British cyclocrosser and Kona Factory Team professional racer Helen Wyman will again start her season in the US, where she will kick off affairs in Rochester, N.Y. on September 8 and 9. Wyman is no stranger to the weekend’s double-header schedule, as she won an event on the same course last season. “Racing in the USA is infectious … I love it,” commented Helen about the start of the 2012/13 season. “It’s great to be close to my Kona team, and the East Coast feels like a second home to me. I had such a warm welcome there last year, and I knew immediately I wanted to go back.”
It’s the fourth time Wyman will start her season in the States, after starting it in Seattle in 2009 at StarCrossed near her [then new] sponsor, Kona Bikes. Racing in America in general, and at night in Vegas and Seattle specifically, made Wyman’s top 10 season highlights list.
“To be honest, I love the racing in USA,” she continues. “Every race has a cool atmosphere, and in sticking largely to the East Coast scene you get to know a lot of cool people. Shana Lydon, who runs the Rochester GP races, is such a nice person. I loved staying with her last year and I think the course there was seriously cool. It was very hard, and the extreme heat that day was an extra factor, but I think that venue could hold a huge event. Imagine that in the mud!”
But she’s not done there: “Charm City really does hold a special place in my heart, as does organiser Kris Auer. If I could race that event every weekend, I think I would. Again, the venue is amazing, the support staff at the event are second to none and Baltimore is a fantastic city.”
“That’s not to say other events are super cool. Gloucester is beautiful, Nittany is unique with its all-temperature mud pit (maybe only happened last year) and the night race I did at the Midnight Ride Cross had more corners than the remaining races of the season added together.”
But she hasn’t committed to toeing the line at any of them just yet. “I haven’t got my final scheduled dialed yet, to be honest. I’m waiting to hear from a few organizers but I know I’m also doing a cross clinic at Rochester (Details on the event site), and I’ll be doing some other things in Baltimore with Twenty 20 Cycles. Also, the Midnight Ride Cross with have some extra events with me including another clinic.”
After an extended stay in the USA, which will include a series of cross clinics linked to race events, Helen will return to Europe to compete in the World Cup series. “The World Cup is important to me, and always has been,” she says. “I’ll be looking to better my fifth place finish of last season. It’s never easy; one bad day is devastating to your classification. But I guess that means I need cut out the crashes and win some sprints!”
While she’s in the US, Wyman has high expectations to match her previous winning season. “I guess I better try to defend my crowns in a number of events. I ride to win, that’s what motivates me, so I hope to do a bit of winning. But I don’t expect to have things all my own way. Ten wins last season out of ten races would be hard to repeat so I’m certainly not expecting that. But I really do want to continue building a reputation as a quality rider and hopefully keep opening doors in the USA for the future. I really do see a future there and hope I can be part of it.”
Wyman is quick to add that it might be a challenge staying on top. “There are loads of top riders in the USA, and I guess there will be more overseas riders as well this year. Gabby Day is always a great competitor and pushes you all the way. The legend that is Laura van Gilder is always ready to win and fights for every place. Nicole Duke was one of the best riders I came up against last year, anywhere in the world. She is awesome, and a nice person. I respect her and her ability a huge amount. With her skills, she reminds me of Wendy Simms (Former World Number one as well and instrumental in me coming to the USA for Kona), who I think was an amazing rider.”
We asked if the Louisville USGP was in her schedule, since it will offer a chance for her to check out the Worlds course. Wyman told us, “Yeah, Louisville is on the planner. I guess I could come to the USGP mid-season, but it’s not arranged. Logistics in the USA aren’t the easiest thing in the world so I leave them to my crew chief (and husband) Stef to deal with. I’m sure if the organizer got in touch, I’d seriously consider it. I love racing in America and if Stef thought it wouldn’t detract from my subsequent performances due to the extra travel, it’s a possibility.
“It’s these issues that make me consider a season or two in the USA. I’m not sure when, I guess the opportunity will present itself when fate says it should.”
Helen will be using the Kona Major Jake again but with a lot of updates to the components, and touts some significant improvements to her ride in terms of performance and weight. “I’m so happy with the bikes and I’ve been lucky to be able to try a lot of new products through the summer to ensure my winter season is as smooth as possible,” Wyman says. Her new carbon Major Jake is quite different from the scandium machine we profiled at StarCrossed in 2009.
“I’ve also got the benefit of working very closely with the guys at the top of Challenge Tyres in Italy, which helps to ensure I get the best out the product. This includes my input into development of new products and influencing upgrades that make the products stand out from the crowd. It’s been a very fulfilling part of my summer,” said Helen.
The USA trip will include at least nine events but will end in good time to allow recovery before the World Cup series starts in Tabor, Czech Republic. “I need to be fresh and on my game early this season. The European Championships are in the UK this November. It’s not often we get a major championships in the UK and this will certainly be the only time in my career so It’s something I want to approach with great respect. I know the course well as I won the nationals there last year. Hopefully the weather can be awful in the approach to the event to make it nice and tough otherwise we could have a grass criterium. It’s very fast there.”
Helen will leave for the US on September 1 to meet with new sponsor Attain Clothing before the first events on 8th and 9th of September. “If this trip is as enjoyable as the last one, I think I can see myself spending a season or two in the US. Women’s racing is well organized and most importantly well respected in the US. I think I’d like to be a bigger part of that revolution over the coming seasons.”
And how does her husband, manager and pit crew feel about the US? He’s pretty happy to be coming back across the pond. Why? Reason number one was easy: “I’ve been promised a micro brewery tour by Adam Myerson of the Boston area. So I guess that’s gonna be cool. Spending time with people like Kris Auer, Adam, Jerry Chabot and you [Molly from CXM], of course, is a major plus side to the trip.”
He adds that it’s not all fun and games, saying, “It’s also the best way to get Helen’s bikes running perfectly before the World Cup season starts. Helen has a lot of changes to her race equipment set up this year and seeing all of that coming together in a race environment is very important. Doing that in training is never quite the same.”
But even through the serious racing, there’s still time for fun. “The ‘banter’ in the pits is very different in the USA,” Stef adds. “Stu Thorne is good company in the pits although there are a lot more rules and regs put on us pit crew in America. Chants of ‘USA’ when a rider overtakes Helen always make me chuckle. You guys are very patriotic, that’s for sure. It’s also very easy to relax between races in the USA. You don’t have the familiar distractions of home, so you can certainly fit in a great training blocks between the events. Over there I try to ride as much as possible which isn’t always easy at home. So that’s a big benefit and I guess we’ll try to plan for a few tourist days. Niagara Falls is one place I know we’re going … I think Helen will kill me if we pass so close to it again and don’t go and see it.”