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Rapha Maghalie Rochette cycling interview 2020 - Women's MTB & Cyclocross

Meet Maghalie Rochette

Three-times Canadian Cyclocross Champion. Three-times Pan American Cyclocross Champion. Cyclocross World Cup winner. It’s an enviable palmarès for any aspiring racer, but for 27-year-old Maghalie Rochette, this is just the beginning.

12 September 2020

As she prepares to enter her second cyclocross season as a privateer, and her first wearing Rapha, we spoke to Maghalie about her career so far. From a girlhood love of mud and explorations in multiple sports, to the joys and struggles of finding acceptance in a discipline traditionally dominated by riders (and races) on a different continent, Maghalie’s is a story of perseverance and persistence.

Here, we uncover what motivates this young rider ahead of a new year of racing – her goals, her aspirations, and how she’s paving the way for the next generation of Canadian athletes.

Can you tell us about your introduction to cycling?

When I was a kid I was really into boyish sports. I loved to skateboard, and always played football and hockey. Then, when I was about seven years old, I noticed that when my dad came home from mountain biking he was all muddy and had this huge smile on his face. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, where is he going? It looks so fun!’ I had to find out. He took me with him and I fell in love. I loved that it made me feel different, but I also loved that it took me places I’d never really explored before, like the woods and the mountains.

Challenging myself to ride down steep hills was also a way for me to push a limit, even at an early age, and it’s how I got hooked on cycling. And mud. I had one girlfriend that I rode with, and whenever we came back muddy we’d be so proud. Like, ‘Yes! We’re so muddy – now we’re real MTBers.’

And how did you discover cyclocross?

I rode and raced MTB until I was about 12, when I switched sports and put more attention into triathlon and skiing. At 19, I got injured at a triathlon event, and stumbled upon cyclocross. A friend of mine invited me along to watch a race and I thought it was awesome.

In 2012, you signed up with Clif Pro Team. How did that experience help to shape your early career?

Kateřina Nash is a big hero of mine, and was my teammate for my whole five years at Clif Pro Team. At that time, Kateřina was competing in cross-country MTB at the summer Olympics, and had already skied at the winter Olympics. She’s so hard working, and that's inspiring. But she was also super open and transparent, and shared a lot. I really appreciated it because it helped me to grow so much.

We still have a really good relationship. She's also a big competitor of mine, so we push each other – but then after the race we’ll say things like, ‘You would have had me if you’d taken that corner differently,’ which is the best kind of feedback you can get. She’s definitely one of my biggest mentors.

Last year you won your first Word Cup race in Iowa City. Was that a turning point for you?

In 2017, I finished fifth in the Cyclocross World Championships, and that was the first time I remember thinking, ‘Hey – maybe I can do something with this sport.’ It opened my mind to what was possible. But with last year’s win, even though it was a similar feeling, it felt a little different – like I’d overcome many years of struggle and hard work.

The goal now is to try to win a race in Europe. Some US riders have done it, but in Canada, the sport is still very niche.

How have you found competing in Europe?

When you first get on the European circuit, you’re not the most welcome. But if you’re persistent and show up, then you earn people's respect. We’re all miserable after a race – cold, wet, muddy, freezing. We’re pushing each other to the limit in these challenging environments, so you develop a level of admiration for the other racers. And it’s reciprocal.

The most difficult part is not having a set up there, or having all that you need. It's been a month of work already and we still can't find a house or an RV because of the current climate.

But just the other day I was speaking to Sophie de Boer about accommodation. Apparently she'd heard I was on the lookout for an RV, so promised to keep an eye out. I guess it goes to show that acceptance pays off. It’s always good to be patient and keep showing up.

What made you choose to race as a privateer?

Clif was moving away from the world circuit to focus on the North American calendar, whereas my sights are set on the World Cup. I’m also someone who has a lot of different interests. If I have an idea or want to try something different, I have the freedom to do it – that’s really stimulating for me. I can also pick my own calendar.

You’ve paved the way for participation in a sport that’s often considered to be dominated by Europeans – and now you’re helping others to follow your wheel.

In Canada, cyclocross is not a big sport. It’s not in the Olympics, so there’s no financial help from the government. For many young athletes, this means they struggle to see it as something to make a career from – which in turn means there’s no clear path like there is in MTB or road.

I wanted to use my position to help young riders, which is where CX Fever Fund started. At first we sold tees and socks to raise money for Cyclocross Canada, but it’s grown a lot – and so far we’ve given more than $10,000 to help young Canadian athletes travel to Europe and gain valuable experience racing there. We also share a lot of our equipment.

We really want to help the next generation accomplish their goals, and because Cyclocross Canada is 100% volunteer-led, it feels like the perfect way to help.

Maghalie's Rapha Custom kit will be available from spring 2021.

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