Another cyclocross team has popped up, but this one is unique in that it focuses exclusively on the Pacific Northwest's women youth racers. Seattle-based singlespeed cyclocross racer Jessica Cutler has transitioned from Nationals contender to Team Director and talent developer, and Cyclocross Magazine sat down with Cutler to learn more about her new project, Northwest Women's Cyclocross Project, in the three-part interview below.
CXM: Is there an offseason plan that includes gravel, road or mountain bike racing or is the project just for cyclocross season?
JC: Right now we are focused solely on cyclocross. I would love to see the program expand to multiple disciplines but for now we don’t want to sell the riders short by being overly broad in our programming goals.
CXM: Being from the Northwest, is the 10th anniversary SSCXWC in Portland part of the plans?
JC: [Laughs] I’m not sure that SSCXWC is junior appropriate but I will say that it is my A race for the season.
CXM: There’s a constant debate as to whether it’s better to spread resources thin to expose more people to the sport, or put more resources towards a few talented racers, like USA Cycling’s Development camps led by Geoff Proctor in Europe. What’s your take on this debate?
JC: This is a tough question. I guess in a way I don’t have an answer, because we’re trying to do both or to leverage one goal to support the other. I guess what I’m saying is that these things aren’t mutually exclusive. Ultimately, I think it’s really important to create pathways to success in the support for all levels, using the term success very subjectively. I believe that providing pro-level support to developing riders such as Shannon and Hayden can, if done correctly, help increase interest in the sport for other young women and hopefully bring more of them into the sport. On the other side of the coin, creating a larger pool of young women who are trying the sport necessarily will bring more women to the top level of the sport.
“I believe that providing pro-level support to developing riders such as Shannon and Hayden can, if done correctly, help increase interest in the sport for other young women and hopefully bring more of them into the sport. On the other side of the coin, creating a larger pool of young women who are trying the sport necessarily will bring more women to the top level of the sport.”
To use ourselves as an example, our hope is that we can have grassroots riders who eventually “graduate” into the Elite development program while our Elite development riders will have been with the program long enough that they are helping to mentor and foster success in grassroots riders. Additionally, for sponsors when we can tell them, “Okay, we want you to provide equipment support to these two riders but we will have many riders either purchasing your product or promoting it,” it makes it financially more feasible for sponsors to provide support.
CXM: You had a good battle with Nicole Mertz for the singlespeed title at 2016 Nationals. What’s the plan for Hartford?
JC: It was a good battle and I was beat fair and square, my only regret is my yard sale crash on lap two where I managed to lose my bike and a shoe. I never really mentally or physically recovered from it during the race. I was pretty banged up and that crash is probably—at least in part—what caused my DNF in the Elite race.
To be honest, I likely won’t race at all at Nationals. I want to make sure my focus is entirely on the riders. I’ve gone back to work as an attorney with Washington Bike Law so my training time is becoming increasingly limited. I am not planning on doing any UCI races this year. I want my retirement to be a real retirement. I need to draw that line in the sand. I do however want to be there to heckle and cheer for the singlespeeders even if I don’t take the start.
Check out the Northwest Women’s Cyclocross Project’s website here or follow the project on Facebook.