Now in his second season as an Elite cyclocrosser, Curtis White (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld) enters Sunday’s Elite Men’s race as one of the favorites to take home the Stars-and-Stripes jersey.
White has had one of the most successful domestic campaigns of 2018. At the top of his accomplishments is a sprint victory at Pan-Ams in a slugfest of North America’s best riders. He also won the first six races of the Vittoria Northeast Cyclocross Series and won the series overall for the third straight year.
One way White has shined this season is when conditions call for top-level bike handling. He took wins both days at Supercross in the mud, ice and snow, and he used his technical ability to match Michael van den Ham in the last lap at Pan-Ams.
“I’ve put a lot of work into becoming a more well-rounded rider,” White said. “My technical skills have definitely improved, I’ve been giving that area a lot of attention this year. There are still some refinements to be made, but I’m happy with my progress.”
Looking forward to Nationals, there is some uncertainty about the Elite Men’s race because of the many injuries suffered by riders this season. White’s teammate Stephen Hyde (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld) returned and won both days at the NBX Gran Prix, showing that the two-time national champion will not go down without a fight.
White missed Pan-Ams at Joe Creason Park in 2017 due to illness, but he said based on what he knows about the venue, he will be ready on Sunday.
“It’s a course that requires a lot of power and composure. A lot of the technical training I’ve done has been with sections of this course in mind,” White said. “I’ve said it before, but I’m focused on bringing my best to the start line and racing the course to my full capacity. The result will follow.”
We talked to White about much more in the interview below.
Interview: Curtis White on 2018 Season, Louisville Nationals
CXM: Congrats on winning the Vittoria Series. Why is that series so important to you as a racer?
CW: Thank you. Of course, with Vittoria being the new tire sponsor of Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld, it was nice to represent them in the series they support.
On top of that, the series has a very long history in the northeast. One of the first ’cross races I ever raced, back in 2005, was part of the series. Not only is there a lot of history, but it’s provided a great foundation and structure for developing riders. The races are run professionally and tied together really well.
In addition, there’s been a lot of talk within the cycling community about wanting a national series, which I totally support. But I think it’s important to support a regional series like the Vittoria Series first.
CXM: Was sweeping the Series a goal for you this year? Did it become a goal after you rolled early on?
CW: Winning is always the goal, but I was far more focused on bringing my best to the start line every time and following the process. I had confidence that the results would take care of themselves. I didn’t want to lose in Warwick, but it was a good reality check leading into Nationals. I can’t lose sight of or neglect the process, it doesn’t matter how far I’ve come.
CXM: You showed a lot of skill winning in the mud this season, especially in the Vittoria Series. Is that something you’ve worked on specifically?
CW: I’ve put a lot of work into becoming a more well-rounded rider. My technical skills have definitely improved, I’ve been giving that area a lot of attention this year. There are still some refinements to be made, but I’m happy with my progress.
CXM: After Pan-Ams, some of us in the media admitted we kind of overlooked you before the race. Do you feel we are guilty of that?
CW: To be honest, being overlooked by the media was a good motivator. Pan-Ams was a goal of mine coming into the season, and I believed all the way that I could do it. Over the past couple of seasons, I struggled with being consistent and racing to the level I thought I should be at. This year, I was working harder, smarter, and had more confidence. I was motivated to prove people wrong, and to prove to myself I’m right where I belong.
CXM: Last year you had Frankie McCormack as a coach and were showing off your old-school step through at Cincy. You still working with Frankie? What has changed with your training now that you’ve graduated from college?
CW: Frank coached me through the 2015-2016 seasons. I loved working with him. He taught me how to be more involved in my training, how to train my weaknesses, and imparted a powerful work ethic and mental toughness. A lot of that old-school technique and form is ingrained in my style now. Working with Frank made me a better racer, but there was a piece of the program that was missing.
Last season, I started working with Al Donahue. He was able to provide a better scientific understanding of the process. There are a few workouts from Frank I still use, and I think they are incredibly beneficial.
CXM: We got to see you, Hyde and Werner at full strength on the same course over the weekend at NBX. What did you take away from the races?
CW: It was great to have the three of us race together and get a good feel for where each other is at. Warwick is a unique course, with lots of sand, roots and short, punchy sections. Louisville will be a very different course, and I think it favors me more than Warwick did.
CXM: How are you preparing for Nationals? Training in New York?
CW: I flew out to Tulsa early last week to get some training on clear roads. I raced the Ruts n’ Guts weekend and now I’m set to head to Louisville.
CXM: The last two big races—2018 Nats, Pan-Ams—have seen big groups, but Hyde won in a rout at Louisville last year in a race you missed. What are you expecting from Nats this year?
CW: The course in Louisville is one of the most difficult tracks we race all season. It strikes me as one of those races where you have to race the track before you can race your competitors. I don’t know what to expect with how the race will play out. I’m just focussed on bringing my best to the start line, ready to handle the course well and fight with all I have.
CXM: Based on what you know about the course, do you think it favors a specific rider?
CW: I think it favors me! It’s a course that requires a lot of power and composure. A lot of the technical training I’ve done has been with sections of this course in mind. I’ve said it before, but I’m focused on bringing my best to the start line and racing the course to my full capacity. The result will follow.
CXM: Given your tough luck in Hartford and Reno, are there words to describe how badly you want to win your first ’cross Nats this year?
CW: I’m treating Nationals like any other race. Of course I want to win, but I want to win every race I start. I’ve learned how to come into every race focused and prepared, knowing I’ve done everything I can to bring my best to the start. I’m applying that same standard to next weekend.
CXM: Will your sister Emma make the trip as a fan? Will it be weird to not share the racing experience with her this year?
CW: She will not, unfortunately. She will be racing the track World Cup in London next week. The rest of my family will make the trip down though.
CXM: Thanks for your time. Looking forward to the race on Sunday.
CW: Thank you.