Clara Honsinger (Team S&M CX) has had a monster first half of her cyclocross season. Four wins, 13 podiums, a World Cup podium at Jingle Cross and second at the Pan-American Championships.
Having qualified for the Worlds team with her podium at the Jingle Cross World Cup, Honsinger is taking the long view for her 2019/20 season. The past weekend’s races at the Major Taylor Cross Cup represented the end of the first half of her season.
It was a successful cap on that first half, as the Oregonian won both days at the Major Taylor Velodrome in solo fashion.
I chatted with her after Sunday’s Day 2 of racing. You can read a transcript of our interview below.
Interview: Clara Honsinger, 2019 Major Taylor Cross Cup Day 2
Cyclocross Magazine: Day 2, as with Day 1, was a solo victory. Tell me about that.
Clara Honsinger: I had a really good start. As in, I got the holeshot. That’s really satisfying because that’s something that I’ve been working on a lot this year. To hit that, it felt good.
CXM: Are starts something that you’ve been paying attention to [in training]?
CH: Yes. It’s definitely been something that I have been practicing a lot. It’s fun, when you put in the work, to feel the reward, you know? Like, “I’m getting this down, it’s better.”
CXM: Tell me about the race, you were on your own for quite a bit of it. How did that play out?
CH: I led the first lap, then Raylyn [Nuss] came through on the second and pulled a little bit. Over the barriers, I was able to get a couple more pedal strokes out of it and move ahead of her. From there it was just kind of trying to find the moments where I could put out a little bit more power. I was able to stretch the gap on the backside of the course. From that lap on it was just keeping it smooth.
CXM: At the finish, you had blood on your leg. What happened?
CH: I caught a couple of thorns on the backside. A little scrape on the leg but nothing too bad. I had enough room that I could get back and finish it up.
CXM: This is the last race before you take a break. How do you feel about the block leading up to this, and taking a break before the rest of your season?
CH: I’m really happy with it. I feel like I have been able to demonstrate the work I put in this offseason and get good results in the first half of the season. I still have a long way to go through Worlds. I’m really excited for that, I’m excited to put in some more work.
CXM: That’s something I talked [to commentator Scot Herrmann] about yesterday. Your season is going to go much further into the year than a lot of people’s. How does that affect your planning?
CH: This is the [end of] first half of the season. It’s definitely like you don’t want to blow up, you don’t want to overdo it and be overtrained by January. It’s definitely balancing the racing and the training. It’s really exciting. It’s going over to Europe and racing over there.
CXM: What are your goals in Europe?
CH: I really want to hit that Christmas block pretty hard and get in all those races. It’s trickier racing it but I’ve done it in the past and I think I can get some good finishes in those races.
CXM: Could you compare racing in Europe to racing here?
CH: It’s way different than racing here. It’s just so much more aggressive. Over here we’re a community. We know each other and have a kind of respect for each other in races. Over there it’s kind of just clawing your way through.
CXM: It’s a different style of racing?
CH: Yeah, the courses are way narrower and they’re just so… cyclocross.
CXM: That’s an interesting way to describe it? How do you prepare for that when there’s not as much opportunity in North America to get that experience?
CH: I’ll do some racing in the men’s field back in Oregon for some practice racing. And just carrying that mentality to racing here. Like, people come in asking for an inch. You just say no.
CXM: That’s a different way to approach it for sure.
CH: Yeah, it is. I think as long as you’re able to get off the course and still be a good person.
CXM: That’s really what’s important. Getting off the course and not being a terrible person.
CH: Yes, don’t be a terrible person. Maybe a little aggressive bike racer, but good person.
CXM: So Christmas cross, then you’re staying in Europe through Worlds?
CH: Yeah, we don’t plan on coming back before worlds.
CXM: How does that work logistically?
CH: We’re aiming to go to Spain, get some sunshine, while everyone is doing their Nationals races in Europe. Warm up, then go back for the last two World Cups and Worlds.
CXM: We look forward to seeing the rest of your season, congratulations.
CH: Yeah, I appreciate it.