A month ago, Katie Clouse (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld) did not know if she would be able to race this Sunday’s U23 Women’s World Championships in Switzerland. Clouse suffered a dislocated shoulder on the treacherous track at World Cup Namur and had to shut down the remainder of her Kerstperiode racing plans.
It turns out that some time and a nice block of training in Spain did wonders for the young star, and she returned to race at World Cups Nommay and Hoogerheide, where she finished in the top 20 against the Elite fields both races.
With a 7th-place finish at Bogense Worlds as a Junior in hand, Clouse heads to the start line in Dübendorf as a rider with very real podium potential. We caught up with the 31-time U.S. national champion during her week in Switzerland.
Interview: Katie Clouse, U23 Women’s Worlds
Cyclocross Magazine: Awesome to see you back racing after your injury. How did you bounce back from that setback?
Katie Clouse: Thanks! It was definitely a bummer getting injured, especially, right at the beginning of the Christmas block. The days went by pretty slow kind of sitting back and having to just watch the races. It’s always hard when you want to be out racing but you know taking time off to heal is more important. I decided to end my Christmas block and not race any of them even if I started to feel better and just focus on training.
My shoulder was starting to feel a lot better as we got to Spain, and I got some really good quality training in and it worked out because I was super fresh from not racing. I really just had to focus on the future and think about the World Championships. I didn’t want to go out and race not feeling 100% and do something silly and hurt it again. It’s feeling super good right now and knowing I can race full gas is an amazing feeling!
CXM: You’ve been racing well in the Elite races in Europe. What have the keys to your success been?
KC: The last two World Cups I definitely surprised myself a bit. I came into Nommay after a huge block of training and not much racing at all. I wasn’t expecting much, just to race again and try to get some intensity back in my legs for the next two weeks. Nommay and Hoogerhiede ended up going super well, and I was really happy with both of my results.
I think the key to doing well in these kinds of racing is understanding that the race is really within myself to keep pushing. It’s a lot different than racing in the U.S. for top 5s then coming over here trying to fight for top 30s. It’s important for me to know that this is all about progression and getting a comfortable and healthy mindset before the races. Knowing that I went as hard as I could and I got the best possible training and experience out of that is what I am mostly focusing on before and after my race.
CXM: Last year, you had a killer result in the U23 race as a Junior. How does that affect your mindset going into the weekend?
KC: I went into last year’s Worlds not really expecting anything and came out with one of my best results on a bike. I try not to think about the placing but more of how I raced and how I could do better this year.
Last year was a bit of a shock during the race being up at the front. I made some mistakes and I’m ready to capitalize on that result. I’ve made a lot of progress from last year to this year, but so have the rest of the top girls in our field. I will try and keep the same mindset as I do every race. My goal is to keep my mind in a happy but focused place throughout the weekend.
CXM: Do you feel any extra pressure knowing you’ve ridden well in this race before?
KC: I do have nerves going into this weekend. I’m not really sure if it’s because of my results from last year or that its just World Championships. There will always be the pressure that I put on myself for good results but I am In a really good place right now surrounded by really supportive people which makes it a lot easier to stay calm.
CXM: What were your thoughts when you heard Ceylin Alvarado is racing Elites and not the U23 race?
KC: I think it’s great to see U23 women able to really challenge the Elite women. It really does show how strong and talented these young women are coming up through the sport.
Obviously, I think everyone is our field kind of had a sigh of relief, but I think it’s great that [Alvarado] is challenging the Elite women for the Worlds title. Not that girls didn’t think this before, but Ceylin was so dominant this year in the World Cups, it definitely seemed like she had Worlds in her hand already. I think her racing Elite will definitely change our race a lot with the top girls knowing that they now really have a shot at winning the World Championships.
CXM: You always seem to bring your A-game to championship races. What steps do you take to make sure you are dialed for the biggest races?
KC: I try to look at every race as my biggest race. My biggest races always have the same pre-race routine as any other weekend. I won’t change anything especially if it’s working. Staying calm is something that I’ve struggled with in the past before big races. I try not to think of them like that anymore, and just have the same routine as always. Show up to the start line as calm as I can be. I really have some great support behind me that’s been helping me this year with that.
CXM: I’m guessing you’ve looked at how you compare to other U23s in the Elite races. Have your results affected your goals and expectations for Sunday’s race?
KC: My expectations haven’t really changed much. My goals from the start of the season are still the same as they are now. The results haven’t changed. If I was having poor race days, those wouldn’t change my goals either.
I am always looking to improve every single weekend no matter the results. If I have a bad day one weekend that doesn’t mean I can’t come back from it the next. My mind is in a good place leading into this weekend’s race and I know that it will be one of the more challenging days mentally and physically, and I just have to be prepared for that.
CXM: What do you think of the course? What kind of racing are you expecting?
KC: The course is super bumpy as of right now and has a ton of elevation gain through five major flyovers. There’s also a lot of steep pitches like last year in Denmark.
It looks like nonstop rain for the next couple days which I’m hoping will make it super muddy. There will probably be a lot of running and tractor pull kind of mud. Stuff you really have to lay the power down on. Depending on how the course changes throughout pre-ride and rain I’m not sure whether it will be pack racing like last year or more split up.
CXM: Thanks so much for your time. Looking forward to seeing you race on Sunday.
KC: Thank you as well. I’m excited.