British cyclo-cross champion Helen Wyman said she is one of around ten world-class women capable of grabbing a podium position at the forthcoming UCI World Cyclo-cross Championships, which take place on 1-2 February in Hoogerheide, Netherlands.
Wyman’s best finish in the world championships was a fifth place back in 2006, yet following a season which has seen the 32-year-old win the European Cyclo-Cross Championships, the Koppenberg Trophy and her eighth British cyclo-cross title, Wyman’s confidence was on a high when she spoke to British Cycling a few weeks before the event.
“I've had a really good season,” said the Kona Factory Racing rider the day after retaking her national title. “I've won 11 races this year so far and six of them have been in Europe so it's been a really, really good season.”
Wyman finished fifth in the UCI world cup, three places behind her compatriot Nikki Harris however the world cup results don’t tell the whole story, with the highlight of Wyman’s season coming in early November, when she took the prestigious Koppenberg BPost Bank event and the European cyclo-cross championships back to back, events Wyman had specifically targeted.
Speaking before the final world cup round in Nommay, which saw the rider take a season-best second place, Wyman said, “Last year I had better world cups; I had two podiums and this year I haven't had any yet but equally I did have different targets and one of my targets is the world championships because Hoogerheide is a course I love.”
“If the weather's on my side it could be one of my best world championships,” added Wyman. “So that's what I have built up for since the two weeks when I was really good for Koppenberg and the Euros.”
Wyman’s approach to the worlds began with a hard block of racing over Christmas after a three-week training camp. Following the national championships, the rider travelled immediately to a race in Belgium, winning the Cyclocross Otegem, before a further ten-day training camp in Spain, followed by the Nommay world cup.
Nommay saw Marianne Vos take an emphatic win but it wasn’t enough to deny rival Katie Compton the world cup title, the US rider having clinched the series in the preceding round.
Faced with opposition of the calibre of Vos and Compton, Wyman is realistic about her chances of victory, despite recent impressive additions to her already considerably palmares.
“Marianne Vos and Katie Compton are head and shoulders above the rest of us at the minute and it would take them to have a really bad day for one of us to be able to win,” admitted Wyman.
“But at the same time, third spot... there could be any of ten people take that spot. Myself and Nikki (Harris) are in that group of ten.
“If you can get up and put out a good performance and have good form on the day then I think that podium place is really there for the taking.”
Hoogerheide is a course that suits Wyman but one which changes markedly depending upon the weather. "It's quite a flowy course and I quite like flowy courses,” she said.
"I've always seemed to have done quite well there. In the past I've had two podiums there in world cups. It can get quite tough, quite muddy but it can be really fast. Even when it's fast I can do well.
Wyman thrived in the muddy conditions of the British national championships and is hoping for similar conditions in Hoogerheide.
Like many one-day events, the cyclo-cross worlds race is a very different proposition to a UCI world cup or BPost Bank series event, with just one shot at glory, as Wyman explained.
“The riders race it quite differently. It's a much more aggressive, faster start. Everyone is desperate to get the perfect start which can make a huge difference in a race.”
“In Hoogerheide you have a road start then you drop down into a field and there's quite often crashes in that field so everybody is desperate to get in first. That makes the start really tense.”
Despite the tension, Wyman was calm and focussed as she spoke about the task in hand, her confidence buoyed by what has been her most successful cyclo-cross season to date, which has seen the rider peak for her major goals with surgical precision.
“Some riders are just really good at peaking for one event and others not,” said Wyman.
“I've managed it this year. I managed it really well for the Koppenberg/Euros weekend and hopefully I can repeat the same at worlds.”
The UCI World Cyclo-Cross Championships take place on 1-2 February in Hoogerheide, Netherlands. Reports and results will appear on the British Cycling website.