Rachel Lloyd at Elite Women 2014 USA Cyclocross Nationals. © Steve Anderson

Rachel Lloyd at Elite Women 2014 USA Cyclocross Nationals, now preparing for 2015. © Steve Anderson

Last year, we interviewed Rachel Lloyd right before the 2014 Nationals in Boulder, CO, where she spent her season approaching cyclocross for fun, and discovered that her fitness was still running at the elite-level as she soared in Northern California races.

While last season, her expectations were modest (she spent most of the early season participating in costumed races), this year she had a different approach:  “[I expected to] pick up right where I left off 5 years ago,” she told Cyclocross Magazine. “That is to say as one of the top US women in cyclocross.”

To go on and make this mark, she chose some of the highest-level races in the Unites States, including the KMC Cyclo-Cross Festival, where she landed on the podium in both days; CLIF Bar CrossVegas, where she took sixth, the triple-day weekend of the Cincy/Pan-Am Festival, where she took silver on the second day; and the Waves for Water CX Race, where she swept up with a double win on the weekend.

Despite nearly doubling the amount of races she competed in the year before, she was modest about her schedule. “I skipped out on more races than most of the other girls… I only had a few consecutive weekends of racing this season.  It actually helped me to be more relaxed and reminded me that I still have what it takes!”

She had far more preparation for this season than in 2013-14. Her secret? Training by finding climbs on her mountain bike throughout the season. ” I really believe that the low angle seated climbing transfers over very well to the power needed in ’cross races.”

Even the biggest races on the American stage were not enough for the California Giant rider. Her deep red and white skinsuit made more than just an appearance on the international scene at two World Cup events: Koksijde and Milton Keynes. “Last year my racing really just snowballed as the season went along,” she explained. “Each race I got stronger and raced better and doing that is what opened my eyes to the reality of being able to pick up where I left off five years ago.  I wasn’t planning on racing in Europe this year, I thought it would be too hard on my family (the kids and my husband). Ironically it was my husband who really pushed me to go to Europe.”

At Milton Keynes, in particular, she pounced forward in the early goings of the race, remaining close to the front off the starting grid and taking the course’s first off-camber with the technical prowess we all know her for. On the second off-camber, however, she was caught up in the early chaos.
As an athlete that puts heavy demands on her results, she told us that she was disappointed in her finish at Milton Keynes: “I really thought I had a shot at top 5 or even a podium. Koksijde was just a warm up race and I had no expectations for my results since it is such a unique venue. But I was shooting for 5th at Milton Keynes and got myself into position but had a very unfortunate tangle up in the pits with Lucy Chanel-LeFevre and dropped back to around 10th place and just couldn’t fight back. I ended up ninth.”
According to the newest selection criteria of the World’s Team, a top five finish for women at a World Cup is the goal for a fully-funded trip by USAC, but a top-ten finish places Lloyd ahead of most other American contenders for a on-ground funded trip, the second-best tier offered by the world’s selection committee.
We asked her if she noticed any big changes in the cyclocross culture of the crowd from the last time she raced abroad: “I didn’t notice any big changes in the European ’cross culture,” she answered, “but my view was pretty limited since I only raced two races.”
In effect, the world was just as she left it: a sport that sees her as one of the top American women in the sport of cyclocross.