Q&A: How Maghalie Rochette makes her cyclocross racing program work
Maghalie Rochette, Canada’s reigning cyclocross national champion, is already enjoying her best cyclocross season ever. Rochette, 26, won the World Cup opener in Iowa City in commanding fashion, dropping her rivals on the steep run-up at the race’s midpoint, and then riding solo in for the victory. She then finished fifth at the World Cup in Waterloo, Wisconsin, and she now sits in second place in the series overall.
The success marks a breakthrough for Rochette, who was a longtime member of the Luna/Clif pro team, but left the squad in 2018 to start her own racing program. We recently caught up with Rochette on The VeloNews Podcast to discuss how she makes a cyclocross-centric racing program work.
VN: What are the scenes that stick out in your mind from your World Cup win in Iowa?
Maghalie Rochette: There’s one particular moment. I think it was on lap three and I had been at the front for about 2.5 laps, and I was starting to suffer. For a second I though, ‘Uh oh, maybe I went too early.’ I could see that Katerina [Nash] and Clara Honsinger were catching up. It was a key moment, because part of me started panicking, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, they’re going to catch up. You know what, Mags, a podium is OK, you don’t have to win.’ When I said that, the other part of me started thinking of all the work that went into this. It was like, no, I want to win this. A podium would be good, but that’s not what you want. You want to win. I made a new plan in my mind. I was like, they’re catching up, so I’ll accept that and let them catch up and recover a little bit. When they do, I’ll hang onto them and see what happens next. That was the key moment that allowed me to win. I could have panicked, but instead I decided to accept it and be like, ‘Alright—I’ll recover now and go later.’ What happened next was I rode with them for a lap, and when we came to the run up again my original plan was to follow Clara up the climb, but I had a brain explosion and decided to attack again. It wasn’t a planned decision but I ran faster and got a gap and kept it until the end.
VN: You were a longtime member of the Clif/Luna team. Last year you learned that the squad was not going to bring you back, and you launched your own privateer program. What are the key differences, and what are some of the lessons you have learned about running your own program?
MR: I think I’m lucky because my partner, David [Gagnon] does it with me, and honestly, I couldn’t do it by myself. Taking care of the relationships, the scheduling, the budgets—I couldn’t do it by myself. It’s easy to get carried away in wanting to do so much because you care about the relationships you have with the partners, and you always want to do more. At the end of the day, I have to remind myself that the reason I’m able to do that is because of the racing. So, it’s important for me to focus on my training. That is what I have to do, the first thing, and it’s the main objective of my day. Training and recovering. Then, I can work on the fun projects we have. That is a big lesson, because I have forgotten to recover because I was doing other work things. Racing is the foundation of the relationships, and I have to keep that in mind.
The main difference, I would say, is it has allowed me to really have my own schedule. If I wake up sick one morning, and I can’t race, its easy to just fly home. I’m not dependent on a big production, so its easier to make quick decision like that. If I need to go for a spin in the morning it’s easy, because I’m deciding what time I want to get to the venue. That said, I do miss having teammates. I had great relationships on the team.
VN: When Clif told you the team was going in a different direction, did you see that as a setback?
MR: I would say that it couldn’t have been more timely. I was already thinking that I wanted to focus on cyclocross. I know women who do well racing all of the disciplines, but I was finding it hard to perform at my 100 percent while racing all season long. When it happened, it was a friendly exchange that I had with the team. They had supported my goals and supported what I wanted to do, so we had an agreement and they would allow me to leave the team if I wanted to. What’s pretty incredible is that Clif Bar kept supporting me throughout the whole year, even though we terminated the contract. So, I could keep pursuing my goals in cyclocross, and they kept supporting me in all ways you can imagine. I think that since we were both going in different directions, it was just good timing, and that meant I could do it in a very friendly way.
VN: How do you make your cyclocross-centric program work from a financial standpoint?
MR: Last year was the foundation, and it allowed us to know how much we needed for this year. Last year Clif Bar kept supporting me, and Specialized came on board quickly, but David and I knew that if we wanted to do it, we had to invest our own money. So, that’s what we did last year. That allowed us to know how much we needed for this year. We already started working on a budget at the end of season last year. I’m lucky. I have real partners and I can make it happen just doing cyclocross. The way I see it, that allows me to do other things for my sponsors in the summer. In the summer we did a gravel adventure film that we applied to the Banff Mountain Film Festival. We also did a cyclocross camp. You have to be creative with how you do it. After last year Specialized supported me, and Feedback Sports came on board as a co-title sponsor for this year, and other brands are in it to support me too. Probably none of that happens if you don’t have the results. It’s one thing to put together films and camps, but if you don’t have the international results to add to that package, maybe it doesn’t’ work out.