As it’s Worlds week this week I thought why not share with you a little bit of the weirdness that is this week in the cyclocross world.
I’m not talking about the 758 Insta story pictures you’ll see on Friday and Saturday of people’s race numbers pinned to skinsuits. I’m actually talking about how different it is from every other race on the calendar.
Worlds is Different, for More Reasons than You Think
So imagine you are a professional ’cross racer. You ride for a team like Experza (yes pink is flattering on you). You have a huge pro tour team bus with 3 showers, a kitchen and 20 seats that you share with your teammates.
You have a small army of staff who religiously, race after race, week after week, set up everything so all you have to do is show up and race. You know you can entirely rely on them doing it how you want it done and you could be at any race all over Europe and you would have exactly the same setup.
I have the very best mechanic who I trust with my life, who is as invested in my career as I am. I have amazing sponsors who provide me with every single thing I need to do my job to the best of my ability. My life at a ’cross race is steady and stable.
Spoiled, I know.
Now when it comes to the most important race of the year, the World Championships you would imagine you would want that level of stability. The same staff, the same setup, the same kit, the safety blanket that takes away any external stressors on your race performance.
Well my friends, that is why Worlds is weird.
Many riders from many nations turn up to a hotel at Worlds with the national team. A hotel which they have not chosen, with mechanics they have not used before, to a masseur they are not used to, to what can be a pressured environment, to race in a kit they’ve never raced before. They are transported at a time agreed upon by the team to share a shipping container course side with what can only be described as their year long rivals to prepare for the biggest race of the year.
Some previous Worlds trips have had some pretty crazy moments.
I’ve stayed in hotels where the smoke from the bar has wafted into my bedroom all night long. I have been given a men’s track skinsuit with dropped neckline and track sprinter butt sized chamois that I’ve had to unstitch the night before Worlds.
I’ve stayed in a hotel where the food was brought in from a next door and reheated leading to 90 percent of the riders and staff missing Worlds due to food poisoning.
One year the riders’ bikes got stolen from a shipping crate they were being stored in outside the hotel. All things which have never happened with the well-oiled machine that is Team Wyman.
While many of these issues were unavoidable and have all happened in the past, lessons have been learned, and the current set up is fantastic for my federation. I do wonder what could have been for some of the riders if Worlds was run like any other race.
I am also in the very lucky position that my federation allow me the freedom to put in place all my current set up and have done for a few years now while I pay for my own Worlds trip.
A Wyman Proposal
This, however, brings me to a very controversial point. Should Worlds be raced in your trade team kit?
While I was on the ’Cross commission I did campaign for riders to be able to race in their trade team kit for Elite and U23 riders at World Cups with an idea of this eventually coming into Worlds. While flatly rejected, it doesn’t change my opinion.
Now don’t get me wrong, I was as proud as the next person the first time I was handed my Great Britain skinsuit. I still have a photo somewhere of me in the garden in said skinsuit holding my bike, as I’m sure absolutely every rider that has ever represented their country has too. It is an honor to do so, but wearing a national team skinsuit, to me, isn’t the same thing as representing my country.
Let me put it this way. I have spent the majority of my adult life in Belgium, yet I do not feel any less British than I did the day my brain was able to understand the concept.
I feel that at every single bike race I have raced in my entire career I represent my country. I represent the values that I feel deep down makes the “great” go ahead of Britain. Dogged determination, ability to work alongside others, politeness (that’s a word) and the ability to raise my voice while talking to someone who’s first language isn’t English (joking, I don’t do that).
I personally don’t feel that wearing whatever the latest adaptation of our national flag is in British kit form while racing Worlds makes me any more British than I honestly believe I am.
Controversial I know. But hear me out.
If I was to run Wyman’s World Champs, the Elite racers would be able to race in their trade team kits, thus allowing the spectators to recognize each rider in the same way we see them week after week in the races. This would free up funding for the national federations to pay for the Junior riders to get looked after at Worlds, taking away the need for part or full funding by these young riders that we have with many federations now.
The selection process would include some kind of pre-qualification based on riders’ world ranking and national champions would be able to race in their national champs’ kits. The race organizers would have more track space than the current 40 percent they get for their own advertising boards and everyone would get a free beer with their entry ticket.
As I say this isn’t ever going to happen and whether it did or not every single rider who lines up on the start line this weekend will be incredibly happy to have the opportunity to represent their country on the biggest stage. The winners will be the very best rider in that race and we are going to be in for some killer battles. Trade team kit or national team kit a winner is a winner and ultimately the best jersey you could ever wear is that stripey one.
Featured image: Balint Hamvas