Bike racing is a team sport, so it’s tough to compete when you are solo – you're on your own for training, mechanic support and even cooking. American Rebecca Fahringer started her third cyclo-cross season with Kona Maxxis Shimano facing a lot of new variables for 2020-21. With no elite races in the US and a “fear of missing out”, she set out for a full schedule in Europe leading up to the World Championships in a few weeks.
“I wanted to come because I wanted to race! I knew if I stayed home that the FOMO would be too great. Also my skills are nowhere near top-notch, and I feared a year off would dull them too much to re-sharpen again,” Fahringer told Cyclingnews from her base in Belgium.
As her schedule has progressed since November, she’s fine-tuned her form and built confidence which seen her with two recent top 10s, the last being an eighth position at Cyclocross Gullegem. She’ll be in the top 10 of call-ups this Saturday for Zilvermeercross, a course that snakes through a lot of sand along a lakefront in Mol.
“I have never done the course, but after watching videos it appears to be a lot of sand and a lot of pavement. I am also told the sand is best described as ‘heavy’, and tomorrow's weather looks like temperatures around freezing and the chance of precipitation. I am hoping the sand is a run for everyone, otherwise it is going to be everyone riding and me exploding spectacularly, and then running,” noted the charismatic Fahringer, who is known for insightful and humorous video diaries. "But I could also be hyping this up in my head, and maybe it isn't all that bad. I can be a sand rider after all.”
Fahringer said that one of her factors to race a full schedule in Europe was to gain points for the Worlds, although her teammate Kerry Werner and other supporters from the US were not traveling overseas.
“It is very weird to not have Kerry here, [including] his wife Emily, her dad Kerry [Shields], and then our mechanic Spencer [Johnston]. So it is quite empty. I miss training partners the most I think. I didn't start to feel too lonely until this past week or so with a weekend off,” Fahringer said. “I would not have come just for World Championships, because there would have been no racing leading up to that and I knew I would have been decimated.
"Points were a worry for me, because I know how fast and fierce and hungry the up-and-comers are and I was worried about fighting back to the front from the back.”
Only a handful of American women are racing consistently in Europe this season, with Fahringer now ranked 14th in the UCI cyclo-cross rankings for elite women. Her compatriots Clara Honsinger and Kaitie Keough of Cannondale-Cyclocross Pro Racing are ranked sixth and 31st, respectively, while 15-time US cyclo-cross champion Katie Compton (KFC Racing p/b TREK/Knight Composites) is one spot behind her in 15th. Also racing in Europe is Corey Coogan Cisek (Velo Revolution - Cyclocross Custom). All but Compton are on the start list for Saturday.
“The best thing to come out of this season was my love for US racing. I think a lot of us at the top flirt with the idea of full seasons in Europe, but after this season I realize that the long but divided season is the best of both worlds,” the 32-year-old said.
She noted that the top three things she missed about racing in the US were “the people, hanging out, and being at the front of a race.
“Beyond no fans here at the Euro races, seeing the fans and fellow racers at US races is so refreshing. In the US, our fans are largely people showing up also to race their own fields. There is a sense of camaraderie that can't be replicated,” she noted.
“I love to do well, and in the US doing well usually means a hard-fought race where I can score a podium or a win. It is still hard racing, but seeing daylight at the front of a race is satisfying.”
She said she started the season fatigued from travel and stress of “the pandemic, lockdowns, and the US political unrest”, but is hitting a good stride.
“This season ‘form’ is something less in my body and more in my mind. When I first got here I was not sharp from having not raced. Then I got a concussion. I started coming around and then we hit Kerstperiode where I got a bit fatigued on top of a bit of bad luck. I would describe my season so far as lackluster, but not for a lack of form.
“I came into this season a step behind and it's a game of catch-up. It is largely related to not getting in my first 20 races of the season here in the US and just the piled up life stress. I only have so much mental capacity and whereas many years I dedicate most of it to sport, this year there are just far too many other things going on.
"Leading into the next world cup I am hungry for a result I know I can get."
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