Dear future stars,
You don’t know me, but I’m Helen Wyman. I’ve been a professional cyclocross racer for 9 years now and at the weekend I had the pleasure of racing in front of many of you at the World Cup race in Milton Keynes. I’m sure you’ve heard stories of Olympic events and seen superstars zooming around the velodrome on TV. Well I want to tell you there’s another amazing, exciting and exhilarating sport that can be your future.
I left the UK many many years ago in a Peugeot 205. It cost £100, was a kind of faded red colour, and was donated to me by my local bike shop as I set off to start my big bike adventure. I drove to Belgium and there it began. I was hooked on the sport from the very beginning. The crowds, the atmosphere, the spectacular courses; I knew straight away this is where I wanted to be.
For many of you the atmosphere at Milton Keynes would have been your first experience of that. For all of us British riders, I assure you it was a little bit special, but we get to race in front of 10,000 plus spectators once or twice a week. Our races are on TV, and even women’s races are getting more and more exposure and an increasing fan base. I have insider knowledge and know that equality in ‘cross is just around the corner for women.
I want you all to know that cyclocross is a good career path as a cyclist. You don’t have to be an MTB rider, or a track rider. If you love cyclocross, please race cyclocross. There are good teams at the top of the sport, wonderful people running development teams, there is huge financial reward, there is fame (For those of you that want that), and perhaps most importantly there is fun. Lots and lots of muddy fun.
Over the years I’ve been racing, I’ve heard so many stories directly from racers who say they wished they’d stuck with cyclocross instead of chasing an Olympic goal. They’ve realised when it’s already too late. They’ve turned down contracts to follow a path they felt they should, but it hasn’t worked out. In these same years, things have changed for me. I got rid of the £100 car, I signed for a major team in the USA, and over the past 5 years have travelled to around 20 countries each year. I’m getting paid to do what I love, I travel the world, and people pay to come and watch me race and applaud for me, when I’m winning or when I’m not doing all that great.
During the Milton Keynes race, I’ve never had such home support. I won the European Championships in the UK and it was special. Winning is always good, even if it’s a game of monopoly, but the MK World Cup was a special atmosphere, even though I wasn’t on the podium.
I’m in Spain now, training in the warm weather of the south, reflecting on what this sport has done for me. Some special people have made this career possible (Martin Eadon, Simon Burney, Dave Mellor, and my Family and Sponsors. Plus my current cx family of Patrick, Monique and Thomas, to name just a few.), and I know there are people out there that can help you make the most of your talent in CX. You too can be racing in front of huge crowds, having cowbells ringing in your ears for days after races, and be signing hundreds of autographs.
I’m not saying life is always rosy. I’m not saying CX racing is always perfect. But I am saying that in 2014, although your careers adviser will not inform you of this, CX is a legitimate career pathway. You can be rewarded financially both as a man and woman. CX is no longer just about a rich life experience. It’s a rounded, fulfilling career, that makes me excited to go to work everyday.
Your CX dream could easily become a CX reality if that’s what you want.
Need some advice, drop me a line.
C X HELEN