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RENO, Nevada (VN) — It was a classic master-versus-pupil battle under the lights on a grassy park in Reno on Wednesday. Maghalie Rochette, 25, was up against Katerina Nash, 40, a rider who has been her mentor for years. With a gritty solo effort off the front, the young Canadian took the biggest cyclocross win of her career in Reno Cross.
Now, with Rochette entirely focused on cyclocross, Nash says we can expect big things from her former Clif Bar teammate.
“I see her as a pretty complete package, as she’s been maturing she’s been able to manage the over-excitement, something that some riders struggle with,” Nash told VeloNews. “I’ve definitely watched her grow up. She definitely has the engine. She’s a great bike-handler for sure.”
Up until 2018, Rochette split her time between mountain biking and cyclocross. Although she raced mountain bikes in the first half of this summer (winning a few Canada Cups in fact), her focus this year was squarely on cyclocross.
It has paid off. Rochette is off to a flying start, winning both days at Rochester as well as Reno Cross.
Given that early season form, she seems poised for a big result at the World Cup opener Sunday in Waterloo, Wisconsin, or the following weekend’s round in Iowa City. However, the young Canadian is keeping her feet on the ground.
“I’m trying to not have too many expectations actually,” she said about the World Cup opener. “I’m trying to have some clean races and just do my best, and that’s all I can hope for I guess.”
Last year, she was 23rd at Jingle Cross in Iowa City and 20th at the second World Cup round in Wisconsin at the Trek CXC Cup.
Nash, on the other hand, thinks Rochette could stun the Europeans this season.
“I think she has potential to get on the podium in a World Cup for sure,” Nash says. She even sees Rochette potentially making the podium in Europe later this season.
“Yeah, why not? Little Kaitie’s [Keough] done it [finished on the podium in a European World Cup]. And I think Maghalie, on a good day, she’s able to ride with Kaitie,” Nash adds.
And Nash would know better than most. The Czech Olympian has won multiple ‘cross World Cups. She’s also medaled twice at world cyclocross champions. And she’s helped Rochette develop for years. They would pre-ride ‘cross courses together. Nash would provide advice on line choice and race strategy.
“Katerina is one of my best friends, she’s my mentor,” said Rochette. “I respect her a lot and every time I get a chance to race against her it’s a real honor for me.”
Although Nash is sad to see Rochette leave the Clif Team, it is a prime opportunity for her young charge.
“She’s been knocking on that door,” says Nash. “There’s so many elements that have to play a role, but she’s got the support, she’s got the equipment, and she’s got the ‘fever’ and that’s what matters most.”
That is a winking reference to Rochette’s new solo outfit, CX Fever-Specialized.
The ‘fever’ is both the excitement of pre-race energy as well as Rochette’s dedication to the sport. In 2017 Rochette introduced the CX Fever initiative to support a young, female cyclocross rider with a $1,500 grant. In 2017, Rochette awarded the grant to Hannah Bauer of North Carolina. Bauer joined her and the Clif team at Louisville for Continental Championships.
Along with line selection, strategy, and race prep, it seems the Nash has passed down another lesson to her pupil: The value of paying it forward.
“She’s just got the whole package, so let’s see where she takes it,” Nash adds before stepping away to sing “happy birthday” to her teammate Haley Batten, 20, yet another young up-and-comer.