American 'cross champ Honsinger gears up for trio of US World Cups
'Putting on that show again really means something'
American cyclo-cross champion Clara Honsinger (Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld) is ready to generate some fireworks in the stars-and-stripes jersey for a full cyclo-cross season in 2021-2022, especially with a trio of World Cup races this week on home soil.
She's in Wisconsin this weekend for the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup Waterloo, the first of 16 of these points-heavy contests, as one of the favourites for Sunday.
Honsinger started her season with the first four domestic UCI events in the eight-race USCX Series - Rochester Cyclocross and Charm City Cross. She plans to take on some blocks of racing in Europe but her focus is 100 per cent on two major targets: the USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Championships in Wheaton, Illinois in December and UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas at the end of January.
"It won't be a full commitment to World Cups, but maybe we can miss a few and still perform well. We'll definitely hit the ones we can while we are over in Europe. But really, our eyes are set on US Nationals and Fayetteville Worlds," Honsinger told Cyclingnews while her two teammates competed in the C2 Trek CX Cup race Friday afternoon, Kaitie Keough finishing ninth and 19-year-old Lizzy Gunsalus riding to 19th.
"We are going to play it as it goes. There are so many World Cups that we are not going to commit to them. We will already miss one when we go over to Europe in early November, Zonhoven. And we'll miss the Italian one [Val di Sole] because we are coming back to Nationals, that's really important to us. We have to show up for that. And then Hoogerheide, because we'll come back for Worlds."
Honsinger has one win so far, the C1 race at Charm City Cross last weekend, and had taken three second places across the remaining day in Baltimore and both races in Rochester. She's got a narrow lead of two points over Maghalie Rochette in the new USCX Series.
"It's definitely a different year than last year. Last year was wild, there was so much uncertainty going in. We knew there wouldn't be any racing in the United States, which was such a disappointment. Honestly, going into this year, it was a bit uncertain, even in July and August, 'is this really going to happen?' So to come out here and race a few C1 and C2 weekends in the US, it starts to feel like 'ah, this is US racing again' and racing at home."
Her victory on the opening day of Charm City Cross was a significant accomplishment that Honsinger said many people did not notice. While she does have a national title and was fourth at Worlds to finish last season, the win last weekend was her first at a UCI Category 1 event. And to do it wearing the champion's jersey was special as well.
"Being back on American soil and racing here especially in the stars and stripes means a lot. I'm really proud, especially in Charm City. That C1 [race], that was my first win in the stars-and-stripes jersey. It was my first C1 win! That was a pretty big race for me. I think people thought hmm, but this is really important," the 25-year-old told Cyclingnews.
"Last year it felt strange that I never got to race in the United States in my jersey. I am here with this beautiful bike, with a beautiful paint job that I got to help design. Last year no one really got to see it except in photos. So to be at venues and having fans walk around, look at our bicycles, watch us warm up and race, just putting on that show again really means something."
Honsinger is looking forward to a full week of racing in the US that includes a trio of World Cup races, big for tallying points to keep an optimal start position for the races. After the opener in Wisconsin Sunday, she'll line up October 13 in Fayetteville for the third annual FayetteCross, a first-time World Cup event, followed by a trio of races in Iowa, including the Iowa City World Cup on October 17.
"World Cup racing in the US, it feels like it has so much heart with it than in Europe. There it is a big spectator event to just watch, but here it just feels so much more involved where everyone knows everyone. Maybe it's because we are racing in the Midwest and everyone is so friendly and kind. You definitely feel that enthusiasm and happiness," she said about the crowds so far in Wisconsin.
"We are going to Iowa but unfortunately we are going to miss Cincinnati, Kings Cross. It's because we want to get in a good block of European racing before Nationals and it was really too tight for me to both Kings Cross and go to Europe. However, our experience racing the USCX so far is huge."
Halfway through the USCX Series, the Oregon native has a narrow lead of two points over Maghalie Rochette. The series doesn't pay her mortgage, but it pays off in other ways, she said, like the online live broadcasts for all eight races by Global Cycling Network for paid subscribers.
"It feels like we are starting something here. There's no overall series prize purse or a lot of money you're going to make but just the fact that I am sitting up there right now means a lot," she said about being points leader in USCX after four races.
"If we carry the momentum, having people tune into it both in the United States and in Europe on Eurosport, that's big. I'm really excited to see where this series grows the next few years."
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Jackie has been involved in professional sports for more than 30 years in news reporting, sports marketing and public relations. She founded Peloton Sports in 1998, a sports marketing and public relations agency, which managed projects for Tour de Georgia, Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and USA Cycling. She also founded Bike Alpharetta Inc, a Georgia non-profit to promote safe cycling. She is proud to have worked in professional baseball for six years - from selling advertising to pulling the tarp for several minor league teams. She has climbed l'Alpe d'Huez three times (not fast). Her favorite road and gravel rides are around horse farms in north Georgia (USA) and around lavender fields in Provence (France), and some mtb rides in Park City, Utah (USA).