A single second was the difference between runner-up honors and the overall title for Katie Hall at the 2017 Amgen Women’s Race.
Her podium finish — and a stage victory — in California were just a few of the impressive results from the best season of her career, but the near miss only made the 31-year-old UnitedHealthcare rider hungry for more heading into 2018.
“I feel like last year I really got all my ducks in a row for a part of the season but I have some high aspirations for this year. I would like to win. Losing California by one second really makes you want to win California!” Hall told VeloNews this week in a phone interview.
After taking a break to unwind this offseason with a vacation to Southeast Asia, Hall returned home to the United States and hit the gym. A talented climber with impressive results on American soil, Hall is hoping to round out her skillset by adding power for the pointy end of races.
“At the end of the year I was feeling like I could do great in really long efforts but when it gets really intense, it’s hard for me as a smaller person. So I’ve been working on some big squats, stuff like that, for higher-end power,” she said.
In addition to consistently strong runs in California over the years, Hall is a two-time runner-up and multiple stage winner at the Tour of Gila. She plans to target the springtime American stage races again in 2018. Beyond that, her season remains up in the air as the team continues to map out its racing calendar. Considering her climbing talents, Hall would love to have a chance to put her skills on display later this year in Europe.
“I’m really hoping that we’re going to race the Giro Rosa. We’re working on trying to get there right now. We always struggle to get invites with rider turnover. Usually the people that have the most points go to European teams next year,” she said. “And one of my big goals this season is to qualify for Worlds. The worlds course is super hilly. I want to be there and I want to be racing for the USA.
“I got to go to worlds for the first time last year and it was just a really amazing experience. Way cooler than I was even expecting it to be. I loved racing with the national camaraderie, everybody with their nations’ flags on the course.”
Hall’s UnitedHealthcare squad has indeed dealt with plenty of rider turnover in recent years. Coryn Rivera left for Sunweb after the 2016 season. This past offseason, Ruth Winder joined her there, while Tayler Wiles headed to Trek-Drops.
Hall remains confident in her squad’s strength for their main stage racing targets this season, particularly with “exceptional time trialist” Leah Thomas joining the fold. However, Hall wouldn’t mind the added security of having a bit more depth in case crashes or health problems take teammates out of the equation. That may or may not be in the cards.
“I’m under the impression that if somebody came along that needed a team and was a good fit, we might add another rider. But I’m not the boss!” Hall said.
Whatever the size of the team, Hall says she’s more than happy where she is. Her talents might afford her a shot to play a feature role on a European team, but UnitedHealthcare gives her ample opportunities to shine both at home and abroad.
“I’m 31 now, I’m married, it’s harder for me to just go to Europe for eight months,” she said. “That’s part of why this is such a good place for me, because I get to race in Europe some and I don’t have to live there all year long.”
Even at 31, Hall doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Indeed, for now, she still sees areas of her game where she can make progress in training. Considering how close she came to winning America’s biggest race last season, that bodes well for her future.
“I didn’t start racing pro until I was 27, and so it’s not just the power but also the skill and the experience that I’m still making pretty good gains in,” Hall said. “I still feel like every year I’m a little bit wiser of a bike racer. I do have to figure out where I can make gains in my power — that’s part of why I’m in the gym pretty hard this year in the offseason at least — but I think I’m still making improvements and becoming a more well-rounded cyclist.
“For sure there’s a plateau somewhere but I don’t feel like I’ve gotten there yet.”