Maghalie Rochette won her first career UCI Cyclocross World Cup on Saturday at Jingle Cross in Iowa City. It was a result a long time coming for Rochette who is the Pan American and Canadian champion. It’s been a good month for the Ste-Adèle, Que. native who swept the Rochester UCI ‘cross weekend and took home a silver medal in an extremely competitive race at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Mont-Sainte-Anne in the women’s eMTB category. Her win at Jingle Cross moves to the top of her palmarès, the most significant win of her blossoming career.
“That is probably the biggest achievement for me, even in the last 6 or 7 years I have been racing, it’s the one I am the most proud of and the most happy about,” Rochette said. “I have really been working with that goal in mind for a long time.”
A career defining win
Rochette previous had a fifth-place finish at the 2017 cyclocross world championships in Bieles, Luxembourg but with renewed focus and a good summer of training in her legs, Rochette was motivated for the first World Cup of the season. “I was so pumped before the race, it was next level,” she said. “When they said go I was really on a mission from the start.”
The startlist at Jingle Cross was strong with numerous previous World Cup winners on the startline including Katie Compton, Katerina Nash, Evie Richards, Maud Kaptheijns and last year’s Jingle Cross winner Kaitlin Keough.
Right from the start, Rochette was riding well towards the front. Going into the sandpit for the first time, she got a little ahead of herself and tried to go around Inge van der Heijden who was leading. The maneuver didn’t go as planned and Rochette went over the handlebars faceplanting into the sand. She didn’t panic and soon after was in the lead. With three laps to go, Katerina Nash and Clara Honsinger began closing in on Rochette. The key was not to panic.
“That was the make or break moment for me cause I was suffering, it was hot and I started panicking a bit,” Rochette explained about the pivotal moment in Saturday’s race. “I just reminded myself to calm down, relax and recover. I thought, ‘why don’t you let them come back to you and recover?’ That way I was able to respond when they caught up. We rode together for a lap. On the next run-up, I attacked again and stayed clear till the finish.”
Upon reaching the finish line, Rochette was in disbelief celebrating with her partner and mechanic David along with her former teammate and friend Nash.
“I was really happy, then it was a little disbelief but its weird because I totally believed I could do it. I totally trusted I was capable to win but when it happened, it didn’t really sink in,” she said. “During the interview with the UCI, the emotions caught up.”
Small changes reap big rewards
Embarking on another season focused on the discipline, Rochette took a slightly different approach to ensure she got through the long and rigorous cyclocross season fresher than in past years.
“I did things differently this year. I didn’t race as much mountain bike allowing me to rest more and prepare more for cyclocross. The idea was that I usually get super tired by the end of the season” Rochette said. “The goal of not racing mountain bike was to have absolutely no reasons why I couldn’t be at my best. I really wanted to do well at the U.S. World Cups, I had a few results that showed I could be on a World Cup podium. To me, it’s not about one number but I wanted to see if I could be up there consistently.”
The omission of mountain biking from her year was obviously a big risk but the intended goal was to have a strong and consistent cyclocross season. Rochette has struggled with fatigue and illness later in the ‘cross season in past years.
“What I did this summer was the biggest change and what I did not do. Racing March to February for 5 years racing, that’s hard cause there is never time off. I was constantly racing and constantly travelling. I feel I am much fresher now and it should make a difference later in the season. In November I will be heading into a big block of training heading into the world championships,” Rochette said about the logic behind her decision.
Last year, Rochette spend a big part of the season based in Europe. The commitment to the European calendar didn’t pay off as Rochette underperformed, got sick and felt a little bored in between races while the cold European winter was hard to train in. “This year we will go back and forth to Europe a few times and be based in Tuscon in between. Tuscon is a really nice base camp to put in big blocks of training and the weather is good so should help me stay healthy.”
Another chance in Waterloo
After the biggest win of her career, Rochette is already in Wisconsin preparing for the Waterloo World Cup on Sunday. It’s another opportunity to put down a big result but after reaching such a high point so early in the season, it’s taken efforts to refocus.
“There were so many high emotions, people reaching out and celebrating with me. The challenge is to stay focused and remember it’s only the begin of the season,” Rochette said about the upcoming races. “I need to keep doing the little things well, take care of myself, train and recover. I have to put my focus on what’s next. I feel confident but it’s a new day. When I show up Sunday, it does give me confidence but I know every race will be a huge battle and I need to bring the best of myself.”
After a busy weekend, over which Rochette also won the final UCI race of the Jingle Cross Festival on Sunday, Rochette is already pumped for the next round of the World Cup.
“I’m feeling really good. If I am honest, I really had to chill yesterday, as much as it’s been so fun and positive, I felt a little bit overwhelmed. I went for an easy spin and a jog, read a book and went to the movie theatres. I needed to rest and get into the mindset for Sunday.”
After a first recon of the course, Rochette is looking forward to her next chance to prove herself. With rain in the forecast for the next days, chances are the Trek CXC Cup will be raced in much muddier conditions, a stark contrast to the dry and dusty races of past editions.
“I am even more hungry than I was last week, so hopefully I can keep the momentum going,” Rochette said.