There are cyclocross ringers and then there are Cyclocross Ringers. This weekend, one of the latter will be making an appearance at FayetteCross in Arkansas.
Logan Owen (EF Education First) last raced cyclocross in January 2016, when he finished 3rd at Elite Nationals in Asheville and went on to finish 13th at Worlds in Zolder. Before that, Owen won a whopping 10 (!) Junior and U23 Cyclocross National Championships.
Owen left cyclocross after the 2015/16 season to focus on his road career, and in the fall of 2017, he signed a WorldTour contract with the now EF Education First program. Owen recently completed his first Grand Tour with EF at the Vuelta a España that wrapped up about a month ago.
Owen said he is racing FayetteCross this weekend due to Rapha’s connection with the community and the Walton Family Foundation that is helping support cyclocross in Fayetteville leading up to the 2022 World Championships. The trip works well for him since the Seattle-area native is considering racing Elite Nationals in Tacoma, and the two days of C2 racing will allow him to earn some UCI points.
When we first saw Owen’s name on the FayetteCross start list, our reaction was a little like 👀🤯, so we reached out to him to learn more about the WorldTour rider’s decision to return to cyclocross this weekend.
You can read a transcript of our conversation below.
Cyclocross Magazine: You’re racing ’cross. What’s the story with that?
Logan Owen: It wasn’t really planned. It was more the team asked me to do an event in Arkansas. I actually had no idea it was a ’cross race.
LO: They said it was like a test event or something, so I thought it was maybe a local bike ride or something. I didn’t know what it was. Apparently, it’s a test event for Worlds. It’s big for Rapha for me to go there.
Once I figured out it was a ’cross race, then I checked to see if it was a UCI race, and sure enough, it is. I was like, ‘Well, this works out perfectly,’ because Nationals are in my hometown this year, and I had already been thinking about trying to race them anyway. I’m not sure about schedule and all that, but that was kind of the plan for me.
Now I really want to do it because if I can get some UCI points, then okay, I don’t start on the last row and I actually have a chance at winning versus starting last row and probably not winning.
CXM: Do you remember the last time you started that far back for a cyclocross race?
LO: It would have been my first race as an Under 23 in an Elite race. It was in Louisville, and I started dead last. I don’t really remember what year it was, 2014, 2013 maybe? [Ed note: It was the 2013 Derby City Cup]
That was the last time. I ended up getting fifth that race. I didn’t get dropped coming from dead last. That straightaway was pretty easy to move up on because it’s a long, fast straight and if you have the power, you can just go around.
CXM: This year a lot has been of EF’s “alternative racing calendar.” I got to meet Alex [Howes] and Lachlan [Morton] at Dirty Kanza. Is this cyclocross race part of that? Is that a sign you’re interested in being a part of what the team is doing racing in different venues.
LO: Yeah, I totally support it, but I would rather focus on the road entirely instead of doing some fun ’cross races. If they want me to do the gravel races, I’m totally down to do them. I really like the program I’m doing now. Doing all those gravel races, you take away from doing good races on the road that can potentially change your career. I’m happy with the schedule I’m on now. I don’t think I will be doing too many of those alternative races, but I guess this will be a form of that.
CXM: Speaking of road races and career stuff, how was the Vuelta? What was it like doing your first Grand Tour?
LO: Oh man, it was rough. It wasn’t rough the first week. The first week we were killing it, we were up there smashing, everyone was feeling good. Then everything went wrong with the crash. Four of us went down in that crash because it happened on the inside of the switchback, and we were on the outside. That’s when we lost Rigo Uran and Hugh Carthy.
Then after that crash, I was pretty banged up. Obviously, I wasn’t as bad as those guys. It was pretty tough to keep going. My right leg was messed up and stuff. I got through all that, and then I got sick going into the first rest day after the Andorra stage. That put me in a big downward spiral for a while. I thought I wasn’t going to finish at that point. I was really down and wasn’t really able to ride hard. I was sitting at the back slinging while everyone else was riding easy, which was pretty demoralizing.
Somehow I was able to actually recover from the sickness and turn it around. I was up there in the sprint and then there was another crash where someone took me out. That kind of put me down again, but I was able to finish fairly strong in the third week, which was a surprise. I thought I was going to keep going downhill after the sickness, but it was cool to see I could crash and get sick and be able to recover all while doing a Grand Tour. There were a lot of bumps in the road.
CXM: It sounds like you got all the worst parts of doing a Grand Tour.
LO: Yeah, finishing the first one was obviously a big goal, so I am glad I made it.
CXM: Big picture, I’m assuming it means a lot to you being able to finish after everything you went through?
LO: It was a big deal for me to finish. I wasn’t worried about finishing at the beginning. I knew I put in the training, and I was ready for it. Obviously, the third week is kind of a surprise for people. From the start, I was really focused on helping Rigo win because I knew we had a really good chance of winning the race.
Then after everything that happened with all the crashes and sickness, then it became the goal to just make it and finish because I was really struggling. It felt really good to arrive in Madrid and know I made it.
CXM: Getting back to cyclocross, I’m assuming you’ll be riding a SuperX to race this weekend?
LO: Yep. I have one hanging here at my house.
CXM: Do you still ride it at all?
LO: I have not ridden it yet.
CXM: So it arrived just for this event?
LO: Yeah, I didn’t have one before. I just got this one. I have to set up the position a little bit and get it sorted. But yeah, I didn’t have a Cannondale ’cross bike before. Or gravel bike or mountain bike.
CXM: Heading into the weekend what are your expectations and what are you hoping for?
LO: I’d like to win. I’ve been training still, so I hope I win. It would suck to keep training for this long after the Vuelta and not at least be on the podium. Obviously, I expect myself to do well. I am at a way higher level than when I was actually racing cyclocross, but you never know. I haven’t done any running or any sort of technical skills. Getting on and off the bike is more what I’m worried about. But it will be fine; I’m not too stressed about it.
CXM: Training-wise, did you dust off any of your old ’cross plans from back in the day and throw in some Dirty 30s or something like that?
LO: It’s funny because I never really did much for cyclocross. I just rode my road bike. I never did any sort of technical skills or anything like that. I’m doing more intervals now than I think I was when I was racing ’cross. I don’t know why that is, but I am.
CXM: When you left, your talent was undeniable and since then your name is one floated as someone we wish we still had racing cyclocross; does it surprise you that you’re someone who is remembered in the cyclocross scene and are you feeling any pressure going into the weekend?
LO: No, I don’t really feel any pressure. At the end of the day, I’ll finish however I finish; I’m not too worried about it. I’m just excited to go and race ’cross again and have a good time.
When I was in the Vuelta, the local MFG community here [in Washington] started making this hashtag to get me to come race Nationals. It was cool to see all the support I have in the community in the Seattle area that really wanted to see me come back to ’cross and race Nationals. It was pretty cool to see that. That gave me a little extra motivation to try to get back into it and put on a good show at Nationals. My plan is still to race Nationals if it works with my schedule.
CXM: We saw Jolanda Neff last weekend at World Cup Waterloo starting on the fourth row and having to bust her butt to get up to second. If this goes well, are you leaving the door open to jumping into another race or two?
LO: Possibly. Most likely I won’t be traveling to do any UCI races. This is kind of my downtime. I get like a full two or three months out of the year where I can just kind of chill. Maybe I’ll jump into a couple of local cyclocross races, but I don’t see myself traveling to any other races during the season.
CXM: This has kind of been the year of Wout and Mathieu and Marianne Vos playing a starring role on the road, and it seems like ’cross is now a thing you can do in the offseason. As someone who has chosen road after growing up doing ’cross and road, do you see changes in the future of how cyclocross can fit into a road racing training program?
LO: Well, let’s be clear, Van Aert and Van der Poel are just insane. It doesn’t matter what they do, they would be as fast as they are now. They could race mountain bikes, they could race on the track, it doesn’t matter what they do, they would be as good as they are.
I think cyclocross is a great tool you can use to get ready for a road season. I think it can be a good tool to help build up for the season, doing a few races here and there. I think it’s a great way to get in shape and keep that high power. But I wouldn’t say it’s 100% necessary to do to race at that level.
I do think in the future, because of the fact Van der Poel and Van Aert are the best ’cross racers in the world, more people are going to try to fit more cyclocross into their schedules because they see it working for those guys.
CXM: Finally, it’s been a good week for Team Owen with your wife [Chloe Dygert-Owen] crushing at Road Worlds. What has that been like?
LO: It’s really cool. I know she’s dealt with a lot of injuries with the concussion and knee injuries and stuff, so we’ve kind of worked together to get her back into good shape. She has put a lot of work into it, so it was really cool to see her win that TT Worlds title. I know she’s been wanting that for a while.
CXM: Did you get to go, or were you back home watching sketchy live streams like the rest of us?
LO: I was at home watching the sketchy live stream. I wanted to go, but I was looking at flights to go and it was really expensive. I didn’t apply to go to Worlds, and after the Vuelta I was pretty wrecked. I needed to go home and rest. She’s back now, so we’ve been able to spend some time together.
CXM: Cool man. It’s awesome to get to chat with you. It’s been great to see everything you’ve accomplished, even if it’s not cyclocross. Thanks for coming back for at least a weekend or two.
LO: I’m really excited. I’m really looking forward to getting back on the dirt.
CXM: Awesome. The collective we will see you in Fayetteville.
LO: You bet. Thanks.