Clara Honsinger is Ready For Anything
Team USA
Athlete's Corner

Clara Honsinger is Ready for Anything

By: Jim Rutberg  January 19, 2022

Especially the 2022 Walmart UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships on home soil.

Adaptability is Clara Honsinger’s superpower. She’s unphased by bad weather, changes to course conditions, or travel restrictions from COVID19. It is not lost on her that the 2022 Walmart UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas could be a once-in-a-career opportunity to leverage ‘home field advantage’ at a world championship race, and she’s not letting anything stand in her way.

After winning her first Elite USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championship in 2019 and retaining the jersey through the COVID-cancelled 2020 season, Honsinger confirmed her status as the top U.S. cyclocross racer with a series of strong results in the U.S. and Europe in 2021.

Starting the season with a block of racing in the US in September and October, the 24-year-old rider racked up 5 podium finishes in 7 races, including a win at Charm City Cross and a third place at the UCI World Cup race in Fayetteville, AR.

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Unlike many well-known European cyclocross courses that are used year after year, the World Cup in Fayetteville provided the first opportunity to race an international field at the venue which will host the 2022 UCI World Championships.

“I think there will be a few extra corners compared to the World Cup, but [Fayetteville] is an interesting course because it’s so wide and there are very few pinch points. So, it’s going to be pretty easy to make passes and move up, which is good for me because I tend to have a slower first lap. I’m favoring my chances to do well because I’ll be able to push through each lap and make up some ground.”

Her ability to move up through the field has been crucial to Honsinger’s success. Following three UCI World Cup race in the United States in October, Honsinger moved to Europe for a hard block of November races, including four more World Cups. In just the second race of her 2021 European campaign, she accomplished one of the biggest victories of her career, winning the X2O Trofee Oudenaarde – Koppenbergcross by moving up from 10th to 2nd during the first lap.

Just a month later, back in the States for the 2021 USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championship, Honsinger found herself in sixth place during the first lap but surged past the competition and built a commanding 3:16 lead over Pan-American Champion, Raylyn Nuss.

With the Stars-and-Stripes secured for another year, Honsinger returned to Europe following National Championships for a crucial series of races during the holiday period in late December. Although Honsinger and her teammate Katie Clouse have used Sittard, Netherlands as their European base for two years, the American presence in town swelled over the holidays with the arrival of USA Cycling Cyclocross Director Jesse Anthony and the Mudfund-supported USA Cycling Development Program.

“The Mudfund-supported program helped take me from the amateur level to racing in Europe with the support I needed so I could join Cannondale. And even when athletes are on professional programs, they still provide support for things teams might not cover, like sport psychologists and coaches. Basically, anything related to our performance, they’ll help us achieve.”

Unfortunately, the emergence of the Omicron variant of COVID hindered interactions between the house and the USA Cycling Development camp. “We stay two houses down from the sports complex in Sittard. In previous years, the professionals went on rides with the juniors, U23, and development riders. This year, we were concerned with getting sick so we couldn’t work with them as much.”

Concerns about COVID also led to changes in Honsinger’s racing and traveling plans. Back when the pandemic began in early 2020, she landed in Europe not knowing when she’d be able to get back to the United States. As Omicron swept through Europe in late 2021, she decided to pack up and travel to the States weeks earlier than planned.

“Originally, we were planning on staying in Europe, racing the Flamanville World Cup on January 16, and going directly to Fayetteville. But given the COVID situation, we were unsure we’d make it, so I changed my flight and I’ve been back in Portland since January 8th.

Some extra time has provided the opportunity to think more broadly about the upcoming World Championships, beyond her ambitions to win a rainbow jersey.

“I’m hoping, personally, to be a good host. It’s unique that [World Championships] are in the United States and we’re having the entire world come to our country, our culture, and our race scene. I want to make sure I do my part to put on a great race and experience for all the other riders, some of whom may be traveling to North America for the first time. I want them to walk away saying, ‘Wow, that was really cool’ and I hope I can somehow contribute and support that result for everyone.”

As she gets ready to travel to Fayetteville, Honsinger is taking the twists and turns of the past two seasons in stride. “What I think is unique about cyclocross is that it’s not static. What you pre-rode days or even an hour ahead is going to change. First, you have to know the course, which direction you’re going next, and where you are in reference to the finish and pits. But then you have to be ready for it to be completely different. Maybe that line you were taking earlier is now a really deep rut, or maybe the off-camber is no longer rideable. The quintessential trait of cyclocross is being adaptable.”

USA Cycling relies on thousands of individual annual contributions from cyclists and other supporters of our mission to champion the sport of cycling in America. These contributions fund programs like the European racing development camp and the World Championships, as well as many other elite-level development so the Stars and Stripes shine on world-class podiums. Let's grow the sport of cycling together.