Helen Wyman on her way to the win at Koppenberg Cross. © Bart Hazen
by Christine Vardaros
Helen Wyman [Kona Factory Racing] announced to the world that she ready for battle at Worlds when she put in a dominant performance at Nommay World Cup last week, taking second spot on the podium. While all the pre-Worlds talk may be focused on Katie Compton (Trek Cyclocross Initiative) and Marianne Vos (Rabo Liv), 32-year old Wyman proved that she is someone who can possibly shake up their two-woman duel and even come out victor if the conditions are right – although Wyman has less confidence than the journalist who is writing these words! And if she shoots for the win, if she fails, she may very well land a silver or bronze medal.
When I asked Wyman of the secret to her success at Nommay, naturally I expected to hear something along the lines of hard training paying off. But instead she says, “Well, I put Super Ted in my ‘podium pack’ [before the race].” Super Ted is a teddy bear that was knitted by Wyman’s godmother who was in the hospital with a broken hip. Now that I think of it, I should have expected some off-the-wall response from Wyman, as she is easily the most humorous gal in the pro peloton. Wyman next added, “I always know that when Vos and Compton are in the race, third is a legitimate result. If Compton were there, I wouldn’t have had second but I can’t control other people’s problems.”
Even if she would have placed third, to have beaten all the other top world class riders to the line is no small feat. “It was always the plan this year to have two peaks, one for Koppenbergcross and European Championships (both of which she won) and one for Worlds. That means I should, in theory, be close to another peak now. But having said that, Nommay had ‘Helen’ written all over it.” It sure did. And if she can be on such excellent form the week before Worlds, then that form will surely be accessible to her this Saturday as well.
So far this season, Wyman’s proven herself to be a standout rider. She is currently ranked fourth overall in the UCI Standings and a win in the BPost Bank Trofee Series–the second largest series of races in the world offered to women. In addition, she finished fifth in the World Cup Overall rankings, and is both European Champion and British Champion. As she is proud of both jerseys, she alternates wearing them in the races. The day after British Championships at Otegem, for instance, she raced in the British National jersey to show it off–and took home the win ahead of Sanne Cant and Sophie de Boer.
Wyman again started this season off in the US, winning her first four races in a row. She then went on to win six more in Europe. She has also had 10 additional podium placings.
While to an outsider looking at Wyman, it definitely appears as if she’s taken her fitness up another level from last year, she sees it more as a gradual progression. “I’ve done the same pre-season prep as previous years. It’s just that year after year you build layers of training and mentally you are stacking up the wins so are getting stronger there too. I’m just doing it all with that little bit more confidence, age and strength I guess. “
In preparation for Worlds, Wyman took off to southern Spain for a bit of training under the sun. “I went to the usual place between Marbella and Malaga Went for ten days after Nationals. It’s just good to be able to do the training you have planned as opposed to being wet and cold and on a home trainer! It’s sunny and 17°C (63°F) there [grins].”
The Hoogerheide course is certainly a good one for Wyman as she’s finished twice on the podium there when it was a World Cup. And if the track is very muddy, she will be one happy camper.
Mud may increase her chances of landing on the podium, but she will still have to fight hard for it. When asked what her odds are for getting a top three, Wyman says, “I would give it a one- in-ten shot at the betting shop [chuckles]. There are probably ten of us that can take that one spot [after Compton and Vos take the other two].” The gals she names who will be vying for that one spot left are: Nikki Harris, Sabrina Stultiens, Sanne Cant, Pauline Prevot Ferrand, Lucie Chainel-Lefevre, Eva Lechner, Sophie de Boer, Pavla Havlikova, Ellen van Loy, and Kaitlin Antonneau.
Regarding her chances for the win, Wyman responds, “Well, what are the statistical odds of a small nuclear device landing on both Vos and Compton and resulting in temporary paralysis that ends immediately as the race finishes? That’s my odds on winning [laughs]. It’s bigger than a dream. I don’t think it’s possible to put it into words really.”
Instead what she wishes for is to be at her best. “This year at European Championships I had what I can only describe as a float-day. That day I was sooooooo good! If I can recreate that at Worlds, then I am going to be one happy bunny”, quips Wyman. Adding, “Whatever happens… As long as I get out the best performance I can, then I know I will be happy. If that includes a result then I’ll probably get drunk on Saturday night. You want in? [Grins widely.]”
On a side note, Wyman was recently named to the UCI Cyclocross Commission so expect to see some more positive changes coming out of the UCI–especially for women!
For more World Championship interviews, commentary, predictions and contests, check out our Worlds 2014 page here.