How To Form a Season

It’s been a few weeks since I have posted, but not since I have written! My blogs for Jingle and Trek were posted over on the Kona Cog, so click the link and give em a read if you want! In summary, there was mud, but also some dry. It was hot. I did a mix of metered efforts and came away with two top 10s in the World Cups (9th at Jingle and 10th at Trek). Even in the races I knew there was something missing – the mental edge that I see in racers like Caroline. Developing that edge, or finding it again, is what I am focusing on moving forward (that, and continued forward progression off that start line).

Bruce Buckley captures both days of Jingle

After the World Cup in Waterloo I hitched a ride back home to Ohio for my brother’s wedding, which happened to fall on a rare weekend off. After the wedding festivities, there was a race in Fayetteville that I chose not to attend. This was for a few reasons, primarily being that it was not on our team schedule at the start of the season. It seemed like a nice time to have a longer break to put in a few more hours of training before the next big block, and the travel to AR is a bit arduous for Kerry and me. But, due to the infectious nature of CX, Kerry chose to race anyways but I held true to my need for some training and rest (yes, those can be simultaneous as travel is stress in itself).

Trek World Cup

Then, why the post to the blog, you ask? Because, I just listened to Episode 159 of Cyclocross Radio with Bill Schieken and guest Scott Herrmann, and they posed some questions that had been on my mind all season, so I thought I would address them here.

There was a lot of speculation about what racers would be making the trip to Europe for the World cups in October and November. There are a lot of factors that drive the racing schedule decision.

First, the US lost quite a few C1 races. As you can see in the chart below, C1 races hold many more points than a C2, with points paying 15 deep instead of 10, and more than double the points for the top 5, and even more than that for the top 10. And you cannot make up for lost C1 points by racing more C2s, because the rankings only count a rider’s top 6 C1 races and top 8 C2’s. So after 4 good C2 weekends (assuming you do about the same Saturday and Sunday), your similar results become redundant, and the only benefit to racing comes to save you in the event you aren’t as good early the next season (the races fall off after 365 days, so if you do poorly the following year, your late-season races from that last year will count towards your pointage. ie, if you won every C2 race in 2019-2020, only your top 8 would count. Let’s say you only race 8 races. If the next season you have to skip the first few races, then your point count will drop as those weekends fall off. If you had kept racing the season prior, your total point count would not drop until you ran out of races to replace the skipped ones.)

So if you lose C1 points, you may be tempted to go to the world cups, right?Well, there were questions about why there are so few racers that make the trip to do World cups in October and November, yet a line out the door to make the team for the World cups in December and January. I’m sure there are a few reasons for people with pesky real-life jobs, such as available time off from work, but for racers across-the-board a huge driving factor is making the trip worthwhile. That is both financially, and points-wise. If you go to race a World Cup, you could have a shit race but still get five points (but also none), that means a lot to a racer who counts their points by tens, but for those of us who count our points by the hundreds, five points would be a bit of a disappointment. But, if you’re able to put in a good race, you can get 10’s of points upwards of a hundred points from a World Cup. That could make an expensive trip worthwhile – because let’s face it, as women we are buying points. There are very few of us that find the World Cups financially lucrative. That is a worldly pleasure left only to the men.

Keep the shit on lock so you don’t flush the race. Thanks, Spencer.

For this year, the October World Cup in Switzerland is nearly a standalone race. You fly to Switzerland do the World Cup and then fly home. (Omitting the few Americans that are racing the season in Europe exclusively). Then, in November, there is Tabor and Koksijde. Those two World cups are back-to-back weekends, but one is in the Czech Republic, the other is in Belgium. The logistics are very difficult; getting between the two events and finding support, renting cars, and unless you have a very high budget or people who really care about you, hopefully both, it is a very big trip. In addition, there isn’t a lot of dense racing in that block, so it’s essentially a 2 or 3 race trip. This trip could be beneficial, and you’re not putting all of your eggs in one results basket, but, it is a bit daunting and a logistical effshow.

Ain’t got no swanky set-up in Euroland

The lure of going to the World cups after US Nationals, as many of us know, is that there’s not only two World cups back to back, but then there’s a lot of C1 and C2 races in the week(s) following. This is the Christmas block, Kerstperiode. You can literally race 7 out of 9 days or something crazy. And then it’s more for the fact of racing than results, even.

Personally, I never had intentions of raising the World Cup in Switzerland- it just didn’t make sense to miss a bunch of US races for a quick travel to race where I don’t have much infrastructure to fall back on. If I were a man, and I could potentially earn a thousand Euro or more for a good result, it might make the trip worthwhile, however, there’s also a good chance that I would get 21st and as a woman would make no money and that would not make even the 39 UCI points* worth the expensive trip (21st is the ultimate bitch-spot). Expensive both financially and physically. (*I currently have 747 UCI points for reference)

I was torn even when making my schedule before the season started as to whether or not I wanted to do the World Cups in November. I said that if I was going well, and did well in the US World cups, that I would go to those races in November and chase a World Cup overall ranking. But, even after two top-10s in the US World Cups, I don’t think I’m where I need to be in order to make those races worthwhile. Again, it is a big financial gamble for not a guaranteed return, and guaranteed tax on my mind and body before my ‘A’ race of the season, US Nationals (I’m coming for you Katie! And Kaitie. And I guess Clara, too. Thank maple syrup Maghalie is Canadian).

So, instead of seeking mediocre World-level results, I am trying to sharpen my racing technique by racing in the US during the month of November. I’m hoping to focus on racing, training, and resting to be ready for when the season really starts: US Nationals and onward.

Let’s not forget the goal of World Championship Team qualification, listed on the PDF here. According to this, I think we would have had 3 world’s team members for the women last year? I would not have made the team. A large majority of the qualification is acute event placing, specifically at Pan Ams, Nationals, World Cups, or Superprestige/DVV races. The majority of these events are in Europe. That’s right, all but 4 qualification races are in Europe, and half of those races are over. The only woman qualified is Clara Honsinger (I think).

Nick Czerula captures me dropping off into the icy abyss at Worlds 2017 in Luxemburg

Unless the people going to the World Cups in Europe think they can get top 5’s, they are going for points and glory, not a worlds spot, which has been a driving factor in the past.

There are so many things to chase, from weekend glory, the ProCX (which really means nothing because they’ve taken out all incentive and include all races), to chasing the World Cup overall, or you can target individual races. It’s really easy to get caught up in everything and lose sight of the forest for the trees.

Just pretend to be happy to start the race.

To me, goals are hard to form for this sport because you can set them at the start of the season and if you realize you’re not in the place physically or mentally to achieve them you have to decide if you want to reframe, or stick it out. Just the same, it’s also so easy to fill your own dream bucket but look over in somebody else’s and decide you want what they have. It is always hard to see people winning races that you’ve chosen to sit out. I think you have to be the best of the best in order to have the confidence to follow your own race plan.

I have to frame out two separate seasons. I have the US season, where hopefully I’m able to chase down wins and consistent podiums. And then, after Nationals, there is a European season, where I’m chasing strong rides and hoping for a top-10. But, racing World cups I am able to still have strong top 20 or better results. This keeps my UCI points high, and my visibility higher (especially if I make the crash cam). The only problem, is missing some of the mid-season World cups, brings down your overall World Cup ranking. And, now these races are gridded by series ranking. World Cup overall might not mean much to a lot of people, but it does come with a prize purse. As well as bragging rights.

While I can’t speak on what drives many racers to choose the races that they do, I can tell you that there are a lot of factors, and these factors are fluid. Let’s not try to make sense of it, because after all, it is cyclocross. Oh yea, and the calendar changes again next year with a potential move of US Nationals back to January!?!?!

4 comments

  1. Great blog as usual Becca. You’ve made sense of the senseless and made clear why it’s pretty difficult, especially coming from US, why planning a season is so complex. Here’s hoping your season works out.

  2. Genuinely appreciated this post. It made more sense to me, a lowly master’s cat 4 racer, than pretty much anything I’ve seen or read on series (serieses?) and points.
    BUT the biggest take home is the lack of prize money is Europa for the women. I knew there was inequity, but when you phrase it as Rebecca did, the issues of travel costs to reward/compensation makes it frustrating. How are international elite women going to be able to sustain euro racing if these events are not splitting the cash game?

    Again, eye opening and frustrating.
    Makes me glad that I always watch the women’s CX before the men’s races (if I even watch the men’s at all that is).

    1. Thanks for the comment!! Glad you liked it. So, the UCI sets the minimum payout awards, and they have stepped it up for everything except World Cups (but that will be equal in 2022). Change is happening, but, it’s frustrating until then.

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