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Clara Honsinger on World Cups in the U.S.: ‘These races really matter’

The national 'cross champion also thinks fans in banana costumes are good for the sport, too.

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Just days before the 2021-22 cyclocross season swings into full gear in Waterloo, Wisconsin, VeloNews caught up with U.S. national cyclocross champion Clara Honsinger.

The 24-year-old was quiet and contemplative, but at the same time excited to talk about the significance of the United States hosting World Cup events. The season opens this weekend in Wisconsin, followed by races in Arkansas and Iowa, before heading to Europe for the remainder of the 16-race series.

The Oregon native who races for was circumspect about the advantages she and her compatriots may have over the Europeans coming here to race and potentially suffering from jet lag, and also realistic about the weather and course conditions for Sunday’s World Cup. (Honsinger is no stranger to racing in the rain in the Pacific Northwest.)

Honsinger was fourth at the world championships back in January, some 52 seconds behind winner Lucinda Brand. The Oregonian is again racing Brand at the Waterloo CX stop, and can’t be more thrilled to race on home turf.

VeloNews: What are the fans like in Europe? What about in the United States?

Clara Honsinger: Well, there were very few out last year in the Netherlands. It was kind of odd: We’d be going to the cyclocross races and it’d be absolutely quiet. But overall, the fans in the United States, they are a little bit of a younger, more excited demographic.

There are a lot less people dressed in banana costumes at European races. Down at the bottom of the course, tourists offering whiskey hand-ups — there’s a lot less of that in Europe, but that’s what I loved so much about racing recently in the United States. It’s just the energy is so much more like a party, have fun, take yourself seriously but also definitely not too seriously.

VN: What are the notable differences between races in Belgium and The Netherlands with regards to the competition? How might this play out in the race?

CH: I’m coming from the west coast, and Katie Keough is in Colorado, and Curtis White’s in Massachusetts — so it’s just like everyone we’re coming from four different corners of this massive country. I think there’s someone this weekend racing from Costa Rica. So it is definitely a much more diverse migration into a race.

I think you’ll see that the folks who live in the areas that tend to have more rain will do better if it’s muddy this weekend, versus those from Colorado, where it’s a bit drier, with less mud to practice in. I think we’ll see maybe that arise in the technical handling.

VN: Do you think jet lag will be a factor for women like Marianne Vos who are coming over here from Europe to race?

CH: I’m not too concerned about Marianne because she’s been racing for so long she knows how to control that, but maybe with some of the other Europeans who have not raced in the U.S. in a while and not had to deal with, six, seven hours of time change. I think, that it’s definitely hard on the body. If anything we Americans have an advantage.

VN: What are the biggest implications of racing here at home?

CH: It’s a big deal for me. I’ve raced quite a bit in Europe, and that’s a big deal, but coming back here and racing these World Cups I’m feeling excited and anxious. I want to do well, because these races really matter.