Heading into U.S. Cyclocross Nationals, Rebecca Fahringer (Kona Maxxis Shimano) had two goals she was not shy about sharing. One was to finish higher than living legend Katie Compton (KFC Racing p/b Trek Knight). The other was to win the Elite Women’s National Championship.
Last Sunday in Lakewood, Fahringer achieved one of those goals by finishing second at Nationals, ahead of Compton.
On Sunday at World Cup Namur, Fahringer got the chance to finish ahead of Compton once again. She passed the rider known as KFC on the last climb, but then Compton regained her wheel and ultimately beat Fahringer to the line for seventh place.
Getting pipped by Compton though, that was not the biggest of deals for Fahringer. On a course that was technical, treacherous and challenging, she had defied those who doubted her technical skills and finished in the top 10 of a Euro World Cup for the first time in her cyclocross career.
A great finish warranted a special GoFahr celebration to compliment her growing collection of signature finishing poses.
As she won race after race this season, Fahringer quickly became known for her signature T-Bex celebration:
Then there was whatever this was:
And after finishing eighth, right behind Compton, she celebrated with a smile and a shrug.
— Hans van der Maarel (@redgeographics) December 22, 2019
Fahringer described her feelings about that moment.
“When I crossed the line, I knew that they would broadcast my finish because I was in the top 10, so I just gave a smile and a shrug to show everyone out there, ‘Yeah, I just let 7th slip through my hands, but, are you seeing this?!’ And based on the outreach about that smile after the race, you all got it.”
We chatted with Fahringer while she was getting ready for her Christmas Eve potluck and preparation for Thursday’s World Cup Zolder. Hear what she had to say below.
Interview: Rebecca Fahringer, 2019 World Cup Namur 8th Place
Cyclocross Magazine: It was kind of a whirlwind for you after Nats, huh? Did you get some time to celebrate your second-place ride?
Rebecca Fahringer: Yea, booking a flight the Monday after a big race is kind of a not fun idea, but, thanks to mechanics that support my well-being, they got my gear packed up while I got really drunk. Can I say that in print? Ha, but it’s the truth, and I will say publicly, sorry for party rockin’;.
The night was almost more of the lamenting the passing of a dream because we all know I wanted to win and dangling in second is a regrettable position. That’s what I get for toeing the line with super-fast women, though.
CXM: Where are you staying during this block of racing? Do you room with the Werners?
RF: Hey, the Werners room with me! We stay at the Chainstay in Oudenaarde, Belgium. I have been here for nearly all of my Belgian-based adventures because Gregg has everything a cyclocrosser could possibly need here.
CXM: What did you learn from pre-riding at Namur? Did you get any tips, pointers?
RF: For the past two years Kerry and Emily have raced Waaslandcross on Saturday while I choose to pre-ride instead. Namur is scary. I think this was my third time racing, and it was finally a little bit more comfortable the first go-round.
During my pre-ride on Saturday, I learned it was just as fast to run down the sand-covered winding stairs as it was to ride, but riding made the transition to the steep cobbled climb a little more palatable. I also got some tips on riding a steep descent (the one that is a short steep run-up and a 180 back down—that was backwards this year from years past—but unfortunately, the feature changed so much going into Sunday, that the advice didn’t quite hold up.
CXM: You tweeted about commentators questioning your technical skills on the Nats broadcast. How did that motivate you for Sunday’s race?
RF: I have a lot of feelings about those comments. I for sure am not as smooth, confident, and fast as, say, Katie Compton, on most technical features, but who is? The comments did motivate me to look toward every resource I could have when going into any race and capitalize on them.
At Namur, I rode with Team USA members and watched other people and really tried to figure out where I was coming up short. Then, when I came to the feature I couldn’t clean three times in a row, I knew I should run it but my pride was totally shot because I would be feeding into the stigma that I was not a strong technical rider. But, I am here to race my bike, and in the end made the decision that was the fastest over the course of a race.
CXM: What were your expectations heading into the race? 4th-row start, tough course, terrible conditions.
RF: Personally I had no expectations because the start at Namur has been a proven struggle for me, and the many first-lap bottlenecks usually take me out of contention. But, Helen Wyman told me she thought I could get a top 10 on the course after watching U.S. Nationals. Helen knows me, my skills, the course and what it is like to get off of a plane and race. And if she thought I could do it, then I put in my head I should go for it.
CXM: How did the race go? What were the conditions like?
RF: This was the first race—that I didn’t win—where I haven’t come away with glaring regrets in quite a while. I mean, it is such a big result and the course was the type where everyone made mistakes, so you can’t really nitpick yours. I had a great start, made good decisions, stayed mentally engaged and minimized mistakes.
It had been wet all weekend, but it started raining on the line and I always like when there is active precipitation because it enhances the dynamics of a course, and I think that plays into my run-and-gun style of riding. There was everything from standing puddles, slick rocks, to sticky mud and even concrete-like sand.
CXM: We know you’re famous for making the crash cam … did you keep things upright? What were the keys to handling the course?
RF: I secretly love making the Euro crash cams because that means you’re really riding your limits and went big. Plus, TV. Hi, Mom!
I only crashed once Sunday, and it was when mud got flung into my eye and I hit a rut and went down on the same hill you saw Toon go down hard on, before the sand descent. It was squishy mud though; I got right back up and kept going, but I had so much mud on my glove I couldn’t get a good grip on my hood and almost pitted for a clean hood and took my glove off! But instead, I was just wiping it all over my kit, knowing my hand would get too cold without the glove.
CXM: That sprint against KFC, how did that go down?
RF: Baaaah “sprint.” I passed Katie up the last climb, and I actually said to her ‘Man, I am past Pit 2 and the leaders are only just now finishing, this has never happened!’ Not sure how much she heard but looking back, maybe that was some fuel for her fire? I can’t not talk in a race, much to the dismay of Coach McGovern, and uphill, it’s such a slow pass, what can I say? ‘Fancy meeting you here?’
I had a good gap at the top of the climb, but there were a few technical downhills and corners between myself and the finish, and while I was thinking ‘I am in the top 10 of a World Cup, don’t mess this up,’ Katie was thinking ‘There’s that next spot in front of me, go and get it,’ so she pulled me back and attacked going into the last corner, ripping passed me like a crit rider!
I didn’t even contend. I was afraid of sprinting through that turn, and frankly, I was finished once I passed Katie up the climb, just like at Nationals a little bit of imposter syndrome.
CXM: The U.S. had 3 women in the top 10, what does that mean to you to be part of such a great day for American women’s ’cross?
RF: Again, a little bit of imposter syndrome. When we are over here in the U.S. throwing down each weekend, it’s always hard to not watch the Euro races, wondering where you would slot in. Let’s just say I never thought it would be in the top 10 of a Euro World Cup. I hope the U.S. and North America can keep this up. I certainly am hoping to see a U.S. jersey on the Worlds podium.
CXM: We’ve seen the T-Rex before, does your race finish expression have a name?
RF: Ha, when I crossed the line I knew that they would broadcast my finish because I was in the top 10, so I just gave a smile and a shrug to show everyone out there ‘Yeah, I just let 7th slip through my hands, but, ARE YOU SEEING THIS?!’ And based on the outreach about that smile after the race, you all got it.
CXM: Christmas plans?
RF: At the Chainstay, we do a little Christmas Eve pot-luck dinner, and Christmas is just another day before a World Cup. We are about 90 minutes from the course, so we likely won’t go to pre-ride the day before, but instead will do some openers in Oudenaarde and maybe put last year’s race on TV? A very Belgian Crossmas.
CXM: What are you hoping for from Zolder?
RF: Man, after the last few races I have had, I am hoping for a top 5. This would ensure I don’t have to pay USA Cycling’s fee to attend Worlds. Financial incentive is never a bad thing.
However, Zolder is a pretty fast track—pun intended—and doesn’t take as many prisoners as Namur. This means I can’t secretly hope that women crash or flat out of positions in front of me. Or at least that my wishes are less likely to come true.
Last year I was in a crash in the first turn and went from DFL to like 51st or so (out of another 90+ field). I was pedaling out of my mind and got nowhere; it was just ripping fast!
I am hoping for another good start like the last two races and to keep it smooth and be relentless. For sure not expecting anything to happen, but I am going to ride this wave of confidence—and apparent fitness and gift of skills.
CXM: Sounds good. Looking forward to that non-crash cam TV time for you.
RF: Thank you. And Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Grandest of New Years.