Helen Wyman looking for the good line in Roubaix. © Bart Hazen

Helen Wyman looking for the good line in Roubaix. © Bart Hazen

2009 British Champion Helen Wyman (Kona-FSA) checks in with an update from Europe as she slides her way through a muddy Roubaix World Cup and prepares for Hoogerheide and Worlds. If you missed it, also take a peek at her adventure in snowy UK and CXM’s  profile of her Kona Major Jake cyclocross bike.

by Helen Wyman

Finally we got our first muddy race of the season, and wow the conditions really didn’t hold back as a lot of the men in the Elite race were running 500m of the course per lap. Brilliant!

Roubaix cyclocross seems to be the mud feast of the season, as last year it rained constantly for two days before the race, and this year again was no exception. We rode the course on Saturday before the rain started and it was pretty solid, although the descents were a little slippery to say the least. First lap around, I rode straight down it, brakes on, and had no problems despite the very short turn at the bottom. Gabs and Ian followed me down, both no problems.

The next lap round, Enrico Franzoi had just joined the course ahead of us and had hesitated at the top to take a look first. Being overly cocky, I shouted for him to move so I could just ride straight down again, which he dutifully did, slightly slipping at the bottom, but he held it, no problem. So I dived straight off the edge, confidence helping me try to turn on the hill before the bottom. I managed to hold the first slip of the front wheel before panicking again and grabbing the front brake by mistake and superman-ing it down the track. Franzoi must have been laughing for most of the next lap.

Having seen this, both Ian and Gabs also stopped at the top so they didn’t run me over before I got up and had to turn back to come into it again. Gabs got down mostly lying on her side, and Ian tried a new tactic by riding straight at the fence at the bottom. Unfortunately his plan to let the bike go and jump off the back backfired when it hit the fence and bounced upwards, taking him with it. The commissaire who had been watching at the top of the bank then tried to walk down the hill, started to slip, and grabbed the fence to hold him upright. He finally arrived at the bottom, on his bottom with a bloody right hand, which we later found out needed stitches. The next day, they had added a lot of sand to the descents to make sure it was at least safe to run them.

The conditions for the race the next day were obviously worse due to the overnight rain and the races previous to ours, but it was fun. After having such a long time with no races due to British Nationals being canceled, it took me a while to get into the race. By the third lap I had remembered and took back 10 places, however that wasn’t enough.

The much coveted Tom Boonen shower stall © Helen Wyman

The much coveted Tom Boonen Roubaix shower stall © Helen Wyman

The funniest thing about Roubaix is the showers, although they do look slightly like a gas chamber made of grey concrete with chains next to the shower heads. The thing that makes them interesting is the plaques on each cubicle. Every concrete block has a board with winners of the Paris-Roubaix classic race from every year. There is always a fight for Tom Boonen’s stall; this year, having been on doping control for the 20th time since September, I was later to the showers and got him.

Next weekend is the final World Cup in Hoogerheide, Holland-one of my favourite all time courses. With all the snow melted and a bit of rain forecast for the week, it should be another fun mudfest. Til then…