World Championships

Revisiting World Champs with Clara Honsinger

Lacy Kemp | KONA COG Photo by Patrick Means

Team S&M CX’s Clara Honsinger has had a pretty incredible season. In her final year as a U23 rider, Honsinger wrapped up the US National Championship, a World Cup podium, and was named to the World Championship Team. Racing CX across the pond is a whole different ball of wax, as attested by our Kona Maxxis Shimano team of Kerry Werner and Rebecca Fahringer. The level is extremely high, strategy is paramount, and preparation is everything.

With the wind in her sails from her stellar 2018, Honsinger had a strong race at Worlds and finished in 10th place—something to be extremely proud of.

Team S&M CX has two great recaps of worlds on their website, including some great photos by Patrick Means. Congrats, Clara and Team S&M!

Cyclocross World Championships

Becca: Worlds is a different beast. It is a coveted position to even make the team – only 6 elite American men and women were able to make the team this year. These elite riders, along with a few junior men and U23 men and women descend upon a city, along with the other national teams of the world to pretty much take the place over. We stay as a team, a bunch of strangers, using strange mechanics, eating hotel meals, and kowtowing to the demands of the team as a whole. Except for Kerry who was too good for that and stayed with his family, but I wish I had vlogged from the inside Team USA perspective. 

Kerry: After two weeks of training in Spain I was looking forward to unleashing some of that fitness. However, the first two races back were super heavy and for some reason, no matter how fit I am, I can’t figure those tractor pulls out. Zonnebeke and Hoogerheide were rough but my head was up, looking forward to World Champs. I was also holding out hope that it would be faster but slick AF.

We flew into Copenhagen on Wednesday and rented a car to get to Middelfart (that is not a joke). I spent the week trying to stay mellow and not think about the race too much. The course was frozen when I went to check it out on Thursday, which had me excited that the race wasn’t going to be very heavy and speed and finesse would rule the game. 

Becca: I was very excited for my possible performance at Worlds. My season was coming together after getting a 6th place the Saturday before Worlds and 18th at the final World Cup in Hoogerheide the day after that. And at the World Cup in Bogense in 2017, the course on which worlds was held, I got 17th. Things were looking good! That is, until… I got mud in my eye at Hoogerheide. And that “mud” may or may not have given me pink eye and a head cold that manifested on the Wednesday before the big day. 

Because of my illness I didn’t train leading up to the race, only doing some super easy spins. The only time I was outside was Friday before the race, and I did a short preride on the frozen course. It was similar to the world cup, except frozen and thus faster. The downhills were rideable but the transitions were so hard and abrupt people were flatting just on frozen lumps. I was no longer excited for the race ahead. The course was going to run fast and that is never good for me and with my illness, I didn’t expect much. This may have been my saving grace.

I woke up the morning of the race able to breathe out of my nose for the first time in days. I had been up most of the night coughing, but for me, that just meant the illness was working out of my head and into my chest before it is gone for good. My eye wasn’t even crusty!!!!! I was in good spirits at breakfast – better than I had been all week.

I was on the trainer warming up in the hour before my race, and it started happening. Well, two things happened. My heart rate proved responsive to my efforts, and, it was raining. THANK YOU, GODS OF CYCLOCROSS!!! 

I was grid up in row 4/5, so, let’s just say that at one point I looked over my shoulder to see if I was in dead last. Not dead last. I did some passing. I came through the first lap in 24th I am a little surprised! I mean, there were only 40 starters, but I didn’t think I had passed that many already.

I keep trucking and I find myself in 18th coming in for the next lap. Then 17th the lap after that. I am picking off riders and riding smooth, I have got this!! At this point, I am trading places with Loes Sels and Helen Wyman. I come through in 15th, then, I come through in 14th and I have a good gap on the two behind me and I am closing in on 13th. I am going to get it. I CAN DO IT!!! Holy crap!

Then, they holy crap got the best of me and I dumped it. I went down once in the whole race, and at that moment I was caught and passed and the switch inside of me went from YOU CAN DO IT and you ARE doing it, to, man, you proved you can do it now you should just be safe. 

Gotta admit I am a little disappointed in myself for that. I finished 16th and I was in the hunt for 13th. It hurts the more I think about it, but, I have to flip the race around and remind myself I came in with no expectations and a bit under the weather. I could tell my head was fuzzing when I was digging deep and that is no good way to ride a slippery course. I think the only reason I was able to race the way I did was because I was patient and had no expectations.

I am proud of my result, but I want you all to know that this is not a great result for me, this is the place I belong. I have ridden this way before, I just have never been able to maintain it. But, now, just in time for the season to end, I am getting a grip on it. A few more races left, and hopefully, I can keep it all together and keep getting some results and then build on this for next year. Next year, I am hunting for that top 10 at worlds, not just a top 20 or even top 15.

Kerry: My race just got a little out of reach. With Rebecca finishing 16th I was hard pressed to think I was going to find myself anywhere near the top 20 so Rebecca was, obviously, giving me shit about our season-long placing competition. Unfortunately, for her, there was no clause about worlds having a heavier weight on the outcome than the other races. 

With my head in a good place I got out on course on Sunday morning and was feeling good. I opted for muds while others were going for intermediates. There were a handful of sections of the course where traction was an issue but 90% was good for intermediates. I just didn’t want to make any crucial mistakes when I was blown so I chose the tire which would give me some more cushion. 

After pre-ride hanging out in the USAC team warm up boxes, I was all eyes on the prize until Lance Haidet jumped in the effing ocean! IT WAS 35ºF! The water had to be similar in temp. 

On the trainer, I was bumping a specific playlist catered to getting me jazzed up for worlds. “Fatbottom Girls” made me smile and feel like an American, “Till I Collaps”e by Eminem put me in angry white boy mood, and “Colours” by Marshmello helped solidify my upbeat mood. 

Once the gun went my first priority was not cashing. I was feeling good and trying to move up on the first lap. I may have burned a match or two that was unnecessary to move up a spot and back again but being patient can be hard to come back from as well. I came through the first lap in a huge group that was strung out throughout the whole start-finish straight. 

The next lap our group was more solidified and it was a group of 10 or so fighting for the low twenties. I was feeling good still but getting gaped out of the corners coming into the long straightaways. I eventually spent enough time yo-yoing at the back of the group to get properly separated. 

I was in no man’s land from that point on. On lap two I remember hearing 8 laps to go! The damn race was fast AF! About 4 laps in I was in no man’s land with a solid gap in front and behind me and that was my race. I was in 30th place. 

Towards the end of the race, Stephen Hyde and a Spanish rider were breathing down my neck. The Spanish rider made contact but I dropped him again.

Then he made contact again coming into the last lap and came around me as we neared the start straight, which I was cool with because I didn’t want to pull for that section. As soon as he came around me we rounded and corner and got pulled…. So I got 31st. Damn!

I left it all out there and rode well. I would have liked to be in that group in front of me but my legs said no. It was a race I am not really excited about but I am content with the result. Results wise it would seem like I have made zero improvements over the last three years of racing worlds. I got 33 in my first worlds, 27th last year, and 31st this year. Every year I learn a little more by racing on this side of the Atlantic but being over here for such a prolonged period has really cemented in some critical things I have to work on. 

(Big thanks to Patty Means for coming over to catch the world champs in stills. I love Patrick’s style and having him shoot worlds was great. If only we could have actually had a minute to catch up!)

However, before I call it a season we have a Wednesday mid-week race, Maldegem. Then Lille and Hoogstraten on Saturday Sunday. Just one more push!

Have a look at the vlog to catch all the behinds the scenes!

New Kona Talent Headed to 2018 MTB World Championships

This week, Gideon Bender and Scott Funston of the Kona Junior Factory Team were named to the US Team to represent their country at the 2018 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships! That’s 50% of the Kona Junior Factory team who has qualified for Worlds! Add the other members Calder Wood who (along with Scott) represented at last year’s cyclocross world champs, and Layton Meyers who was the reigning 2017 Enduro National Champ and is headed to this year’s EWS Enduro in Whistler, it’s impressive company they hold.

Gideon will compete in the Junior Downhill event, while Scott will compete in the Junior Cross Country event. Worlds will take place in Lenzerheide, Switzerland September 5-9. Both riders are graduates from the celebrated RAD Racing development program founded by Pacific Northwest legend and Kona friend Jim Brown. And for an even deeper Kona connection, for 2018, Gideon has been coached and mentored by Kona veteran Spencer Paxson.

Join us in congratulating these boys on their realization of this tremendous accomplishment, making it to their first mountain bike world championships. It is an opportunity of opening even more doors for the future, and given their talent displayed so far, we hope this is the first of several! Have fun and race hard, Scott and Gideon!

Jim Brown

Scott Funston

Gideon Bender

Gideon Bender

 

Cyclocross World Championships: Valkenburg, NL

After a very successful 2016-2017 cyclocross season Kerry Werner has raised the bar again this season stacking up 6 UCI wins, locking in his best UCI world ranking (25), and a handful more podiums including his 3rd place at the 2018 Cyclocross National Championships. This culmination of results has no doubt lead to his nomination to the USA Cycling World Champs team for this Sunday’s race in Valkenburg, Netherlands (located in the Limburg providence).

If you missed out on cyclocross nationals a few weekends back in Reno, NV you can catch the race reply here.

 

Or you can watch a condensed version… Kerry spent a few weeks in December and through nationals collaborating with Bikeflights.com, a sponsor providing great shipping rates for bikes, on a video and story to be released solely to increase the hype for World Champs. We think it did just that!

Kerry got on the Worlds course yesterday and had some things to say about it.

“The course is heavy and is going to require a lot of mental strength in addition to physical fitness. It’s fitting that this course will be the hardest course I have ridden all year, I mean it is World Champs. The ruts are already getting derailleur cage deep after only 2hrs of pre-ride. More rain is in the forecast before Sunday not to mention a few races and more pre-ride time. The biggest challenge is going to be trying to hold yourself together when you’re pinned and bleeding out of your eyes. You couple that with the difficulty of trying to nail a rut/ any line 2 feet off of someones rear wheel and you get a race where you have to be aware all the time not just on how hard you are going and how you’re body feels but also how to react when someone in front of you messes up or what lines to take next lap because the old ones are no good anymore.”

The course preview video below should put Kerry’s words into context.

The junior men, U23 women, and Elite women race Saturday. The u23 men and Elite men go off Sunday.

 

The schedule and live streams can be found here (if you have the NBC gold access, otherwise look into VPN browsing options to get around geo cached feeds).

Don’t forget to send Kerry and the whole USAC crew all the good vibes this weekend!

CX Worlds are Finished But Kerry Werner is Not!

Wednesday we drove as a team from Sittard, NL to Bieles Luxembourg, 2.5 hours through the snow covered Ardennes. It was pretty and rad, pretty rad.

Thursday was course preview day. And it was epic. Lots of snow and ice on course, very much so like Hartford was for US Nationals. It made for a very tense pre ride and the idea, at least for me, was to just get a feel for the layout. By the time Sunday came around for my race the course was going to be drastically different.

Pre-race interview with Cyclocross Magazine:

Kermy Shields flew in on Tuesday from NC and got an Airbnb just 15min bus ride from the course. To escape the “hotel life” and hang out with Kerm I hopped on a bus with him after pre ride and hung out with him in Alzette, Lux. I made some curry, which is the first time I had cooked in way too long, had a beer, and was able to lounge about in a house not a hotel room, avoiding my hotel room claustrophobia and constricting nature of things, like Tobin farting and Stephen stealing my bed to come watch TV or youtube videos.

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Friday morning Kerm and I checked out the Square, had a cappuccino, then headed to the course so I could get on the rollers for a spin. Spacing things out throughout the day is crucial when spending an extended amount of time in a hotel. Therefore, morning lounging usually takes up 3hrs minimum and riding later in the day helps stave off afternoon boredom. This allocates time spent Netflix browsing and reading to just before bed instead of all afternoon and all evening.

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Saturday was race day for Juniors, u23 women, and elite women. We watched all the action from our rooms before heading to the course for a final pre ride and openers. At this point snow was melting but there was still ice and hard frozen ground on the majority of the course. This led to an incredible women’s finish, the most exciting of the weekend by far!

The day came and I was really excited to get after it. I felt terrible for Curtis White. He was feeling a flu at the beginning of the week and opt’ed to not start on Sunday. I would have done the same. To go out on the world stage not feeling 100% would have been a big shock and a huge kick in the nuts to anyone’s mental game. There is no need to end a great season on an extremely low note.

Saturday and Sunday produced some rain, which had the course super muddy. Mostly soupy mud but some sections were thickening up. I goofed and left my music at the hotel so I had to warm up on the trainer to Doug’s jams, which was hard AF 90’s hip hop. I am not sure if you are familiar with “Killer Mike” but I now am.

Called up 26, and I was ready for the light to turn green. I had a good start, coming through the line in the mid 20’s. The first lap was good but then guys started coming by me and I could do nothing about it. Those damn Euros start so hard and never slow down. I wasn’t feeling super snappy, which was unfortunate because there was no hiding out there, especially when the leaders were turning faster and faster laps. Not sure if I could have taken my KTM around the course as fast as they were pedaling it.

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Powers came by me with 3 to go and I jumped on his wheel. He carried us out of the group I was with and we ended up getting pulled 2 laps down… This was a big disappointment. Getting pulled is never a good feeling especially at a race like worlds but, like I said before, Van der Poel and Wout were just going nuts! Only 29 people finished on the lead lap.

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Looking back on the race I had a few small victories. One being the fact that I only flatted once and it was a slow leak so I was able to lose little to no time, two being I never crashed and felt good on the technical sections, three being I learned a ton! These last couple weekends have been eye opening. They have really showed me some things I need to work on for next year, and I am excited about it.

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A gigantic thanks to USA Cycling for the support. The mechanics did a great job among the chaos of dealing with 2 bikes for 31 riders, handling all the flats, and ever changing weather conditions. The hotel was great and logistics were never a concern.

Playlist of post-race interviews:

Now that worlds is done there is a little weight taken off my shoulders, weight that I have been putting on myself. I wanted to have a great worlds and I may not have done that but I am satisfied and content. This is probably the first time I am nearing the end of the season and I am not looking forward to taking a break.

Stephen, Kaitie A., and I have stayed in Sittard while the rest of the crew went home. Joe Devra and Doug are here and we are heading to Maldegem tomorrow, Lille on Saturday, and Hoogstraten on Sunday. Then Doug and I fly to Tokyo on Monday to race on Sunday. There are still 4 races left in my season and I can’t wait to race them.

Keep up with Kerry’s remaining time in Europe and his trip to Japan on Instagram.