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National Championships

What's Next for 2021 National Champ Clara Honsinger

By: Jim Rutberg  December 06, 2022

Honsinger is ready to take her racing to the next level with EF Education-TIBCO-SVB Pro Cycling Team.

In 2022, U.S. Cyclocross National Champion Clara Honsinger flipped the script on her cycling career to open up new opportunities for achieving top performances. With a new team, a dual program focused on cyclocross and road racing, and a new Belgian home base in Oudenaarde, Honsinger is poised to take her already-stellar cycling career to the next level.

New Team

In 2021, Clara Honsinger raced cyclocross for and raced on the road with Team Tibco-SVB. That scenario was upended when her road team moved up to the UCI Women’s World Tour level and shut down. Fortunately, Honsinger’s skill and results in multiple cycling disciplines fit with the goals of the new EF Education-TIBCO-SVB Pro Cycling Team.

“They are interested in diversifying their race teams to be more than just road racing,” she said. “They have a gravel program that even incorporates some mountain biking. So, when they heard about my cyclocross program shutting down, they saw it as an opportunity to try something new. We put together a program, and they also brought in Zoe Backstedt, the current Junior Cyclocross World Champion.”

As Team Tibco-SVB moved up to the UCI Women’s World Tour and became EF Education-TIBCO-SVB Pro Cycling, many aspects within the team remained familiar to Honsinger. At the same time, stepping up to the World Tour was a game-changer in terms of her approach to the sport. Although she always took the training seriously and was intrinsically motivated to succeed, a World Tour contract further heightened her focus. “There are new faces, more staff members, more support, and access to bigger races,” she said. “And there are also bigger responsibilities. Everyone is getting paid to be a bike racer full time, where before many of us had jobs outside of cycling to make ends meet. This year, we’re able to focus entirely; this is our job.”

Being part of a larger organization can either be stifling or liberating for athletes. In previous, smaller programs, Honsinger had greater autonomy to set her own schedule but access to fewer resources. Larger organizations impose more structure, but Honsinger finds the accompanying support highly valuable. “When I was racing at a similar level, but also working at a bike shop or going to school, I felt I was stretching myself pretty thin,” Honsinger explained. “It wasn’t sustainable. Knowing I have the resources to achieve really big things allows me to set greater goals, like winning a World Cup or earning a medal at World Championships.”

New Program

Honsinger intends to leverage her access to World Tour-level resources by embarking on a dual program of cyclocross and road racing at the top international level. To set the stage for 2023, she purposely delayed the start of her 2022 cyclocross season by skipping the early-season ‘cross races in the U.S. Although this meant starting her 2022-2023 cyclocross campaign with less race fitness compared to riders who started earlier, it’s all part of Honsinger’s plan.

“Last year I rode some Spring Classics, but after taking a big break following ‘cross season. And it definitely felt like it took my body a while to warm up and get back into it after taking such a nice break. This year I’m looking forward to pushing through and carrying more form into the Classics.”

By starting later, she intends to race through the 2023 UCI Cyclocross World Championships in February, take a short break, and then carry her cyclocross fitness into a focused training block. Her Spring Classics campaign is scheduled to start in late February and end with Paris-Roubaix in April.

Dual or multi-discipline racing programs are becoming more common in elite cycling, a trend Honsinger eagerly embraces. By leaning into her strengths, she hopes to capitalize on the power and technical skill from cyclocross to provide a competitive advantage in the Spring Classics. “If you go and look at the top 10 of Strade Bianche in 2022, several of those riders raced a partial or full season of cyclocross,” she pointed out. “Cyclocross and road racing – specifically the Spring Classics – complement each other.”

Belgian Immersion

Being primarily based in Belgium will also be a big change to Honsinger’s training and lifestyle. Previously, she and other athletes established a part-time home base in Holland. The EF Education-TIBCO-SVB Pro Cycling Team is based in Belgium, and Honsinger moved to Oudenaarde, home to the Tour of Flanders and not far from the team’s Service Course in Ghent.

Although cycling in general, and cyclocross specifically, are wildly popular in both Holland and Belgium, Honsinger has found it advantageous to be immersed in Belgian cyclocross culture. “Last year a challenge with Cyclocrossworld was that we’d show up to races and none of us spoke Flemish and we didn’t know many people at the venues,” Honsinger commented. “At EF, most of the mechanics and staff are Belgian themselves. That brings down the language barrier and makes engagement easier. You make friends and have great conversations with people who have been around the sport for a long time. I feel I’m learning a lot more than in previous years.”

Upcoming U.S. Appearances

As a result of her increased focus on the European cyclocross and Spring Classics scenes, U.S. cyclocross fans will have fewer opportunities to watch Clara Honsinger compete on American soil. After returning to the United States to celebrate Thanksgiving, the current U.S. National Cyclocross Champion will toe the start line wearing the stars-and-stripes jersey at the Bicycle Law Cross Infestation 2022, presented by Team Roaring Mouse. The race, held at Coyote Point in San Mateo, California, on Sunday, December 4 will be Honsinger’s final preparation event before the USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships in Hartford, Connecticut, on December 6.