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Success In Cyclocross Depends On Adaptability – Maghalie Rochette

mechanic working on bike while cyclist rides

With the North American Cyclocross Season having come to a close, many riders are wondering what they’ll need to improve to climb up the results list next season. Specialized/Feedback Sports Cyclocross Superstar Maghalie Rochette offers thoughts on what it takes to position herself in 6th in the World Cup standings, and how she’ll manage a final push towards the World Championships.

BE LIKE WATER

If I had to name one essential quality to success in cyclocross, it would be adaptability. 

Adaptability is the essence of our sport. The season extends through fall & winter, which presents a mix of conditions – dry courses in the scorching heat and muddy courses in the wet and cold.

Some courses demand climbing skills, some require us to race in a pack, to be a good runner, or to be very technically proficient. And sometimes the conditions change within the hour race, putting even more importance on being adaptable. 

That being said, I believe adaptability goes beyond our physical abilities as riders. In fact, I think it’s more of a mindset that we must adopt if we want to succeed (in any sport, really). We need to be mentally adaptable with our setup and with our pre-race routine. 

When I started travelling to race my bike, I quickly realized that my “ideal” race setup, was often impossible to reproduce on the road. Many times I faced situations where my carefully prepared plan was simply not feasible. In Brazil I didn’t change my diet and became very ill; in Europe I could not find my normal breakfast and panicked; in New York I raced a bike 4 sizes too big.

I’ve had lost luggage and bikes, and the list goes on.

Having the best setup won’t necessarily make you more successful. Last year, I traveled to Europe and had an amazing setup – fully equipped van, tent, trainer, repair stands, 12 sets of wheels, 3 pairs of shoes, 3 bikes, full tool cases, etc… yet, I sucked.

The best race I had in the whole season? The Bern World Cup when we flew to Europe 3 days before the race with 2 bikes, 2 sets of wheels, 1 repair stand, a few select tools, and a trainer, and our race setup was in an underground parking lot out of a small rental car.

EXCUSES DON’T LEAD TO SUCCESS

Through these adventures I have learned a few things. First, I learned that in cyclocross, the only thing you can be sure of is that at some point, things won’t go according to plan. It’s important to have guidelines, but stay flexible in your routine. Second, I learned that there is no such thing as an “ideal” race setup. In fact, the ideal setup is the one that you have.

Control the controllable but don’t worry about the rest. In other words, no matter what setup you are given, you can make it work. 

Sure, having a great setup is nice and it certainly can make your experience more enjoyable. However, the point is to not stop yourself from going to an event just because you won’t have the ideal setup. You can still perform really well if you have the basics covered. It’s also not worth having excuses about not having the ideal conditions. No one cares about our excuses except for ourselves, and if we make ourselves believe we have an excuse to fail, then we really have no chance to succeed.

Of course a nice workbench would be ideal, but David understands the need for adaptability – just get it done!

 

CREATING AN ADAPTABLE MENTALITY

Here are a few of the basics I try to have at each race. Once those are covered, if we can have our own pressure washer, a tent heater and a warm RV…well great! I make sure to enjoy it and make the most out of it. But if these basics are all we have, I’m confident I can still perform well. 

  • Omnium Trainer (That way you don’t have to worry about where to do your warm up, or if you’ll even be able to ride wherever you are travelling. Pro Tip: You can travel with the Omnium Trainer as a carry-on luggage when flying!**(check with your TSA)
  • Ultralight Repair Stand: When travelling, it’s nice to have at least one repair stand to work on the bikes. Pro tip: This small, and light repair stand fits inside an EVOC bike bag. 
  • One pit bike, extra set of wheels, spare parts: I wouldn’t say it’s a must have, but it is nice to have a back-up plan in case you have a major mechanical problem. If you make the effort to travel to a race, I feel it’s important to give yourself all the chances to at least be able to finish the race with working equipment. Pro Tip: If you only have 1 or 2 sets of Tubular wheels and are hesitant on which tread to put on, my advice would be to glue a bigger tread (like a mud tire) – that way you are certain to be good to go no matter what the conditions are. Fun fact, one year, my teammates and I only had mud tires for the Cross Vegas World Cup….all 5 of us still finished in the top ten, even if it was the fastest & driest course ever. 
  • Tools: Figure out the few tools you absolutely need to make the typical adjustment and to build your bike and make sure you have at least those on hand… Allen and/or tork keys, pump, pressure gauge, rotor tool, etc. The Team Edition Tool Kit and a Range Torque Wrench have saved us a million times. 
  • Snacks: I always eat the same gel and BLOKS before the race. Having those, plus a bar that I know I digest well, gives me confidence that I can control my pre-race nutrition no matter what else is happening around me. 
  • Flight Carry-on: When flying to an event, I always make sure to have one pair of shoes, a helmet, and a complete riding outfit in my carry on. That way, if my bike doesn’t show up, it’s easier to only source/borrow a bike when you have the rest of your equipment.
  • Running Shoes: I always travel with my running shoes. That way, if my bike doesn’t show up upon landing, I know I can still go for a light jog to flush my legs.

Those are only simple basics that make me feel in control of my performance. My suggestion is to make a list of the very minimum you need to feel ready to race. Once you have that covered, you can feel confident to go to an event and race regardless of the setup.

Remember, adaptability is more than just a skill on the course, it’s a mindset to carry through our pursuit of being the best racers we can be. There is no such thing as an ideal setup or an obligatory pre-race plan…The ideal setup is the one you have 🙂 

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Maghalie and David’s race resumes speak for themselves – 2x Pan-Am CX Champion, 2x Canadian National CX Champion, World Cup CX winner, and countless UCI CX victories. Use their expertise to minimize excuses, step in to a winning mentality, and be like water!

Wishing Maghalie and David all the best for the remaining World Cups and World Championships of the 2019/20 season!