A Conversation with Helen Wyman
Great Britain has its own crop of talented, English-speaking female cyclocross stars, and British Cyclocross National Champion Helen Wyman leads the pack. After last season’s Kalmthout World Cup, Christine Vardaros visited British National Cyclocross Champion Helen Wyman (Team Swift Racing) in her Swift mobile home to in hopes of learning more about her fellow racer and the person behind the lycra. With talk about teddy bears and butt cracks, she just might have achieved her goal. (A shorter version of this interview was originally published in our Issue 5.)
CXM: Most folks know you as British Cyclocross National Champion. But what would your fans be surprised to know about you?
HW: I still have two teddy bears! One called Harry and one called Bonnie, and they come everywhere with me.
CXM: I’ve seen Harry before – he’s the one who’s traveled the world?
HW: He’s more popular than Bonnie.
CXM: And Harry has his own Facebook Page?
HW: Yup, that’s right.
CXM: So, how did the World Cup race here in Kalmthout go?
HW: Normally fast courses are really good for me, but not today. I expect better at Tabor, but I have never ridden the course. Regarding my strengths, I am quite a strong rider, so when it is muddy or when it drags, I am good at putting gaps into other riders.
CXM: What are your goals at the moment?
HW: Lots of goals. The main one is to win a World Cup because I have had seconds and thirds before, but I’ve never won one. And I would like to do well at Worlds this year which I haven’t done the last two years.
CXM: Who are you looking at as your competitors?
HW: Just the usual. Hanka [Kupfernagel] is obviously always strong, and Daphny [Van den Brand] is technically brilliant, and she knows how to win races. Like she knew today [Kalmthout] where she had to get a gap since she wasn’t going to win the sprint. Saskia [Elemans] is very quick at the minute, and the French girls really work well together as a team, and if [Pavla] Havlikova can get third…
CXM: Have you thought about racing in USA?
HW: Yeah, definitely. We always thought about it when there was talk of a World Cup. And the standards are obviously very good because Katie [Compton] is a good rider. And Wendy [Simms] is also an amazing rider, so it is good to go over. But when you get started in the season here, you don’t really want to mess it up with traveling. And World Cups are worth more points. I’d love to do Cross Vegas, though.
CXM: I’ve heard there are a few major team changes for 2009.
HW: We are starting ownourteam.com; it is for anybody who wants to be a part of the team . You can join our fan club, and you can do anything up to 10,000 pounds through the website. Or if you want to sponsor the team, you can contact Stefan [Wyman - team manager and husband]. By being a member, you are supporting us. You will get monthly newsletters, and there are different grades of it.
We have Nicole Cooke on our team now. We have got the World and Olympic Champion on our team, which is brilliant. And she is such an inspiration to ride for. She just – without even trying but by being the person that she is -gets your respect instantly; you just want to work for her. She is amazing – always positive and always encouraging the riders to do things.
CXM: Will there be a change in how you approach road season? Maybe more focus on the road now?
HW: This year I didn’t do as much road racing as I did before, but it depends on who is riding on our road team.
CXM: Any advice you have for the up-and-comers?
HW: Just keep learning – keep trying. Always listen to advice – as long as it is sound. The only way you can learn is from people around you or watching the pros race; they will do things you don’t think you can do, but try it!
Louise Robinson who was 2nd in the first Women’s Worlds once said to me that being a cyclocross rider is about being an apprentice – about working your apprenticeship and when you’ve formally worked your apprenticeship, you will finally get there, and you’ll win.
CXM: How do you spend your time?
HW: Bike riding and television. You get some great TV in Belgium. I can watch all kinds of rubbish-it’s great!
CXM: Did you know you have a huge male fan base that regards you as a cutie?
HW: [chuckles] In fact, my husband told me yesterday that I have the nicest body he’s seen in a long time. Thanks so much darling!
CXM: A few of us were talking about your bibs. The general consensus is that if anyone can pull the see-through white butt panel off, you can.
HW: [Laughs] You can see my bum crack. My butt crack is aesthetically pleasing. It is ok. There are some people that you wouldn’t want to see. You see a bum crack lying there, and you think, just put it away. But I just don’t care for it when it rains.
CXM: But when it rains, it will be TMI [too much information] about Helen Wyman?
HW: I have had a lot of boys look at my bum to tell me.
CXM: We should take a poll on the Cyclocross Magazine website.
HW: [Laughs] They look so pimp [especially] from the side. But it is a bit risqué. Hanka [Kupfernagel] was telling me today that her white bum [bib panel] is reinforced. That she’s got two panels. They didn’t give me one. Mine does look amazing, but…
CXM: Any nicknames?
HW: They call me Weeman, not Wyman.
CXM: For Americans who make the trek over here and cheer you on, do you have words for them?
HW: Please come and support me. I can hear from the accents [if they are American]. Thank you very much .
CXM: Thanks so much for your time!
HW: Thank you!
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