Why we won’t see the defending cyclocross national champion in Victoria
Maghalie Rochette explains the difficult decision to skip the race and what lays aheadPhoto by: @thephotopigeon
After two years of cancellations, the Canadian cyclocross national championships are back, but without Maghalie Rochette. The current national champion will not be in Saanich, British Columbia on Nov. 26, and it wasn’t an easy choice.
“The cyclocross nationals are always one of my favorite events of the year. I love to see the Canadian ‘cross community, and it’s always special getting to fight for the right to represent that jersey,” she explains. “On top of that, the national champion kit that Rapha designed for me this year is simply out of this world. So saying I’m bummed not to go and defend it is an understatement.”
Canadian cyclocross nationals headed to Vancouver Island in November
Rochette’s season has been tough, as her fans know. She’s struggled with physical health issues, and also opens that it was tough for her mentally.
“That said, this season hasn’t been my best yet. Fatigue (or extreme fatigue?) has been a big cause of those issues. Now, I’m feeling better and back to training, but I can’t do like nothing happened and I have to be conservative with my energy and progressive in my return to training and racing. Flights, time change, travelling, and all the things contribute to fatigue and overall stress. And so I’m trying to minimize this,” Rochette says.
Travelling and fatigue
Given her schedule, and all of the flights and travels was one factors that ultimately made her decide to not attend the nationals.
“The nationals being in Victoria sounds fun, but for me, that’s pretty far, and it’s in the opposite direction of going to Europe. In normal times it might have been okay, but with my health being still fragile, I wasn’t willing to risk that extra travel and complications,” Rochette adds.”Instead, I’m heading to Europe Saturday, where I’ll spend the rest of the season until Worlds. That way, it’s only one flight, one time change…easy on the body!”
Looking back, looking forward
She starts the European ‘cross season after a tough summer. Rochette had some big goals of racing multiple disciplines, combining ‘cross and MTB World Cups, but she quickly realized that it’s very hard, especially since she doesn’t live in Europe.
“I think I was already pretty fatigued, but I was ignoring all the signs. The travel becomes crazy. And I also think that personally, if I want to perform at my very best, I need some time to chill at some point in the year, both mentally and physically. Plus, I started having nagging little injuries…I guess I’m getting old!!” Rochette says. “Throughout the summer, I felt like crap on the bike, always heavy legs, always tired. I kept thinking that it was just a phase and that it would pass. Or that I just needed to get a bit fitter.”
Her health issues worsened when she contracted COVID-19 in July.
“That was one too many obstacles that my body could not overcome. However, I kept fighting. To the point where I ran my body (and mental health a little bit too) to the ground. That’s why I pulled out of the early ‘cross season in September,” Rochette explained.
The good news is that the former Pan-Am champ is feeling better every day. On a scale of 1-10, she put her health at an eight, a noticeable improvement from earlier in the summer.
“’I’m feeling good, my blood values are back to normal, I don’t have muscle weaknesses anymore. I’m able to train. I’ve been tracking my health with my WHOOP too, during all this time. Now I see my HRV (heart rate variability) is slowly increasing and getting back to top levels again, my resting hear rate is decreasing. All my data are back to normal, and I can even see these metrics increasing to higher levels than before…a sign that I had been carrying some fatigue for quite a while. It’s been nice having actual data to track and keep things objective.”
But the stress of being sick was tough for her head as well.
“I’m managing my anxiety pretty well. It’s weird, I never had too much trouble with that before but with the extreme fatigue over the summer and fall, I started being a bit more anxious, and I’m still a bit fragile on that front. So I’m respecting myself in that regard, but also finding tools to manage it all,” Rochette shares. “All in all, I’d say I’m doing pretty good and definitely improving everyday!”
Changes in training
Rochette was careful to build up progressively with her return to racing. She made quite a few changes to her regular training. She’s not doing big hours, because she doesn’t want to dig too deep in her energy levels yet. “That’s a change for me, and it’s been hard to accept that less can be more right now. So I’m focusing more on quality work, and recovery. It’s also been an opportunity to start with a blank slate…so I’ve started working with Strength & mobility specialists and neuro reconditioning specialists. I’m doing more mobility and strength work to be stronger and prevent injuries, I’m putting a lot of focus on technique too.”
She’s also incorporated yoga into her routine, doing it twice a week. As well as focusing on recovery and mental work.
“It’s been fun. I can see I’m progressing, but I’ve had to reassess in my head how I value a good session. I focus on quality over quantity, and progress over perfection. In terms of racing, I’m also going to be progressing.”
Back to racing
Rochette did the Pan-Am championships on Nov. 4 finishing a respectable third.
“I jumped into the race, basically off the couch, and I surprised myself. It was fun to rely on my technique, and experience, rather than solely on power and fitness like I normally do. I hope to carry that even when I get fit again,” Rochette says. “In Europe, I’ll start with smaller races in France for two weeks. That way I can get back into a racing rhythm without the bigger pressure of World Cups. Smaller races will also allow me to keep training through them. In World Cups you have to be fresh, but right now, I really need to build fitness, I can’t just maintain, because I’m not there yet. And then, I’ll slowly move into World Cups when I’m more ready.”
Rochette points out that as difficult as some parts of the year has been, it’s also been a valuable experience, and she’s learned quite a bit from it.
“I’d like to say that, in the back of my mind, I’ve known that I had to take a break for a bit of time. Really I shouldn’t even have tried to race the first couple ‘cross races. But I was scared to do it, because it’s my job to race, and I’m a pleaser so I always feel like I need to do more,” she said. “However, it turns out as soon as I opened up about my health and shared what was going on, everyone around me has been super supportive. My sponsors have been incredible. They have not only been supportive, they have offered helped, they encourage me to take my time, and they have trusted me with my return to racing process. It’s been very touching and they made me feel great about it all. I feel very lucky. So my lesson here is that perhaps, I shouldn’t have waited so long — if you’re honest, people usually want to help!”
Maghalie Rochette’s 2022/23 ‘cross schedule
Nov. 26 : Cyclocross de Gernelle, France Nov. 27: Cyclocross de la Grandville, France
Dec. 3-4 : Coupe de France #5-6, France
Dec. 17: World Cup Val di Sole, Italy
Dec. 26: World Cup Gavere, Belgium
Dec. 28: Telenet Superprestige Diegem, Belgium
Jan. 1: X2O Badkamers, GP Sven Nys, Belgium
Jan. 3: X2O Badkamers, Herentals, Belgium (C2)
Jan. 8: World Cup Zonhoven, Belgium
Jan. 22: World Cup Benidorm, Spain
Jan. 29: World Cup Besançon, France Feb. 4: World championships, Netherlands