Charm City Cross and Helen Wyman on next season.
For 2018 Charm City Cross has partnered with Helen Wyman 10X British Cyclocross Champion and Worlds medalist as well as the voice of reason and champion of equality within UCI cyclocross.
Professional Cross racer Helen Wyman and race director Kris Auer met in 2011 when Helen decided she wanted to spend more time in the US and race on the East Coast. As she spoke with people in the know and researched which races she should attend, Charm City came up often as one race not to miss. They have since worked together over the years, including their most recent collaboration, Cycling Centre, offering coaching, training camps and tours.
The following is a conversation between Kris and Helen on forging their partnership over the years.
Kris: How did the this all start? What made you decide to attend Charm City Cross?
Helen: I was told that Charm City was one of the races I should add to my calendar so I reached out to you, the race organizer to see what arrangements could be made. You were more than happy to pick Stef and I up from the airport, chauffeur us around, find us vehicles to us and find us the best ever host housing.
Kris: Why do you like Charm City Cross and what were your first impressions of the course?
Helen: I thought it was a really good course with loads of potential and over the years I've raced it, it's evolved into one of the best in America. Also, Baltimore is a great city. Suzy, our host, took us downtown to the square and we had such a great experience. There was a guy with a telescope showing people stars and another guy playing guitar on a bench. We had ice cream while we wandered around and the whole scene was just how British people portray Americans in movies!
Then, after the race, when you took Stef and I out to an ice cream place that had this dish called The Colossio... Stef tried to order it and the waitress told him, "No- you can only have half."
Kris- That was the first of what has become a tradition. Every year Helen has attended, we end up in Little Italy at the same ice cream place. Year two Stefan, myself and Jonathan Page all tried our best at the Colossio (the full version is 10 or so scoops of gelatto, hot fudge, hot caramel, whipped cream, walnuts and a cherry on top of a full size Belgian waffle).
Helen, what ideas, what feelings do you have on how you can help advance Charm City Cross as well as Helen Wyman and even more generically, cyclcocross?
Helen: I think as an athlete working with a race, that you give honest feedback. I think the race has developed so quickly because of feedback from riders being incorporated. Some people when they have a race, they tend to kind of get a bit stale in what they do, they don't change things, they don't mix it up. It's their race, which is fine, but we need to always keep moving with the times and I think Charm City does that.
In terms of moving cross forward in America, that's really quite a hard thing to do. This year you had the new series that collected together a group of racers for an overall prized fund which was good. It meant that a lot of the pro riders went to the same races so it increases the competition and makes the race more exciting.
I personally, having been in Europe and America, think that the juniors in America needs to be fixed. A junior to me is 16-18... and when those juniors can choose a category that isn't a 16-18 so they can ride in Cat 1 or 2 or what ever they are, you're not actually developing 16-18 year old racing.
Kris: So all things aside you are now sponsored by an American bike race. What are you thoughts on that?
Helen: I think it is unusual, but we've had such a long connection with Charm City Cross and you, and we've also worked together on projects in the past. A few years ago we found out there was an opportunity to equalize prize money at the Koppenburg Cross race in Europe, in an instant you stepped up and said, "Yeah, I want to do this, I want to support women's cross." You've been a forward thinking race organizer and this is just something that follows that line and I think having a connection with a European athlete highlights your event.
My husband Stef has given input in helping with course design, helped to tape the course and we've led clinics as well. All things that probably helped to highlight Charm City Cross.
Stef Chimes in: Partnerships like this highlight that athletes have a bigger responsibility to do more than just show up and race.
Kris: Yeah, and vice versa. I think race organizers also have a big responsibility to athletes. When Helen approached me about the opportunity to equalize prize money at Koppenberg, I knew I had to do it. It was something that quite simply just had to be done. I didn't have the money then, but with the support of my then bike shop and the cyclocross community, I was able to make it happen.
Helen: Yeah. You jumped at the chance to be the first person to equalize prize money at a European C1 event in terms of prize money for men and women. The rest is history really. Off the back of you sponsoring it for 2 years, I was able, on the Cross Commission, to say "look this is something that Europe wants, this is something that Europe is happy to do," and now, we have equal prize money in C1 and C2 races. I don't think I would have had the ability to go to the Cross Commission and say, "look, it works," if you hadn't done that.
Kris: We're going to be tackling some of the big issues in cross over the course of the 2018 season. Junior racing in the Americas, continued equality for women in sport and the full story of the two years of American sponsorship of the most iconic cyclocross in Europe.
Kris: How do you feel Charm City ties in with the rest of your program from a sponsorship standpoint, from a scheduling standpoint... it certainly encourages you to come to Charm City.
Helen: Charm City fits in really well. It's a really good course and it's as European as you can get on the East Coast. Hopefully there is some rain, but it's not just a dust crit race even when it is dry. I think it's really good to start the season in America to get back into racing cross again. And then when you hit the European scene which has a lot heavier races and is generally a lot harder, but it's always nice to race in America because they've always had a level of quality to them that European cross doesn't.