven’t really done any specifics yet. We were only out training for two weeks and we were doing a lot of intermediate training, a little bit of threshold but not much. I was never doing any top end, no moto pacing, no fast, faster, so I’ve kind of been racing off of that at the minute, and then when we go back to Belgium then the proper training stuff starts.
For me, I want to really concentrate on Worlds this year, and it is a tough course, it’s a really tough course and, like I just said, I think that plays to my strengths. So at the minute I don’t want to put too much top end because I don’t want to be fried by January but equally, I have other goals as well I want to do well in. It’s kind of tempering it really, and there’s plenty of opportunities to do more training in warmer climate during the season so there’s a couple of blocks where I can miss a race and then still, because of the C2s to C1s change in points this year, and the rolling points thing as well.
I’ve won five UCI races out here so I’ve got my maximum amount of C2 points that I can get, and that’s it, I can’t get anymore this year until next September. So I don’t need to actually do any C2 races if I don’t want to, and it’s all about the races that I do do, about the competition, the training, the start money and that kind of thing, and to make a bit of cash in prize money as well. So skipping a couple of C2s isn’t going to make any difference to my World Ranking from now until next September, and I can go away to Majorca for two weeks of training and actually get proper training when it’s raining or icy or something in Belgium and other people can’t do that. I’ve still got a lot to build on, this is just hopefully the basic form that I’ll have for the season and then I hope to build more on top.
Is that what brought you to the US to get the C2 points done early?
It was an advantage for sure but the main reason I came here was for Kona really because, they’re an American-Canadian team. And in Europe I think sometimes the spectators aren’t really interested in the bike necessarily, they’re more interested in watching their rider win a race, it’s more about the race whereas in America, it’s much easier to represent our sponsor, to represent Kona, to come over here and win races, where people go ‘wow you’re quick, wow your bike is quick, oh I’m going to get me one of those’.
Kona has the best priced cross bike on the market, in terms of what you’re getting and your value of what you’re getting is just brilliant. So to come over, for me to say ‘yeah I’m winning races, people buy Konas’, people are really interested in that, and they are really interested in you because of that and I think it’s only a good thing for them. And sometimes I think they think I forget about them when we’re in Europe, I don’t forget about them (laughs) so it’s kind of to get publicity for Kona.
And the prize money, most of the races I’ve done equal top 3 men and women, that’s just unheard of in Europe, we don’t have equality yet. Equality for women who race bikes? It’s only a hobby, they don’t need money. (chuckles) So it’s cool, it’s really cool. It does help although I still have could have started the season with four C2 wins without coming here so it just means that when they come off in November and February then I’ve still got my four C2 until September next year.
That’s good. Why New England? You stayed in that region and didn’t go to the first USGP weekend in Wisconsin.
It was really because it’s a six-hour flight from London to New York, the time difference is only five hours and as soon as we got here, we were able to use bus for the first week and then Mike Garrigan, the Canadian cross rider, came over and we’ve been hooked up ever since driving around in his van, called Wesley, It’s called cool, it’s like a black van, it’s wicked although some people have described it as pedo-van but I don’t think so, because it may look like one but it’s cool, it will get you anywhere you want to be. It is this really cool big van and we can just chill out in it, it fits all the bikes, there’s me and my husband Stef, and then there’s Ian Field. Three riders, six bikes, all the wheels, bags, everything, it’s perfect. So he’s been driving us around and we just wanted to keep the cost low because we didn’t know how it would work out anyway.
And having been here, yeah it’s actually really cost efficient to be here but you’re still relying on host housing and things, which is amazing over here, it’s just unreal how good it is. We didn’t really want to add extra flights and extra time changes and that’s why I didn’t go West Coast because the time differences are so big. If we’d stayed another week, we could have got twelve races in in a month, that’s just unreal, it’s just ridiculous. So why do you need to go anywhere else when you’ve got a van, and you’ve got drivers, it’s cool. And I get enough competition in Europe so I don’t really need to go to a USGP to get more (laughs).
Stay tuned for part two.