The Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld Pro Cycling team has landed in the Netherlands and will have three American riders on the start lines at the men’s and women’s editions of the GP Leuven on Saturday: Curtis White, Kaitie Keough and Clara Honsinger.
“The past few months have been a rollercoaster to say the least and the riders are hungry to get in some racing,” said team manager Stu Thorne, who started the team in 2006, making it the most successful US cyclo-cross team to date. “That said, we will be quarantining and will miss the race in Niel. Once we are done quarantining, we will be ready for action.
“The first few races could be rough. I mean, none of the riders have any real race fitness or base to work from. It may be a few races before things start to come together. There’s no question the racing is going to be full on, and the Euros have a bunch of races under their belts. We will have to race our way into fitness.”
The team has lined up 17 events, a mix of C1, C2 and World Cups, prior to the season-ending World Championships in Oostende, Belgium, on January 31. Sixteen of those race days are in Belgium, with a lone World Cup race in Hulst, in the Netherlands, in January. The team has not determined yet if it will travel to Tabor in the Czech Republic for the World Cup round there in late November.
The newest member of the Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld team, Clara Honsinger, is eager to showcase the stars-and-stripes jersey as the women’s elite US national champion that she won last December in Lakewood, Washington.
“It feels really important to wear the stars-and-stripes jersey in European races this fall and winter. It is unfortunate that I cannot represent it at home, but I want to show the European cyclo-cross audience that the US women are dedicated to the sport and willing to cross oceans in order to race at the highest level,” Honsinger told Cyclingnews while still in transition this week from travel to the Netherlands.
“I live in Oregon, and unfortunately all racing was cancelled there this year. However, I was able to do a few local CX races in Colorado in September. The promoters put a lot of hard work into making the events safe and I found them really valuable for my preparation for Europe. Ultimately, nothing pushes you harder, both physically and technically, like toeing the start line of a race.”
Teammate Kaitie Keough followed suit with one local cyclo-cross race in Colorado in October.
“I’m excited to get back out there and race again. I was glad to get a CX race effort in locally so that my first race effort back wasn’t in a stacked European field. It's been a while, and I’m really looking forward to it,” said the 28-year-old veteran, who was fifth at US Nationals last year and finished the UCI season ranked 30th.
On the men’s side, 25-year-old Curtis White leads the charge, as three-time US national champion Stephen Hyde has parted ways with the team after five seasons to join the new Steve Tilford Foundation Racing squad. White has only competed in two club races near his home in Delanson, NY, and said he is ready to raise his level from all the hard work away from competition.
“The landscape has shifted quite a bit over the last few months. Initially, I was focussing on the World Cup calendar and trying to be consistent in the overall rankings. Now that the World Cup series has been reduced to five races, we will look to incorporate more Superprestige and X20 Badkammers Trofee [formerly the DVV Trofee] races.
“The World Championships will always be a goal, but this year has proven to be incredibly unpredictable,” said White, who was the silver medalist at the 2019 US Cyclo-cross National Championships.
“We can not be 100 per cent certain that there won’t be any further changes to the schedule. All I can focus on is capitalizing on every opportunity afforded to me. My goals do not change. Only the date has. I now have more time to prepare and bring my absolute best to the next championship I line up for.”
Health and safety are the primary goals for the riders in this year of the COVID-19 coronavirus. All the riders commended the organisers of local races in which they had competed in the US, and White said that both events he did adopted new formats for social distancing that worked.
“The first was a local race in Newtown, CT, put on by the CCAP (Connecticut Cycling Advancement Program), and the Nomad CX in Schenectady, NY, put on by the club that helped get me into cycling early on, CBRC (Capital Bicycle Racing Club). It was really special to reconnect with the local cycling community again,” White said. “This sport wouldn’t be what it is in the US without these grassroots events, and it’s important for us athletes to refocus on where we came from and why we choose this brutal and beautiful sport.”
All three riders said it had been an extra-long off-season and they were gearing up for strong results in Europe.
“There have been a lot of obstacles this season, and, honestly, there is still so much uncertainty around racing,” Honsinger noted. “But we’re here to rip around some gritty Belgian courses and race our bikes hard.”
Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld Pro Team 2020-21 schedule
- November 14: GP Leuven, C1
- November 22: Telenet Superprestige Merksplas, C2
- November 28: X²0 badkamers Trofee - Urban Cross, Kortrijk C2
- December 6: Telenet Superprestige - De Schorre, Boom C2
- December 12: X²0 badkamers Trofee - Scheldecross, Antwerpen C1
- December 13: Telenet Superprestige - Gavere, C1
- December 20: UCI World Cup - Namur
- December 22: Robotland Cyclocross Essen, C2
- December 23: X²0 badkamers Trofee - Azencross, Herentals C2
- December 26: Telenet Superprestige - Heusden-Zolder, C1
- December 27: UCI World Cup - Dendermonde
- January 1: X²0 badkamers Trofee - GP Sven Nys, Baal C1
- January 2: Cyclocross Gullegem, C2
- January 3: UCI World Cup - Hulst (NED)
- January 16: Lampiris Zilvermeercross, Mol C1
- January 17: X²0 badkamers Trofee - Flandriencross, Hamme C1
- January 24: UCI World Cup, Overijse
- January 30-31: UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships, Ostende
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