After a number of early season races in Europe and North America, “the big dance,” the World Cup, kicks off in Waterloo, Wisconsin, on October 11th.

Waterloo, Wisconsin is a tiny village (population 3,330) 150 miles northwest of Chicago, Illinois. Mostly a town of cows and corn, Waterloo seems like an improbable World Cup location until you realize it's the global headquarters of Trek Bikes!

The Waterloo World Cup is in Trek’s backyard, literally. One of the course features is “Factory Hill,” a descent and climb that nearly lands racers in the company’s headquarters. The course was purpose-built for the race. The World Cup is a culmination of a Trek vision. They transitioned their land from cornfield and woods to a world-class cyclocross venue.

For the athletes of Trek Factory Racing, the Waterloo World Cup offers a “home course” feel. Challenge interviewed Evie Richards regarding her Waterloo racing experiences. (This interview occurred shortly before Richards added “World Cross-Country MTB Champion” to her list of palmares!).

The annual visit to Trek headquarters allows Richards to meet the faces behind the brand. “We see a lot of what is behind the doors of Trek,” said Richards. “It’s really amazing how we can go and talk to the people who design the components. I really don’t think there are many brands where you can do this.”

Equally, the race offers an opportunity for Trek staff to connect with riders such as Richards. Staff leave their desks and spend three days watching the world’s best tackle their backyard. “It feels like family cheering for us,” said Richards. “They all put so much work into the bikes, helmets, shoes, etc. They are really the best supporters as they are part of our journey to get us to the start line.”

One of the biggest questions surrounding the 2021 Waterloo World Cup is the weather. The first three editions gave us a wild introduction to Wisconsin weather. In 2017 and 2018, the weather was hot and humid and the conditions dry and fast. Yet anyone who expected the same for 2019 was in for a surprise! Significant rain the day before created epically muddy and slippery conditions.

What are Richard’s favorite course conditions? If you guessed mud, you guessed right! “I love the mud,” said Richards. “It just makes it so exciting and chaotic!”

When asked about her 2019 tire choice, Richard’s was emphatic: “I rode the Limus. It was just such thick mud and super slippy. The more grip you had the better you could ride.”

Be it a “Chicane day” or “Limus day,” look for Richards to be in the hunt for the win in 2021.

With so many choices, how do you choose tires? (#)

Challenge has a wealth of cyclocross tires to choose from: numerous treads in tubular, tubeless, and clincher styles.

With so many choices (and a limited budget), how do you choose?
Let's start with tire type: tubular, tubeless, and clincher.

  • The pros choose tubular for an oh-so-smooth, supple ride quality and the highest level of traction. Challenge tubulars are a ride you'll love! Tubular drawbacks? To have varied treads, you need several wheelsets. Also, gluing tubulars is intensive.
  • Tubeless tires require higher pressures than tubular, resulting in firmer tires and some traction compromise. On the other hand, it's relatively easy to change tires. Change from a gravel tread to a cyclocross tread for fall.
  • Clincher tires offer endless flexibility. While tubeless would be difficult to change at the race venue, changing clinchers is easy. Due to the risk of "pinch flats," clinchers should not be used at very low pressures. (You can run lower pressures with less pinch risk using latex tubes!)

Knowing the benefits and drawbacks of each tire type, take into consideration:

  • How many wheels and tires can you afford?
  • How many wheels can you store in your home and transport in your car?
  • Can you glue tires or mount tubeless? Can your local bike shop help?
  • Would you benefit from being able to change tires for the conditions?

For tire selection, evaluate:

  • Are your race courses muddy, grassy, or sandy? Choose tires that reflect the most likely conditions.
  • Does the weather change over the season? Often riders favor Grifos or Chicanes in the early season followed by Baby Limus or Limus when the weather turns wet.
  • Consider ALL races in your program. Perhaps it's usually muddy but you have a key "sand race." Add a Grifo for the sand race and dry days too.

Challenge makes the tires and treads for your needs!

Meet the athlete: Clara Honsinger (#)

Perhaps after finishing 4th in the 2021 World Cup overall, Clara Honsinger no longer needs an introduction?

Honsinger is the reigning U.S. National Champion, or as she puts it, “I am the one-time but two-year national champion for the U.S.” (Because the U.S. National Championships were cancelled in 2020, Honsinger retains her 2019 title.)

Honsinger races on the road for Tibco–Silicon Valley Bank, competing both in Europe and the U.S. Yet, cyclocross is her true love: “I ride a lot of different bikes, but I really specialize in cyclocross because I think that’s the most fun of the disciplines.”

As a resident of Portland, Oregon, one of America’s rainiest cities, cyclocross is an apt choice for Honsinger. “Nine months of the year, I go out and I ride in the rain,” said Honsinger. “Sometimes I ride on the roads but that’s too miserable, so I switch to trails and get covered with mud. I ride through little creeks and puddles. It’s my natural habitat.”

As a racer, Honsinger is known for slower starts followed by a patient ride through the field.

While moving up from further back in the field has become Honsigner’s trademark, that might not be her greatest strength. Instead, Honsigner points to her versatility as being key to her success. “A lot of people specialize in one thing,” said Honsinger. “They are really good at fast courses. They are really good mud riders.”

Honsinger is an all-arounder who sees herself as able to rise to challenges: “I am able to show up on the day and put out a really solid effort. I am able to accept changes.”

Honsinger demonstrated this adaptability at the 2021 World Championships where she finished 4th.

The World’s training day was uncommonly warm with sunny skies, a dry track and dry beach sand. The track remained dry, albeit frozen, on race morning. Like others, Honsinger chose to start the race on Grifos, a tread that provides sufficient grip on grass but doesn’t drag in the sand.

Then the weather turned. By lap one of the women’s race, the track had started to thaw. Acknowledging the newly slick conditions, Honsinger made a split-second decision to pit and switch to Baby Limus. She also adjusted her lines. Honsigner talked herself through: ‘Okay, this is not what I prepared for. Let’s make a change. Let’s put on a mud tire. Let’s take different lines than what I practiced. Let’s ride the ruts.’

Although Honsigner relied on her own instincts to adjust midrace at Worlds, she also benefited from the support of her Cannondale team.

With all North American UCI races cancelled, Cannondale based itself in the Netherlands for 2020-2021. Between travel restrictions that prevented U.S. visitors and the need to maintain a COVID bubble, the team and staff became uniquely close. “We did not really interact outside the Cannondale team,” said Honsinger. “Not only were we a team, but we were housemates. We had family dinners as a team. This made it an exceptional season.”

We look forward to watching Honsigner kick off the World Cup season in Waterloo!