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Interview: Helen Wyman
 
By Bart Hazen
Date: 10/8/2011
Interview: Helen Wyman
 

Interview: Helen Wyman
Interview with Kona rider Helen Wyman. Wyman is six-time British National Champion and reigning Koppenberg Queen. Recently she won nine races in the USA.

Six-time British National Champion and current Koppenberg queen Helen Wyman will start her European cross campaign at the Superprestige in Ruddervoorde (October 9) tomorrow. Thus far she won nine races in the USA. The most important Breinigsville, Baltimore (2x), Burlington, Rochester and Gloucester (2x). An interview:

You already won nine times in the United States in the early season. Did you expect to be that good already?
Hell yeah!! Ha ha I knew the level of racing in America is good so it wasn't going to be easy to win races but I knew I would be in contention for every win before I arrived, so I was pretty relaxed about it all and really happy to have won every race.

Which race or races you won in the USA are the most special to you? And why.
All of them meant something. The best races were Charm City because of the whole experience there. The hardest fought were Gloucester as the competition was really high there, and I won on courses that are not to my strengths, particularly Saturdays race.

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Helen Wyman won a few races last year. Among them the Koppenberg, Niel, the National Championships and Heerlen. Photo © 2011 Bart Hazen

In which way the American cyclocross scene differs from Europe, and to be specific Belgium?
In America the sport is participation driven. They have over 1000 people racing during each day, the spectators that watch the races are pretty much locals and racers from the non elite races. Belgium is more elite driven and the spectators come specifically to watch their racer. It seems a much more friendly environment to outsiders, although this is helped by them speaking (almost) the same language.

In the old UCI ranking system you would be the leader. No wit seems to be a rolling points system. Can you explain what it means? Or how the ranking works.
Can any one explain how the UCI works?! From their publication on their website, it suggests it will be a rolling rotation; so every weekend you gain the points from that race and loose the points from the same weekend of the previous season. Plus for the women we have c1 and c2 races this season, although the prize money is still the same for women's c1 and c2 (unlike the men's, whose prize money is around 1200 euros for the win compared to 185 euros for women), there is a points difference between c1 and c2.

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Wyman won big last year in Oudenaarde at the Koppenbergcross. Photo © 2011 Bart Hazen

Every UCI C1 cross has a womenís race this year. Thatís a big development for the sport I think. How do you see what amongst others Golazo Sports is doing for the women?
Do golazo have any c1 races? I know all the superprestige series are c1s.† Its great to have the races but the uci missed an amazing opportunity to give women equal opportunity to guys by making a minimum prize list for the c1 races for women. You can provide every race in the world but if there is no equality in important aspects like prize money or standard race times so the women's race takes top billing by being immediately before the men's, you arenít developing the sport. Six of the nine races in America had equal prize money top three women and men. By providing the same opportunities more women can race at the top level and can make the sport better through competition, plus sponsors are more interested as the organizers use the women's race for publicity too.

Next to the World Championships in Koksijde, Belgium. Do you have other goals or specific races you want to win?
As many as humanly possible!!! No the aim for the season is worlds. Its a big aim!

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With the Koppenberg trophy. Photo © 2011 Bart Hazen

It seems both you and Ian Field are in better conditions than one year ago. Did you change something in your training and/or build-up to the new season? Apart from the annual altitude camp in the Alps.
No not really. Every year you get a bit older and a bit stronger and can train that little bit harder, its just the way nature works. I think we have both taken advantage of this and built on good seasons from last year to get even better.

What was it like to ride some road races with your cyclocross rival Hanka Kupfernagel on the Horizon Fitness-Prendas Ciclismo team? Who learned the most from whom?
She is amazing, a really cool person and easy to race with. She was so calm even when she had a problem and was really inspiring to race with. I think I learnt a lot from her. I think she probably learnt that British people are constantly mocking each other but its just for fun and helps us all bond.

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Helen already won nine times this season but her focus is on the World Championships in Koksijde, Belgium. Photo © 2011 Bart Hazen

You are riding for the American Kona Factory team. Can you tell something about the bikes and equipment you are going to use this season?
Iím riding purple and black carbon Kona Major Jake cross bikes. They are equipped with dura ace, FSA finishing kit and TRP brakes. They are beautiful and I love them! I use shimano wheels c24, c35 and c50s all of which have challenge tyres on.

I have read somewhere you will do 35 races. Thus far you won 9 of them.† So thats over 25% already. Where is this going to end?
Around 35?!!

How do you see that two of the best female cross riders Katie Compton and Marianne Vos will be riding for the same sponsor next year? Is that a good or bad thing in your opinion and why.
They have such different styles of racing and womens cross specifically is such an individual sport I think it makes absolutely no difference who they race for.† Its a good thing for Rabobank as they have the world number one and the world champion so great publicity. All publicity for womens sport is a great thing.

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Helen also did a lot of road races. The UCI races with the Horizon Fitness team of her husband Stefan. Helen did a pretty good job for the team, was a mentor for the young girls and won the British Tour Series.
Photo © 2011 Bart Hazen

Apart from the usual suspects (Vos, Compton, Van Paassen, Kupfernagel, Cant, Van den Brand, Nash). Who will be a rider or riders to watch for this season?
Well I thought Pauline Ferrand Prevot would be one to watch this year but she seems to have tailed off this summer in mountain biking so may be a bit tired. Otherwise Iíd say the swiss rider Jasmine Achermann could do some good things this year.

Last week there was a discussion/debate about a minimum wage for women cyclists. UCI president McQuaid stated that the sport donít have the level yet. Vos, Teutenberg and Bronzini took offense and supported the idea. What are your thoughts? Or what needs to be changed to get this idea started.
Well I think both have good points of view. If you enforce a minimum wage for women's pro teams you will just reduce the amount of pro teams and mean club teams ride bigger races so it doesn't solve anything. Equally the racers need some kind of structure for wages to ensure it can be a good job.

I think the good pro teams have tried to set the example by paying good wages to their riders already but smaller teams just donít follow suit. Maybe its time the UCI stepped up and promoted women's racing a bit more themselves to help it gain more publicity and greater sponsorship and in turn better sponsorship opportunities and then finally a minimum wage.

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Helen will start her 2011-2012 European CX campaign at the Superprestige in Ruddervoorde tomorrow. Photo © 2011 Bart Hazen

Are you optimistic about the growth and popularity of Women's racing?
Having been in America I would say over there definitely, they are so progressive in terms of equalizing men and women's sport. Over here itís much more difficult to change the attitudes of people who run the sport when they are sometimes old school in their values.

Final question. Whatís the funniest thing that happened to you on training or whilst racing this year?
Thereís always so much fun I cant separate one from the next, sorry!

Website

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Helen is ready for the big European races and to battle against her rivals. Photo © 2011 Bart Hazen


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