Kona-FSA's Helen Wyman will head into the first of two World Cup Cyclo-Cross rounds on Sunday brimming with confidence after a strong start to what she describes a the 'second of two seasons' this year. A winner of races in Italy and Switzerland in the last three weeks, the 28-year-old Briton has begun her charge towards her major objective of the year, the World Championships.
Wyman's first objective of the season had been the European Championships in Hoogstraten, where she finished second to Cyclo-cross World Champion Marianne Vos. The path to that result has also led to second place overall in the GvA Trofee, six points behind Czech rival Pavla Havlikova, however, as Wyman told Cyclingnews it was the European result that marked an important step in her career.
"I'm obviously really happy with the European Championship results and it's taken me a while to get back to that place again, so that's really good," said Wyman. "There's quite an important series, the Gazet van Antwerpen series and currently I'm second in that, so that's been quite a good focus for me this year, whereas previously I've done really well in World Cups but not so well in smaller races."
The secret to her success this year has been splitting her season into two halves, one ending with a peak for the European Championships followed by a break before working toward a second peak for Worlds.
"We've kind of broken the season down a bit more this year and split it into two seasons. The first season, at the end of it, I went on a training camp in Portugal so I had a break where I didn't race at the weekend. The second season is a bit longer; it goes all the way to the end of February.
"I've always been really good at riding consistently throughout the season, but this year we tried to peak for the European Championships and actually achieved it. Whereas in previous seasons it's almost been a peak, but not really – it's always been approached with a little bit of maintenance for [other races]."
Wyman's approach is a sign of maturity and experience that has come from six seasons of racing in Europe. She acknowledges that the strength of her top rivals is one of the reasons for the shift in thinking.
"If you're one of the best riders in the world, like [Marianne] Vos, [Katie] Compton, Hanka [Hupfernagal] or Daphne [van den Brand] you can be on the podium every week, in every race; it's not a problem for you," she said. "When you're in the next group of riders that can make [the occasional] podium it's much more difficult to consistent every week, because you're good, you're not outstanding.
"So getting to that point were you're at the right point, at the right race, is really difficult and that was more of the focus this year; saying at the start of the season 'this is the race I will be good at.'"
The omens are good for Wyman. Her 2009 season kicked off with victory at the Star Crossed event in Washington, her first ever race on US soil. The start of the second phase of her season has also been flush with success: a dominant victory at Italy's Ciclocross del Ponte was backed up last weekend by victory at the Swiss GP Wetzikon.
But the next race that Wyman really wants to 'be good at' is the World Championships in Tabor, Czech Republic at the end of January. Her best result in the event was fifth on debut in Zeddam, Netherlands, in 2006. The race will remain her focus for much of the remainder of this season, with this week's two World Cup rounds key to her preparation. There will be particular motivation this year at Thursday's round at Heusden-Zolder.
"There's four [World Cups] leading up to the World Championships and the National Championships. But the two World Cups together, in December, will probably be really important for me," Wyman said. "Last year, the day before the World Cup round, my Grandfather died on Christmas day, so the next day I just wasn't prepared to race. So this year that's one that’s quite important for me to do well in and get a result to prove to myself that, it's a course I can ride well at and do well on."