Kerry Werner (Kona Maxxis Shimano) lines up Sunday for the elite men's UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup in Waterloo as the top-ranked US rider in the UCI individual rankings, in 13th position. He's already started seven races this season and hasn't finished lower than fourth, including third at Trek CX Cup C2 contest Friday.
The bulk of his 2021-22 season is focused on the domestic scene, taking part in all eight races at four events for the new USCX Series title. Plus, the USA Cycling Cyclo-cross Nationals return after a year off from the coronavirus pandemic and the World Championships returning to the US for the first time since Louisville in 2013. An opportunity to grab World Cup points this week within driving distance of his new home in Roanoke, Virginia is a great way to start the season.
"We're just following these first six weekends in a row. So it's Rochester, Charm and now we're here [Waterloo]. I'm stoked at how I've started," the 31-year-old told Cyclingnews. "Also looking forward to further in the season. I've switched things up training wise and did some things differently the past two years so it will be cool to see how it impacts the longevity of these good results, hopefully.
"Worlds are always great, but I don't really have a chance to win Worlds. So being able to win Nationals and throw a jersey on my shoulders is definitely a higher priority than getting 10th or 15th at the World Championships," added Werner, who was the top US man at Worlds in 2019 in 17th position, having moved up from 22nd and 26th places the previous two years.
He's got a solid chance to win the new USCX Series, trailing Vincent Baestaens (CX Team Deschacht-Group Hens-Containers Maes) by just 14 points, and 140 points more on the line over the next two weekends.
"For me, doing well in the new USCX Series is big. With the new live stream, with having good results for that exposure. Then again, there is no prize money so that kind of stings. There is still exposure and glory," Werner said about his modest expectations. "That is pretty typical of American bike racing in general. I don't mean to sound pessimistic. We have to start somewhere and this is a good step in the right direction."
He is familiar with the Worlds course, having two podiums, including one win, at FayetteCross in 2019 before it went big time as a World Cup event. He's looking for another top result this time around too, but not sure how the field will pan out because of travel for international riders.
"I'm not a huge fan of the way the logistics work out for this block. Everybody has to deal with it, but it takes some of the top racers out of the equation which is not really what you want. Some of the top guys are not dealing with the travel because it's just too much so they'll skip the Fayetteville World Cup. For some of the Euro guys who come over, trying to get equipment down there could be quite a nightmare," he said.
"But regardless, it's cool to see three World Cups here [in the US], it's a great opportunity to get some points and also put a bunch of spotlight on the Worlds course. I'm looking forward to seeing how they are laying that out."
Back in March, Werner checked out the Worlds venue, posting a video to his YouTube channel. He's very curious to see what has changed since then.
"There are a ton of berms and corners. I don't think there's a single off-camber on the course [in March]. It's laid out like a mountain bike World Cup course, a lot of berms, pretty wide open stretches for power. It's super unique and will favour a power rider."
Also riding at the World Cups and in the USCX is his Kona Maxxis Shimano teammate Rebecca Fahringer. They are riding the same equipment for the third year, and the change he made to his training is paying off.
"Rebecca and I, we're chugging along in our third year as teammates. Equipment is the same, but I got a new coach, Chris McGovern, who's switched up some training stuff. We did some testing to figure out more of my weaknesses. I have a pretty sub-par aerobic capacity, so we've remedied that with longer rides, which is perfect for me.
"I love to just go on bike rides. So being able to just go for big bike rides more often has been really great. Road, gravel, mountain bike - I do it all and don't really discriminate.
"Next year, I'm actually going to a little bit of a focus away from cyclo-cross and focus on some of the bigger gravel races. That's not to say I won't do any 'cross, I'll still do a good portion but try to mix in a bunch more gravel in spring and summer. BWR Asheville was a really fun time, but there's going to be a three-day stage race in August. I am looking forward to that, in central Pennsylvania and I grew up in southeastern PA, so it will be cool to see that race there."
Werner said he was disappointed to start the season without a victory in his hometown race, Go Cross in Roanoke, since it was elevated to UCI Category 2 status this year. But he still came away with a pair of second-place finishes and a glimmer of glory. "It's fuel for the fire", as Werner put it, to win the USCX Series and grab World Cup points.
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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 for people of all abilities and ages. Tyson has been recognized for communications excellence with 10 Phoenix Awards, presented by the Georgia Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. She is proud to have worked in professional baseball for six years - from selling advertising to pulling the tarp - and was recognized by a national media outlet as the first female depicted in a pro baseball card set (Ft. Myers Royals). She has climbed l'Alpe d'Huez three times. Her favorite road rides are around horse farms in north Georgia (USA) and around lavender fields in Provence (France). Her favorite mountain bike rides are in Park City, Utah (USA).
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