With a Maple Leaf On Her Back, Her Eyes Are Set On Europe

Maghalie Rochette with mud on her after race

Photo: TENSPEED HERO

One week after confirming her form at the Pan-American Cyclocross Championship, held on the relative home turf of Midland, Ontario, Maghalie Rochette pulled the Canadian championship jersey onto her torso. Less than 100 miles away from the previous weekend’s victory, in Peterborough, Ontario, racing in cold and windy conditions, the Quebecois racer dominated the National Championships, and in so doing, reclaimed the jersey she had won first in 2016. “The conditions were changing all weekend,” Maghalie recounted. “It snowed on the day before the race. Then the morning of the race, it was really cold so everything froze… You really had to be adaptable. Personally, I loved the conditions.”

When asked how it felt to win the national title again, she enthusiastically responded “It felt great! Especially since I’ll be racing a lot in Europe this year. I’m very happy that I’ll be able to represent Canada at those big events.” Wearing the national colors is a perfect morale boost for the grueling schedule that Maghalie faces over the next three months – 15 to 20 races in Europe, the remaining World Cup series and a selection of UCI events culminating with the World Championships in Denmark. Yes, Denmark. In February.

Maghalie Rochette with medal after winning racePhoto: Rob Jones / CanadianCyclist.com

Cyclocross is a difficult sport to explain. It’s a winter discipline, a brutal portmanteau consisting in equal parts of crit racing, short track mountain bike racing, and cross-country running, seasoned with the ethos of bare knuckle brawling. Races are between 45 minutes and an hour in length, contested over a series of laps that contain pavement, “natural terrain”, run-ups and obstacles that force dismounts. Conditions can range from the stifling Indian Summer heat found in the Southwestern US to the biting cold and packed ice of Tabor, Czech Republic. There can be courses fought in power sucking sand, like Kosijde, Belgium, and courses where greasy off-camber mud, bunny hopping skills and sharp elbows will determine the podium.

Maghalie Rochette holding bike after racePhoto: Rob Jones / CanadianCyclist.com

Odd as it may seem to the outsider, cyclocross sets hooks in its followers, racers and fans alike. There are retired master’s racers with four decades or more of racing in their legs, who only come out for their hour of Sunday suffering when the weather cools and ‘cross season begins. There are road racers and mountain bikers alike who chase podiums during the summer, but who get a gleam in their eyes when speaking of bell laps in December. There are tens of thousands of rabid fans in Belgium and Holland, who travel by the busload to the World Cups, wear the jerseys of their hometown heroes, don wigs and blow horns, packing the beer halls at the racecourse with noise and rowdy good humor every frozen and sleeting weekend from October through January. It is a crucible of a sport that boils every second down to a necessary perfection of technique, economy of motion, while also demanding absolute maximum effort for the whole race. There is no hiding in the pack, no hiding anywhere.

Maghalie Rochette holding up one finger after racePhoto: TENSPEED HERO

Now, at only 25 years of age, Maghalie Rochette has already had a full career as a professional racer. A cyclist since early childhood, a mountain biker ever since she followed her father into the woods, she found herself racing mountain bikes and triathlons by the time she was 8. Her teen years were filled with racing these disciplines, until a running injury turned her focus away from triathlon and she immersed herself even deeper in cycling…

“That season when I stopped racing triathlon, a friend invited me to a cyclocross race. I didn’t own a bike, so I went to buy the cheapest one I could find at the bike shop, and my boyfriend and I tried our first race. We loved it right away. After that, I wanted to do more. We did a few local races and one trip to a US race. The year after, we raced a little bit more. I participated in my first USGP of cyclocross in Louisville, and got my first UCI podium at a race in Downeast, Maine. I was about 18 then.”

Maghalie Rochette riding on trail down a dirt hillPhoto: TENSPEED HERO

At that time, her newfound love of cyclocross rekindled her old love of mountain bike racing, and the following year (2014) Maghalie found herself racing mountain bikes internationally as a member of the Luna Pro team. Cyclocross, however, was where her real desires lay. In 2014 She became the Pan-American u-23 champion, then in 2016 she won the Canadian national championships. The following year, battling the frozen slush of a punchy, technical course in Bieles, Luxembourg, Maghalie served definitive notice that she could run with the best by scoring a solid and hard fought 5th place at the World Championships.

Maghalie Rochette with two fingers in the air on bike after racePhoto: Rob Jones / CanadianCyclist.com

This season, Maghalie is focusing all her attention on ‘cross. This is her season; whatever happens next summer will be secondary to winter, and the specific demands of cyclocross. Her training blocks, her bike prep, her downtime, her dedication – everything is about to be condensed into a Belgian pressure cooker. “David - my partner, mechanic, and coach - and I will be there for three months” Maghalie says. “We will be based in Belgium. We rented a van that has everything you need for a bike race inside; bike racks, pressure washer, water tank, washing machine, et cetera. Specialized organized tents for us in Belgium. David is a mechanic, so he will take care of that and on muddy days we will hire someone to help him in the pits.”

Orange and yellow Specialized bike with Roval wheelsPhoto: TENSPEED HERO

“Mostly, I want to gain experience on the European racing scene. The courses are different, people are more aggressive. I have to learn all that and become more familiar with it. But I also have some big goals… I don’t want to go there and just be passive and observe. I want to take it all in, take chances and make the best out of each opportunity I’ll have to race.” 

Maghalie represents values that we here at Roval care deeply about. She is passionate about cycling, fervently so about cyclocross, and she is investing herself in not only performing at the highest level but also spreading the gospel as she goes. We are proud to support her, and stand behind her from the pits to the podium. To get some more insight into her take on the world, and what life is like on the road for a pro ‘cross racer, head over to www.maghalierochette.com, find out what she means when she says she has CXFever, and maybe catch a dose of CXFever for yourself!

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