By Kirsten Robbins
Canadian national champion, Wendy Simms (Kona) topped the UCI cyclo-cross world ranking after the Kalmthout World Cup held in Belgium. However, Simms won't get the honour of wearing the dark blue leader's jersey as the UCI has scrapped that in favour of the traditional white World Cup jersey instead.
"I never really considered the UCI ranking as a goal of mine especially after they announced they weren't doing a leaders jersey for UCI points this year," Simms told Cyclingnews. She leads the rankings thanks to her country's October 11th championship, which earned her 120 points for the win. She backed that up with a solid 8th place in Kalmthout to push her into the lead by 9 points over Dutch woman Daphny Van den Brand.
"Having the North American season and Canadian nationals so early was the edge I had over the world-cup leader [Van den Brand]," she said, but is realistic that her lead may not last through this weekend's World Cup in the Czech Republic. "I'm not going to lie, it was pretty cool to see my name up there. I will milk it for a week. They will likely catch up soon enough!"
Simms began accumulating early-season point winning the Rad Racing GP followed by a second place in the Lakewood and a seventh place in Cross Vegas. She then went on to win her second consecutive national title in mid-October in Edmonton, Alberta..
The Canadian federation schedules its cyclo-cross championship months before any other country and this year's championship arrived almost a month earlier than last year's. "It's really difficult having our nationals so early," said Simms. "You just can't 'peak' for a race in October if you are trying to ramp up for worlds in early February. You don't have anything to build it on."
Simms thinks early championships is detrimental to the sport in Canada. "A lot of the racers who are not going to worlds call it quits after nationals so the 'cross scene tends to fizzle in Canada early," she said, adding that Canadian 'cross riders tend to miss out on the 'best part of 'cross' - the typical cold conditions combined with wet snow, ice and mud.
"I would rather have nationals later in the season and hopefully see 'cross grow in Canada. Rather that than see my name on the top of the UCI rankings because we happen to race nationals, which has a lot of points, three months earlier than everyone else."
Simms will hope to keep a high placing through the next two World Cups in Tabor, Czech Republic and Pijnacker, Netherlands. She will then return to America for USGP Mercer Cup and Portland before returning to Europe for the remaining World Cup events in mid-December. "I need to be racing in Europe to be ready for worlds," said Simms who will return to a teaching position in February in her home province of British Columbia. "They are different courses, super aggressive fields and a completely different physiological and mental effort than racing in North America."
"The schedule I set up had me doing no complete series but enough of each to make everyone happy," she continued. "KONA can see me racing on US and Canadian soil and I also get my Euro experience, all with minimal travel. I'm hoping it sets me up for a good worlds result."