VeloNews Awards 2018: Katie Hall, North American cyclist of the year
No single professional road cyclist dominated his or her respective scene quite like Katie Hall did in U.S. stage racing in 2018. Hall won all of the country’s major stage races: Joe Martin Stage Race, Tour of the Gila, Redlands Bicycle Classic, Amgen Tour of California, and Colorado Classic.
Hall’s victories were due to both her legs and her head — she had to fight and scrap for each win. Her smallest margin of victory: 18 seconds. Her largest: 29 seconds. In many cases, Hall’s powerhouse UnitedHealthcare team defended her lead.
That’s why we named Katie Hall our North American Cyclist of the Year. No other rider — male or female — even came close.
All of that winning had a counterintuitive impact on Hall. The 31-year-old picked up cycling while pursuing a Ph.D. in molecular biology at UC Berkeley. She launched her professional career in 2013, and by 2016 had blossomed into the country’s best climber. In 2018 she appeared destined for multiple years of dominance on the sport’s toughest mountains.
Yet, when VeloNews caught up with Hall at the Tour of California, she was contemplating retirement.
Why retire after such an impressive show?
“I won all of the major stage races, and after you do something like that, it’s hard to just come back and race the same calendar again,” Hall said. “You can’t do any better, and it was going to be hard to repeat what I had just done. I wasn’t excited about doing another American year.”
Hall also balked at traveling abroad to race full-time in Europe. Spend much time in the women’s peloton and you will hear countless horror stories of the jump from the U.S. to Europe, where riders often endure bad pay, poor racing conditions, and difficult team directors. And Hall’s current living situation is idyllic by any standards. She and her husband live in the Bay Area at the foot of the Santa Cruz mountains.
So, when news broke in August that Hall had inked a contract with Dutch power team Boels-Dolmans for 2018, we were perplexed. What changed with Hall’s attitude?
“The opportunities like this don’t come around often, that’s what changed my mind,” Hall said. “It’s a new challenge with a new team. It’s gotten my head back in the game.”
A spot on Boels-Dolmans guarantees Hall entry into the world’s biggest races, something she lacked at UnitedHealthcare. In 2018, Hall’s team was not invited to the Giro Rosa, the world’s premier race for climbers. The snub was a huge setback for Hall. How would she have fared against Annemiek van Vleuten, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, and the world’s other top climbers?
“It was such a huge bummer to miss that race,” Hall said. “I raced it my first year as a pro and it kicked my butt, and I’ve had a lot of growth and experience since then.”
In the end, Hall’s competitive instincts persuaded her to take the opportunity with Boels-Dolmans. We’re glad. In 2018 we learned that Katie Hall can beat everyone in the United States. We can’t wait to see how she fares against the world.