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Clara Honsinger wants to take her road racing to the ‘next level’ in 2023

The American hopes that she can use her cyclocross season to get off to a flying start on the road.

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Clara Honsinger (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB) wants to take her road racing to the “next level” in 2023.

The American cyclocross champion got her first real taste of racing in Belgium this season after racing on road for the first time last year.

More used to the fields of Europe, Honsinger is still finding her feet on the pavement, and she’s hoping to build on what she learned in 2022 and push forward with a team that is also growing as it enters its second season in the WorldTour.

“I hadn’t raced any road races in Belgium last year, so I was really, honestly, quite inexperienced and I felt that throughout the year with confidence and just ability group with road racing,” Honsinger told VeloNews. “Looking at this coming year, what I’m really excited with is to be working with the riders the team’s hired this year, some more experienced road riders or racers.

“We have Alison Jackson and Georgia Williams on the team now, and then, of course, Lauren Stevens, she was injured at the beginning of last year. So having, like those three riders back and learning from them within the races, I’m really excited for it. I felt a massive amount of growth last year. I think this year, with their guidance, it’s just going to be taken to the next level.”

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Honsinger is still figuring out exactly who she is as a road rider, but 2022 has taught her that her cyclocross skills — and her ability to deal with bad weather — are very transferrable for the classics.

“Last year, the directors were really trying to figure out what types of riders we all were and so we sampled a little bit of everything, and they found that I had good results at Flanders and Roubaix. I think that being a good bike handler as well as honestly being accustomed to the temperatures the weather and the culture in Belgium from cyclocross really pay off,” she said.

The classics will be where Honsinger gets her road season underway, transferring right from the cyclocross world championships into the opening weekend at Omloop Het Niewsblad.

This year, she didn’t kick off her road campaign until Gent-Wevelgem at the end of March and the earlier start means that she’s able to pack in a few more races that she’s never done before. She’ll race right through to Paris-Roubaix in April, where she is very much in her element, before taking a break.

“I’m really excited about Strade Bianche. I hadn’t done it last year. It’s one of those that I’ve always woken up at 6 a.m. on the west coast to watch, so getting the opportunity to participate in that. I’m really looking forward to, and honestly, I don’t think anybody else is hoping for this, but maybe a little bit of rain,” Honsinger said. “I think back to that one year when was everybody finished with the white dirt all over their faces. I am looking forward to kind of another one.

“In my, my classics block is Paris-Roubaix. I did that last year and it was just … you know how sometimes in a road race, you look down and you see we’re half an hour into three and a half hour race and it’s really a little bit slow. How am I going to entertain myself for kind of the middle bits here? Paris-Roubaix was just it was like a cyclocross race with constant engagement and just so much fun. You get a moment to relax after one cobble sector and then you’d hit the next and it was just such a blast.”

Dovetailing road and ‘cross

Honsinger has been able to almost merge her cyclocross and road seasons in 2023 as she is now riding for the same team throughout the season. Until this season, she had been racing with the Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld in the winter and then the TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank (now EF Education-TIBCO-SVB) squad for the rest of the year.

She had planned to ride with Cannondale again this winter, but the team folded and it provided her with an opportunity. EF Education decided to set up a ‘cross team, which also supports Honsinger’s teammate Zoe Bäckstedt, and now she can race with the same squad for the full year.

“There was some stress like, I knew that Cyclocrossworld was going to want me to be present in early September, however, the road schedule runs through September,” she said. “So being on one team, having them not trying to race me to the last day they can before I started racing cyclocross and feeling like I’m doing hard work and a good job for the team it just makes everything so much easier. And then getting the work with the same staff throughout the year, not just the season is just really enjoyable.”

With a far better balance now between her two disciplines, Honsinger believes that they can both feed into each other.

“The team is keeping it so that they’re working well together, but also looking at how I can use one season for the next like using road season to build that endurance that aerobic base for cyclocross,” Honsinger said. “Then my plan after cyclocross this year is to jump straight into the classics while I’m still sharp after the cyclocross worlds and just having like my body be accustomed to going really deep in those really hard sharp efforts, I think will pay off for the classic season as well.”