19-year-old Caroline Wreszin turned heads when she finished seventh in the super-tough 100-mile Shasta Gravel Hugger in March before backing up that stellar performance with fourth in the Gorge Gravel Grinder.
Not only were these two events Wreszin’s first-ever gravel races; they were her first-ever competitive bike races, and in both events she went up against fields that included the likes of Rebecca Fahringer and US cyclo-cross champion, Clara Honsinger.
Cyclingnews caught up with the University of Oregon ethics and advertising student to talk about her path to gravel racing, running marathons in seventh grade, having fun on the bike, and her plans for the future.
Cyclingnews: How did you get into cycling and has it always been about gravel?
Caroline Wreszin: Actually I started out as a runner and I ran three marathons at the end of middle school and the beginning of high school. I ran my first marathon in seventh grade. Then I got into cross-country running through my high school team and I was quite into that for the remaining years of high school but I got injured in my junior year and part of my rehabilitation was non-impact training, which cycling was part of.
At the same time, my dad has always been an avid cyclist. He’s always had the Grand Tours and one-day Classics on, so I’ve been aware of cycling my whole life but I definitely got reintroduced to cycling through my injury. Then when I graduated high school I needed a new sport to get into and just started riding the bike a lot. ]
It hasn’t always been gravel, and it’s primarily been on road, but recently a bunch of people that I know in LA have gotten into the gravel scene, and I thought it looked really cool. I like the exploration part of it, especially up here in Oregon. So I saved up and bought myself a gravel bike this year.
CN: So how long have you been racing?
Caroline Wreszin: Literally a couple of months. I planned to get into racing last year through the college team but then there was COVID and there were no races. Gravel races have started to pop up recently though and I’ve got a few friends who have encouraged me to come along, so I did. I raced Shasta and then Gorge.
CN: How did you find those experiences, because you went top-10 in both of the women’s fields in those events?
Caroline Wreszin: Shasta was crazy. That was my first race and, being from LA, I’ve never really ridden in any serious weather conditions but it snowed the night before the race and part of the course was snowed in and the rest of the course was super muddy. I felt like a fish out of water but I got into the race and it was a lot of fun. It felt good to be back in the competitive season even if it was all new to me. I’d never done any road racing at all so this was a completely new experience.
CN: Did you expect to finish so high up in both races?
Caroline Wreszin: Yes and no. I know just from the LA cycling scene that we have a lot of really strong women down there and through Strava and group rides I knew that I was strong but I didn’t know if I was going to be able to perform in a race setting. I knew that physically I could hold close to the front but I was definitely happy and surprised to be able to place how I did, especially in Gorge. I didn’t expect to make that front group for the first 20 or 30 miles. That was really nice.
CN: What was it like being in the lead move at Gorge? That move had riders who had been to World Championships in cyclo-cross and it had some serious talent in it.
Caroline Wreszin: They were all super nice and we were even talking for a while. They were so experienced so it was a great place to ask questions but I was definitely thinking, 'oh my gosh, these are really good riders'. I was waiting for the attacks but it was pleasantly surprising.
CN: What level of confidence has that given you and what’s 2021 looking like?
Caroline Wreszin: It’s given me a lot of confidence in the sense that I know that I’ve got the fitness to stay close to the front, which is really nice. I think that technically I still have some stuff to improve on for my gravel riding but with some specific speed training, I could probably do better at staying in the front.
I’m doing Belgium Waffle in mid-July, that’s the next gravel race that I have coming up and that’s a pretty big race with some heavy hitters going. I’m not going into that with many expectations other than going all-out, but I’ll be very excited to see what I can do at that race. There's lots of climbing in that race, and I think I’ll be good on those longer ascents. They’re like my comfort zone.
CN: Do you think that your future is in the sport as pro rider or are you just thinking about having fun on the bike?
Caroline Wreszin: A little bit of both. I’m definitely trying to live in the moment but being a professional rider would a really appealing scenario if it ever arose. I’m going to finish all my schooling and make sure that I have a career option in that field but I will trying to explore all the options that I can in terms of my cycling career too because I like it so much.
CN: Since those two results have you noticed more interest around your cycling?
Caroline Wreszin: I’ve seen a few riders start to follow me on Strava and then two articles came out about Gorge and people were responding to those photos but that’s been pretty much it. It’s been fun but I’m really just in this for myself, in that I’m working towards my expectations. I don’t really see it as pressure as I’m just out there to have fun and get some placings.
Since those two races, and since I signed up for Belgian Waffle Ride I’ve definitely written up a more detailed training programme so that I can work on my speed a bit more but I’m not too phased by the results. For now, I’m just having fun and seeing where it takes me.
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