Latvia’s Katrina Jaunslaviete took a narrow victory over American Kathryn Cumming (Cyclocross Magazine Racing) on Sunday to earn the first UCI cyclocross points of the 2015/2016 season.

Katrina Jaunslaviete, 2015 Qiansen Trophy C1 UCI Race. © Ricoh Riott

Katrina Jaunslaviete, 2015 Qiansen Trophy C1 UCI Race. © Ricoh Riott

Outside observers might chalk up her victory to a smart points-hunting strategy, taking advantage of a subsidized trip to a faraway land with a smaller field to climb up the UCI cyclocross rankings.

However, such a narrative couldn’t be further from the truth.

Perhaps Jaunslaviete was influenced by our interview with Carl Decker in China last year, when the experienced cyclocrosser recalled his misadventures with missing luggage and bikes that forced him to race wearing a t-shirt on a borrowed bike to finish fifth.

Borrowed bike and a t-shirt for a fifth-place finish? Maybe the barrier to race cyclocross in China isn’t so high.

So Jaunslaviete took the leap and got on a plane to China to have a go at the Qiansen Trophy Race. And while she hoped her own luggage would be waiting for her on arrival, unlike Decker’s in 2014, she didn’t take the risk of losing her bike during the long trip.

The Lativian got on the plane without a bike.

Jaunslaviete traveled without a bike not out of a fear of it getting lost, but because she doesn’t even own a cyclocross bike.

Jaunslaviete is a mountain biker, and flew to China to race the 2015 Qiansen Trophy Cyclocross UCI C1 races having never pedaled a cyclocross bike or raced a cyclocross race before.

“Do you want to know? It was [my] first cyclocross competition!”

-Katrina Jaunslaviete to Cyclocross Magazine after winning the season’s first UCI C1 race

Not only was it her first race, but she raced it on a bike that she had never seen or ridden before landing in China. Jaunslaviete coordinated with the race promoter to borrow a bike for the event.

“What kind of bike?…I ordered this frame from China…It’s not my bike, it’s a borrowed bike.”

Riding a borrowed bike in her first cyclocross race, you can be sure Jaunslaviete had modest expectations racing against some seasoned UCI and World Cup competitors, but she didn’t feel any pressure, and didn’t race with any.

“I didn’t know that I was riding for first place.”

Jaunslaviete was battling with Cumming, but she didn’t realize they were in the lead and racing for the first points of the season.

For her first cyclocross race of her career, it really couldn’t have gone any better. See Jaunslaviete recall the race in Andrew Reimann’s interview below.

Cyclocross is just starting in Latvia, according to Jaunslaviete, but if her talent and success is any indication, the country may soon have a bigger presence on the international scene.

Stay tuned for more racer interviews and a report from Wednesday’s upcoming Day 2 of the Qiansen Trophy C1 Race in China.