Remember the days when we had European cyclocross to watch and could roam relatively freely without fear of the novel coronavirus? We long for those days and revisit that era, just a few weeks ago, when Corey Coogan Cisek wrapped up her season. Part 1 of her final column is here, where she looks at the final races, changes in courses, and the Dutch versus Belgians. In Part 2 of her final installment, she gives us a unique behind-the-scenes look at rider cards, pros selling their equipment and her plans going forward.

Playing My Hand with Rider Cards

I’ve been remiss to not discuss the madness around rider cards.

For context, consider that many of the foreign riders like me struggle financially to live this dream. Once upon a time, when I worked my corporate job, the price of the coffee seemed trivial. Nowadays, what amounts to a “free coffee” is priceless. Let me explain.

In my first season in Belgium, a friend printed 1000 rider cards for me. We gave them away freely, including leaving piles on the windshield when we were away from camp. In this manner, we burned through all of them between Thanksgiving and the end of Kerstperiode. I can only assume that someone(s) took hundreds?

Corey Coogan Cisek wraps up the 2019-2020 European cyclocross season.

Corey Coogan Cisek used to give out her rider cards by leaving them on her vehicle’s windshield when away from the team area.

Last year, an American friend had the savvy to start selling her rider cards for 1 euro. Initially, I thought this was rather silly. It seemed hardly worth the work to stop what one is doing (preparing for preride or the like) to make a euro here and there. Yet, I learned she had five designs and nearly everyone who asked happily forked over five euros to possess each.

This year, I joined her in the “for-profit rider card market,” selling my single design for a euro.

Corey Coogan Cisek's rider card for the 2019-2020 European cyclocross season.

Corey Coogan Cisek’s rider card for the 2019-2020 European cyclocross season.

I’ll be honest: the market is limited. At the beginning of the season, I was taking in about 15 euros a race. It was money for fuel and made me feel rich. By the end of the season, I had saturated my market and was only making one to three euros per race. Well, coffee money.

Interestingly, those first-year rider cards kept reappearing. I signed several that were brought to me over the course of the season. At least one of these was purchased on “some sort of French eBay.” Indeed, there is (at least) one French website where rider cards are sold well over their value to collectors.

There are casual collectors (kids and general fans) and then there are collectors. One such collector explained to my mechanics that he has over 150,000 cards (many of these come from the road, of course). To keep track of which cards he does and does not have, he has developed his own app.

At first, I was shy and embarrassed asking for a euro, but not a single person balked. (I did have several negotiate, “twee voor ėėn euro.”) I learned, happily, that I might have even more value, as another North American rider was selling hers for 2 euro and receiving it without hesitation.

For the record, I give my cards to children for free, but don’t tell anyone or the collectors will be sending their kids over.

There are other ways to earn money, including selling old skinsuits. I am constantly receiving messages via Facebook Messenger asking for kits. While most assume it will be free, there are those who will buy. (I wasn’t selling, but next year?!)

Want to score a deal on some excellent equipment? Attend one of the final races of the season in Flanders. It’s a veritable flea market or bike swap. Many of the “lesser” riders, the juniors, U23, and elite members of smaller teams buy their bikes at cost at the beginning of the season. At the end of the season, they sell their bikes to recoup costs. In rider parking, look carefully and you will see the “Te Koop” (For Sale) signs.

Telenet Fidea even hosts some sort of a post-season swap where they sell their Trek Boones.

Thibau Nys' 2019/20 Trek Boone. © Z. Schuster / Cyclocross Magazine

Want a top Euro Trek Boone on the cheap? Hit the last race of the season, says Corey Coogan Cisek. photo: Thibau Nys’ 2019/20 Trek Boone. © Z. Schuster / Cyclocross Magazine

My wheel sponsor sold five of my wheelsets to a family of young cyclocross riders. The father was carefully examining said wheelsets during my warmup. It was humorously unnerving. “Woah, can we just wait until this race is over before we sell my wheels?”

The Inevitable Question

Am I going back?

What do you think I am going to say?

My coaching bill has already been paid for the month of March.

We’ve hit a new era in women’s ’cross. What was great riding several years ago does not measure up anymore. -Corey Coogan Cisek

Yes, I am going back, seeking my own humble sense of self-achievement. There are a few stones left unturned. This year was one heck of a transition, as I trained fulltime for the first time, and weathered the rigors of 4.5 months on the road. When it comes to technical skills, I still have a lot of room for development. Physically, watts-wise, I will have to fight to get but a few!

Corey Coogan Cisek drops into De Kuil. 2019 Superprestige Zonhoven. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

Corey Coogan Cisek drops into De Kuil. 2019 Superprestige Zonhoven. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

That said, pushing on another year is not without risk. In some ways, it’s as if I have been running up an escalator that’s going down. It’s clear to me how much I’ve improved since year one. Yet, my results have not improved correspondingly. Put simply, it’s getting tougher out there.

We’ve hit a new era in women’s ’cross. What was great riding several years ago does not measure up anymore. Likewise, the back end of the field is rising quickly. While Ceylin and Anne Marie are the class of the field right now, it won’t be long before they have to contend with a host of emerging riders whose names you do not yet know.

For me, it’s one (more) year and then done. This year, aside from training, I am happily growing my Triple C Coaching business. I’ve enjoyed every moment of interaction with my athletes and I could not think of a better job to retire into in 2021.

“Tot volgend jaar, de laatste ronde.” (To next year, the last lap.)