This past December was one of the best months for California-native Vida Lopez de San Roman, at just 17 years of age. Her “super special” cyclocross season earned her the US women’s junior national title followed by her first European victory, in the junior division in Hulst, Belgium.
That victory makes Lopez de San Roman one of the best hopes for a medal among Team USA, across all age groups at the upcoming UCI Cyclocross World Championships. Lopez de San Roman turned 18 on January 23 and is looking for a belated birthday celebration in Tabor.
“Winning my first European race was super special. Having everything come together to win a race in Europe has been something I have been working towards all season,” she told Cyclingnews.
And it wasn’t just her first international CX victory, but she made history in Hulst by winning a first-ever premier CX junior women’s race for Team USA, this one at Vestingscross. She also did it wearing the stars-and-stripes jersey.
Lopez de San Roman attributed her win in Hulst to technically-sound laps and keeping her expectations in check. She admitted she fell in love with the course during pre-rides the day before the race, and it all came together for the perfect day. She’s ready for a similar scenario in Tabor this Saturday.
“I have been lucky enough to have experienced racing my first ever Junior World Cup last season on this course, previously raced on this course so it is exciting to be back in somewhat familiar territory. I enjoyed the course last year, and the punchy hills and course layout played to my strengths so it’s very exciting,” Lopez de San Roman confirmed.
While the US has had 12 medals at the UCI Cyclocross World Championships in its history, only one of those has been gold – Matt Kelly in 1999. Will Lopez de San Roman make it two? She has the talent to make it happen.
Lopez de San Roman has already had many other dazzling days with off-road racing – she’s won seven junior medals at US mountain bike nationals, including a gold in 2019 in cross-country.
She said it was her family who had set the groundwork for her abilities and aspirations. In fact, before her final ramp-up to Worlds at World Cup Benidorm, she spent two weeks with family members in Spain for training and “resetting by preparing mentally and physically for the upcoming two weeks”.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have parents who have been so supportive of my racing ever since a young age, but also were former elite athletes of their own in completely different sports who understood my love and determination for competition at such a young age, sacrificing so much for me to bring me closer to my dreams of being a World Cup level cyclist and believing in me,” Lopez de San Roman enthused about her father Joaquin, who is from Spain and had a professional tennis career, and her mother who was a classical ballet dancer.
While her brother, Ian, has also been successful with off-road racing and now moves to the road with the U23 Aevolo Cycling team, her aunt, Mary McConneloug, was a four-time US mountain bike national champion. McConneloug represented the USA at the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games, finishing in the top 10 both times in the cross-country discipline.
“My older brother, Ian was also a huge influence on me when I was so young wanting to follow in his footsteps, and continues to inspire me with his hard work and success across the gravel and road scene. A lot of inspiration and influence also came from my Aunt Mary, who had such a successful career as a multiple-time Olympian and professional mountain biker, who I idolized greatly and hoped to one day be like.”
Lopez de San Roman has spent the majority of her 2023-2024 CX season in Europe, only racing four junior events since October in the US, which included a second silver medal at the Pan-American Championships and the gold at the US Nationals. Across three separate racing blocks with Team USA’s EuroCross Academy in Europe, she was just off the podium in two World Cup races in the fall, fourth at Troyes and fifth in Dublin, and most recently finished sixth at Benidorm and contested for a podium spot last weekend at Hoogerheide.
It was on the Hoogerheide course for her sixth World Cup start that the US rider called it “one of my best races this season”, even though a mechanical sent her from full throttle to total standstill near the end.
“Raced one of my best races this season in the fight for the last step on the podium until the last lap yesterday. Disappointed to have bad luck on such a promising day, but happy with my form going into the big one next weekend,” she posted to social media.
With a two-week stint of rest and one final World Cup completed, the US teenager has completed “full preparation mode” for the World Championships in the Czech Republic.
“Ever since I first started racing cyclocross I have always had a love for racing in muddy and rainy conditions. My strengths tend to also suit more technical courses but I also really enjoy fast, punchy courses like the upcoming Tabor course,” Lopez de San Roman told Cyclingnews.
A cold rain on Thursday should have minimal impacts to start the championships for junior women, which lead off three categories on Saturday morning.