Make America great again - Helen Wyman blog

British cyclo-cross rider on life in the States

Donald Trump apparently wants to 'make America great again' - according to the Republican garden fence signs, anyway. Well clearly he has never been to a 'cross race 'cause FYI, Donald, it already is great and there are many, many reasons why.

I started coming to race early season in America way back in 2009 - my first year with Kona. I raced two races in Seattle and Vegas. It was great but it wasn't until I discovered the east coast that I knew American 'cross IS great. I will have done 62 races in the USA by the time I leave on Sunday and I have genuinely found something great about every single one. Including many things that people don't actually think about.

While out riding yesterday, mind wandering, I got to thinking how much international sport relies on t'interweb (cited from Peter Kay, funniest man on earth). I grant you I did once find Adam Myerson in a supermarket in Aarschot (a little town in Belgium) searching for vegan food. In a country where they still believed a ham omelette was vegetarian, not an easy task. But in order to arrange my first east coast trip I contacted him on email, he hooked us up with the right people, all via web-based communication devices, and many beautiful friendships have developed for life. From bike reg to Strava, to googling the ever more hidden UCI prize funds, it's crazy to think there was a world before it. And yes, frankly people, Adam Myerson was famous before the Internet!

We have been doing all our endurance rides out here by plotting routes on Strava, using the heat maps to make sure it is possible to ride those roads and not die, then downloading them to our bike computers. Easy peasy right. Well yes except we don't have USA mapping, so we spend the entire ride following a line on an otherwise blank screen, no roads, no intersections, nothing. Occasionally it would loose gps, particularly in Baltimore. First time it did on a really wet gross rainy day I swore it said 'drowning', until I wiped the screen clean and it actually said 'drawing'!

This year we have Amira Mellor with us. She is the rider on my Next Wyman project. She also goes under the name of 'next' or 'A-miracle' depending on the host house we stay in. She has spent the summer training with us in France and has pretty much gotten used to my route planning and 'slightly off' distance estimates. She did once say how amazing it is that my rides are either exactly on the time set or one and a half hours over!!! In fact last week when Amira asked how long we had left I replied with "sixteen kilometers. But you know how in a criterium race it's forty minutes plus five laps? Well it's twelve minutes from the end of the route to home. Are you ok?" **silence**

We may have also had an incident where the bridge on our road was dug up and our only option was to run the railway line 'stand by me' movie style, or going back to where we came from. I asked the road working guy where the nearest bridge was, he pointed to the motorway, while also informing us that going onto the railway was trespassing. Amira refused, guess she took the whole responsible adult line and didn't want to get tasered, so that was not an option. I do not turn around on my routes, so the next option was some gravel roads. Which went great until we crossed a bridge and it was just water, couldn't see where the road went, couldn't see how deep the water was, didn't know if Iowa has crocodiles or blood sucking leeches and we had to turn around and get picked up! Life is about the journey though, right?

We did actually see a black bear in West Virginia. It ran across the road in front of us when we were using our wiggly line on a blank screen to navigate the route. Amira saw it first and said "omg (she's 18, they all talk like this....honest) are we gonna die?" Obviously I said no but I did significantly increase my speed - after all, one of us had to make it out alive!

So going back to why America is so great. In those six years I have been visiting I have seen the strength in depth of the competition grow in leaps and bounds. Every year there is another strong rider making it into the front groups of races, showing how competitive women's 'cross is here and it's genuinely fantastic to see. It is no surprise that the top five in the elite women's Iowa World Cup are all based in the USA. Racing here is legit and it makes me happy.

This trip me and Amira have ridden and raced our bikes through eighteen different states and it really has been fascinating. The differences in states in terms of properties, wealth, supermarkets, cars, roads, is just crazy and something I've never seen before as I've always been based out of the east coast. The adventuring and the racing have been a blast and I can't believe we are back in euro land next week. Everything is going to feel really really little for a while!! Till then.

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