Helen Wyman takes stock of the World Championship course. Course Inspection. 2016 UCI Cyclocross World Championships. © P. Van Hoorebeke/Cyclocross Magazine

File photo of Helen Wyman from the 2016 World Championship course. Wyman is partnering with NEXT Wheels to help riders bridge the gap from up-and-comer to the pro ranks. © P. Van Hoorebeke/Cyclocross Magazine

Helen Wyman, multi-time British National and twice European Champion, has announced the “NEXT Wyman” project, an initiative designed to try to fill the void between the sport’s leading riders and the up-and-coming individuals that struggle alone to reach those heights.

Helen puts much of the gap down to areas other than fitness and talent; calendar planning, access to appropriate events, confidence, equipment and quality training facilities are all major factors in a rider’s pathway to the top. And over the past 10 years Helen has often learnt this the hard way.

NEXT Wyman isn’t a search for the next Helen Wyman, far from it. “NEXT, a wheel company from Vermont USA is run by long time friend Jerry Chabot, and he actually touted the name to me earlier in the season. NEXT will be providing wheels to the rider or riders I back. So the name ‘NEXT Wyman’ reflects our partnership. Hopefully a NEXT Wyman rider can go on to surpass what I’ve achieved in the sport,” says Wyman.

Talking about the NEXT Wyman project for the first time, Wyman continued, “hopefully with my input and access to a group of partners and professionals the process of fulfilling potential can be advanced and riders can reach the top quicker. With the introduction of the Women’s U23 category at the World Championships and also the rapid growth in live television coverage for women’s racing, there is more interest than ever in our side of the sport. I want NEXT Wyman to be the springboard riders need to help commit to cyclocross and make it their career choice in the sport.”

“I’ve already secured the backing for one rider and now it’s just a case of putting things together for more riders and hopefully expanding the equipment options available to us,” Wyman said, before adding that she “will be riding for at least two more seasons with Kona Factory racing, so I want to make sure that these riders are riding alongside me whenever possible in training as well as hitting the best possible racing program for them. It’s important to me this process begins while I’m still at the top of my game.”

Wyman also said that “Jerry and I both hope that solid corporate interest can be found in the project, to allow it to have more than the one rider we are currently planning. I’d love to help up to 3 riders in the first year, and I’d be very interested in helping a rider from USA transition to European racing.”

“I’ve got a massive soft spot for US ‘cross, and I often see hugely talented riders struggle with the transition. It shouldn’t be hard, but frequently riders are making a combination of tiny energy sapping decisions on and off the bike, which haven’t allowed them to perform to their full potential on the biggest stage. I’d love to help someone out in that respect.”

Wyman also noted the need for programs such as this to be longer than a year. “I’d like this to be a two-year project for each rider. I often see one-year development options, but I’m not the biggest fan of that. You learn a lot in a year, and also make a lot of mistakes, but then find yourself out on your own, when really you need that stable environment to continue and an opportunity to put those lessons into practice.”

“I was always told ‘cross is an apprenticeship,” says Wyman, “and I strongly believe this to be the case as there is so much to learn. With this development project I aim to guide others on this accelerated pathway to the top.”

Any interested sponsors, riders and equipment suppliers can get in touch with Wyman via [email protected].