One more for Gage
Team USA
Athlete's Corner

One More for Gage Hecht

By: Jim Rutberg  January 24, 2022

At least for the next few seasons while he focuses on road racing.

For Gage Hecht, the 2022 Walmart UCI Cyclocross World Championships could be his last… at least for a while. The 2019 Elite US Cyclocross National Champion signed with Human Powered Health for the 2022 and 2023 seasons and will focus primarily on road cycling events. But before he puts the knobby tires away, he’ll go head-to-head with the best cyclocross racers in the world in Fayetteville, Ark. on January 30.

The Fayetteville course has been a good one for Hecht. In October, he finished 8th in the Elite field at the UCI World Cup race there, his best performance of the five World Cups he raced in 2021. “The long climb is really good for me. I’m glad they put that feature in there. ‘Cross courses have been changing. They used to focus on power for a section, then technical for a section. Now the power sections seem to be short and mixed in with a bunch of turns. So, I’m happy to see the Fayetteville course return to that classic style.”

Almost any rider asked about their impressions of the Fayetteville course mentions how wide it is. Gage had a unique take on this feature. “I like the way the course is designed to be wide. That gives everybody a chance to be a part of the race, not just the first two rows off the start line. It could give a lot of people opportunities they might not normally have. In Hulst, for instance, there were a bunch of U-turns close to the start and mid-pack guys were standing still while the front guys rode away. That’s just the way it goes sometimes, but in Fayetteville the front-line guys don’t have as much of an advantage.”

To take advantage of the opportunities presented by the course and competition in Fayetteville, Hecht, his coach Jim Lehman, and USA Cycling Cyclocross Director Jesse Anthony made an on-the-fly call to shorten his 2021 European campaign. Prior to the MudFund-supported trip to Europe, Hecht had completed a road racing season and a cyclocross schedule of 15 U.S. races, including three UCI World Cups, the Pan-American Championships, and the U.S. National Championships.

“Coming into the trip, we knew I was quite a bit fatigued from a heavy season. Jim Lehman and I talked about skipping some of the race days in Europe to fit in more recovery. My legs felt good for the first half of the block, and then I started to feel really tired. At that point in the block we decided it didn’t make sense to take a weekend off and then try to fit in one more race. Jesse supported the decision. It was nice to have the person pushing to make the racing block happen for me advocating for me to prioritize recovery.”

Although he wasn’t racing, Hecht stayed in Sittard, Netherlands with the USA Cycling team of juniors and U23 riders instead of catching an early plane home. Not only does he like the small town that has been the European base for USA Cycling since 2013, but staying also gave him the chance to support his teammates, some of whom were on their first European trip.

Hecht participated in MudFund-supported trips and opportunities as a junior, U23, and Elite rider.

“The MudFund gave me a lot of opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise. When I was younger I did a Europe trip by myself for a season. I was welcomed into a nice Belgian family’s home. They took great care of me, but it wasn’t the same as being surrounded by my USA Cycling family. Having an environment where a bunch of Americans can go over there together is really special and positively affecting a lot of riders.”

As he prepares to race the Cyclocross World Championships and then go all-in on road racing with Human Powered Health for two seasons, Hecht reflected on the lessons he’s learned thus far in his career. He noted that in the last two years he’s learned to be more comfortable with uncertainty.

“I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to get results. I think it created a negative climate to get the results because I was so stressed about being in the right position, being perfect through certain corners, or having the perfect first lap. When that didn’t happen, races would just fall apart for me. I learned to not get so locked in to those details and it helped me rediscover the joy for racing.”

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