Meet Caroline Wreszin, 2nd place at Mid South, and a rising star for US women's cycling.
The Mid South Gravel is the Paris-Roubaix for the gravel circuit. It is the biggest of the Gravel spring classics and draws a field of talent similar to what we will see at Unbound this June.
The course this year looked very similar to what the riders will face in Emporia with chunky gravel, non stop rolling climbs, wind, stream crossings, double track, wind, and ruts.
Caroline's top performance on such a difficult course was incredible not just due to the challenging course, but the world class competition she raced with.
The top 20 on the results of the pro women was the who's who of gravel. Some of the big names included defending champion and winner Lauren De Crescenzo, Ironman legend Heather Jackson, TDF rider and two-time 3rd at Unbound Emily Newsom, Big Sugar winner Paige Onweller, USPRO champion Ruth Winder, and past Unbound Champion Amity Rockwell.
So let's get to know Caroline!!!!!
Tell us a little about your athletic background and cycling history.
I grew up with two athletic parents – my mom a runner and my dad a cyclist – so I got involved in sports from a pretty young age. Soccer stuck for a while, but then I got very into running. First it was marathons; I caught the bug after watching my mom run a couple and ended up running three in seventh, eighth, and ninth grade. Then, the high school I went to had quite a good cross country program, so I shifted to a shorter distance and really enjoyed the competitive aspect of that. The goal of the marathon was to finish. The goal of cross country was to win (or help your team win). After an injury my junior year of high school, I turned to the bike for rehab and took to it quickly. As my dad was a cyclist, I’d sort of been on a bike my whole life, so it felt familiar.
So how did bike racing start? Was this always the plan?
After finishing out my senior year of high school cross country, my relationship with running had changed and I needed a break. Having enjoyed the bike during injury rehab, I started riding a lot more. During COVID, my college went online and I lived at home for nearly a year. That really accelerated the amount of riding I was doing, and I began to see some fitness. As lots of people did, I ended up having some fun with Strava segments. Los Angeles, being the great training ground it is, has some prestigious segments around. After doing (what I thought to be) some good times on a couple of them, I decided I wanted to give racing a go. So, to answer the second question – not really, I was just having fun with it!
This is your second year working with CINCH. What are the biggest takeaways and gains you’ve seen in that process?
Probably the number one takeaway I’ve had from last year is eating properly. You can do all the training, all the mental work, but if you’re not eating enough around and during your riding, it’s really all for naught. I spent a lot of last year struggling to do the workouts just because I wasn’t fueling with the amount of carbs I should’ve been. Once I made a concerted commitment to change that this past winter, everything just clicked into place. I could complete my workouts, which left me feeling really confident in my power zones. It’s confidence in my zones carried into mental confidence because I knew the things I was practicing in training were directly applicable to race scenarios. So, while food is my one big takeaway it’s really much more than that. In fueling properly, I was actually able to take full advantage of my workouts, mentally and physically.
I’ve heard from your coach that you never miss a workout despite being a full-time student at the University of Oregon. What’s your secret to getting it all done?
It’s really just down to having the drive for it and being very well organized! I’m naturally a very routined person, so I like the daily schedule of class, intervals, homework, meals, etc. I kind of have my day down to the T, so that’s very helpful. Of course, I also feel very lucky for having the support I do. It takes a lot of personal sacrifice to be competitive in this sport, but more so it takes sacrifice from the people around you. My friends stick around despite the fact I’m often gone for 5 hours on a Saturday. They don’t question when I can’t go out because I have an interval session the next morning. My parents are available for calls whenever I have a bad (or great!) workout or if I’m feeling anxious leading up to a race. Likewise, having a coach that’s nearly always available for questions or last minute changes is unbelievably helpful.
Speaking of Oregon, we heard it rains a lot there, but you manage to do most of your rides outside. Do you have any mantras or words of wisdom we can glean to get motivated to get outside in bad weather?
Hmmm, mantras and wisdom for the rain. That’s a hard one haha! Honestly, it just comes down to thinking about how much I dislike the trainer. It only takes a quick thought of that to push me out the door when it’s gross outside. And there’s the fact that it could always rain in a race – might as well be ready for it!
Can you break down how the Mid-South Race went down?
Ya, MidSouth was wild. Everyone was fighting for position through those first corners. The pace was really high, and when we hit the gravel it ramped up even more. The rollers caused splits in the lead women’s group; Lauren got ahead and I slotted into a group with Emily, Ruth, and Paige. By the time we got to the water crossing, our group had caught back up to Lauren’s and Paige had flatted. Positioning for the singletrack around the water was critical, and again, the lead women split, with Lauren in front after entering the singletrack first, Ruth and Emily behind after running/riding through the water crossing, and I behind them after taking the traffic jammed singletrack.
I worked with a group of two to three people for the next miles until everyone but the lead men’s group got stopped by a train, once again regrouping the lead women. We all stayed together until a small technical climb. That was a bit chaotic with people crashing and such. Ultimately, Emily and Ruth got away from me there. Lauren got a bit caught out too, but blew by in the grass doubletrack and I chased back pretty quickly.
The rest of the race was honestly just riding my power zones. Through the feed zone I dropped my water pack and grabbed another bottle, making sure to stay with the group I’d been working well with for a while. Emily flatted somewhere soon, and at around mile 70 I passed Ruth. In a “bad legs” moment, I got dropped from my group a bit after that. Reminding myself to stay calm, I kept on with my zones, surfing the terrain as best I could and hoping the group ahead might slow down enough for me to catch back on. It never did, but another person got dropped, and I was able to catch him and trade pulls.
The singletrack proved to be a welcome switch up in terrain that was, if not physically, certainly mentally beneficial. I knew all I had to do after that was go as hard as I could to the line, and with what I had left, that’s what I did.
From the camera footage, you looked cool as a cucumber out of there. What went through your mind when you realized you had dropped a third place and were riding solo in second?
At first I wasn’t even fully sure I was in second. Sometimes in these big races it can be hard to keep track of people, especially when you’re so tired. But, when the lead women’s vehicle told me I was in second, not a whole lot changed to be honest. I think I was in such a mental zone that I was more focused on continuing to turn over the pedals than anything else. It was only as the miles kept ticking down, especially in the last ten, that the possibility of second began to sink in.
This is your first podium at a major gravel race. Were you surprised by this result?
Yes and no! The first race of the year is always a big test, and it’s always hard to know where you’re going to stack up after having been away from everyone for 4 months. But, I put in so much hard work this winter and knew I’d been doing really good power in all my interval sessions. The new Factor bike felt super fast too, so I knew if I could keep it together mentally and pay attention to my nutrition I could do a good result. Of course, it’s always easier said than done, so I’m beyond pleased to have pulled it off. Second is better than I could’ve ever imagined.
Last year you raced a full gravel calendar. We are early in the season, but are there any major development differences you noticed between this year and last year? (mindset, zones, confidence, etc.?)
My fueling is more calculated and as a result much better. My power zones are quite a bit higher. And of course, with all this, my confidence is fully there. I’m in headspace, and now of physical capability, where I’m just excited to race with the top girls.
You have incredible race craft despite being newer to the sport is that because you truly enjoy the details of the sport?
For sure. I think part of it is growing up around my dad, who loves cycling. He taught me how to ride a bike, and living in Los Angeles, taught me how to ride a bike in sometimes dicey conditions (with cars, bad roads, etc.) Also, I really enjoyed watching the Grand Tours and Classics on TV with him. Pay attention to those enough and you’ll definitely learn some things, which I did. For me, a lot of the joy in cycling comes not only from being strong and doing high power, but using that in a smart way, almost like a puzzle.
What is it like to be at a race with factory-level support? I.e bikes, coaching, teammates?
It really makes a huge difference. The coaching, for one, takes a lot of weight off my shoulders. I never have to question if I’m doing the right kinds of intervals or taking rest when I need it. As long as I’m communicating with Tom and following my plan, I know all is well. The same goes for the equipment and the people keeping it race ready. I have full trust that the bike I’m on is the fastest, the tires I’m on are the most reliable, and our mechanic is one of the best. And my teammates, well, my teammates! All the girls are so inspiring, knowledgeable, and just good fun. There’s no other people I’d rather be around to get the best out of myself in training and on race day.
Describe the team's energy.
The perfect balance of driven, competitive, and funny. At the end of the day, all of us are here to get the best results we can, and as such, we’re each quite serious about our training and race prep. But you can’t be on go all the time, so it’s really important that at least one of us can always recognize when it’s time to lighten up the mood. Without this balance, I think it’s hard to sustain the mental state you need to be in to compete at this level for the whole season.
Were there any big aha moments you had between last season and this season?
For sure. More carbs was the biggest aha moment. Last summer, one of my teammates, Holly, and her partner Travis, both CINCH coaches, were gracious enough to host me for a couple weeks around SBT and Gravel Worlds. While I’d kind of read the fueling plan Tom includes with training, I don’t think I actually listened to it or understood its importance. When I spent those few weeks in Colorado, eating like Holly was and, more importantly, hearing from both her and Travis why we were eating what and when we were, I realized the impact higher carb intake (both in and out of training) had on my ability to build power.
What race are you most looking forward to this season?
Probably SBT! I’m looking for some redemption, as I felt I underperformed there a bit last year despite the course really suiting me. Also, it’s somewhat of a home race for the team, so the energy is always good. I’m excited to return with more experience, confidence, and higher power zones to hopefully have some fun at the front of the race.
Thank you Caroline and we are so grateful to be alongside of you in this journey!