As a number of significant international cyclocross stars make their way back to Belgium after the mid-season break to begin the crazy Christmas ‘cross schedule, I thought it appropriate to reflect on the season so far for two of Britain’s leading ladies.
Great Britain are the UCI number one ranked nation in women’s cyclocross. Let us take a moment to reflect on that. Number one. In the World. Not the Netherlands, not France or the USA, not even Belgium. Great Britain. Helping to put the ‘Great’ in Great Britain are Helen Wyman and Nikki Harris.
Helen and Nikki have accrued an amazing number of top results so far this season, and have, on a number of occasions, made up two-thirds of the podium! It is really special to be able to watch them race, to hear their names in the muddle of Flemish commentary and to recognise their praises sang, to see their skill and their strength, and to watch them lead some of cyclocross’ biggest and most prestigious races.
The girls have followed different paths to the top of cyclocross, but they share the fact that they, at one point or another, went it alone. Not a product of British Cycling, their successes are sadly overlooked. As cyclocross tries to globalise, we can increasingly live-stream races and get access to more results and reports. However, nothing tells the story better than the riders themselves.
In the second of this two-part piece, it’s time to chat with European Cyclocross Champion, Helen Wyman.
Helen Wyman has had a superb season so far as well. Helen is more established as a top cyclocross racer, having been on the scene a wee while longer. She shows no signs of slowing down just yet, and given the amount of “ha ha ha”s in this interview, I think it is safe to say that Helen is still enjoying it!
Helen headed south for some Spanish sun and a solid couple of weeks training during the break. When she returned to Belgium and some wifi, she answered my questions –
AB: Has there been a highlight for you, a stand-out moment; maybe a win, a personal triumph or just an awesome point in time?
HW: The highlight this season was definitely the week of Ruddervoorde, Koppenberg and European champs. Koppenberg to me is just such an epic, incredible, crazy, amazing event and the regard held by others towards it makes it very special. It was a huge goal. The bonus being that if you are on form to win there the Euros are just 2 days later and you will definitely still be on form for that too. This year when we showed up to the European Championships course and it was muddy and ‘fieldlike’ so I knew it would be good, but it was still quite slick mud not quite as wet and sloppy as I would have hoped. Thankfully the next morning I woke up and it had slashed it down all night and was the gloopiest, sloggy mud-fest you could possibly imagine. The confidence I had from the pre ride was skyhigh, combined with great form and one of those very rare ‘float’ days, I pretty much knew before the start it was my race to lose. Although I genuinely didn’t know I was going to win by quite that much time!!
AB: Has there been a low point?
HW: I guess my result in Tabor wasn’t geat but then I turned it around the next day to win Ruddervoorde, so if my low point only last a few hours I can handle that! ha ha ha ha.
AB: How is it basing yourself in Belgium – do you feel at home there and do you miss England at all?
HW: I really do love it in Belgium. It is a really special place and the best place to be for cyclo cross. Having been away for nearly 9 years now I can honestly say I don’t really miss England. Sure you will always miss your family and friends but I am only really away for the winter. Plus I’m a germaphobe in the winter so in reality I wouldn’t be visiting them very much anyway as they might be sick. ha ha ha!
AB: In the UK we can see results and the occasional report, sometimes some live streaming. What do you think UK fans miss out on most/what part of the cyclocross story do we not see that you would perhaps like us to be able to see?
HW: Probably the atmosphere would be the biggest thing. When the crowds are going wild for their favourite rider its a pretty special thing. Although to me still the noise at Louisville World Championships was the most incredible thing I’ve ever experienced. It was soooooooo loud and it gives me goose bumps still now.
AB: What are your main goals going into the Christmas ‘cross-fest? Are you in a good place now? Ready to rock?!
HW: I was born ready to rock. ha ha ha. Yeah, I’ve been training in Spain for a couple of weeks so should be ready I think. But my next big goal is Worlds. We shall see how that works out for me in February!
So, with a low point of a few hours and her goals for the season hit, it has been a pretty top notch season for our European Champion.
For Helen the mid-season break is now very much at an end. Today the racing starts again. I, and I am sure all of the fans from around the World, wish her the best of luck for the second half of the season, and will watch with pounding hearts and crossed-fingers at the World Championships in February.
Good luck Helen!
[Find part 1 – ‘The Season So Far with…Nikki Harris’ on the home page.]