2017 has been a very nice year for Canadian Cyclocross.
Maghalie Rochette kicked things off with a fifth-place finish at the 2017 World Championships in Bieles. Christel Ferrier-Bruneau kept the success going in the 2017/18 season with a podium at the Trek CX Cup in September. In October, Ruby West went on to sweep the Silver Goose weekend in Ontario, and then Ferrier-Bruneau and Michael van den Ham both landed on the podium at the Pan-American Championships in Louisville.
The star of the last month for the friendly folks from the North has been the youngest member of that group. West, who rides for the Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com Development team, won both days at the NBX Gran Prix of Cyclocross in Rhode Island to win the Vittoria Series overall title, and she then continued her success by winning both days in the snow and mud at last weekend’s North Carolina Grand Prix.
A June 2017 high school graduate, West has already accomplished a lot for an 18-year old. This fall, while many of her friends have headed off to college, West has been taking a gap year to travel across the U.S and Canada to race cyclocross. Her only Final Exams this year will be the Women’s U23 race at the World Championships in Valkenburg.
While West prepares for the toughest cyclocross exam of them all, she will have some great study buddies.
When I talked to Rochette back in August, she cited the important role the mentorship of Katerina Nash and other members of the Clif Pro Team has played in her development as a cyclist. Rochette has been able to pay it forward by mentoring West. In fact, West’s Worlds studies will include a review session with Rochette and her fiance Dave at the couple’s Tucson, Arizona winter home.
As a member of the Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com team, West has also been able to learn from two of the most consistent riders in the world in Kaitie Keough and Emma White.
It’s been said that “it takes a village.” In the case of the young Canadian star, she has found a pretty solid place to live. In this interview, I asked West about her mentors, winning the Vittoria Series and how strong her Canadianness is.
Does the Canadian say “eh” a lot? You betcha.
Interview with Canadian U23 National Champion Ruby West
Cyclocross Magazine: For our readers just learning about you, what’s your background? Where are you from, are you in school, are you as nice as all the other Canadians?
Ruby West: I’m from Dundas, Ontario, where I’ve lived my whole life. This year I’m taking a gap year from school. Having just finished up high school in June I wasn’t in too much of a rush to get back to school, so I thought the gap year would be a good breather to focus on cycling, and it would allow me to travel more. I’ll be starting university in September 2018 at Bishops University over in Sherbrooke, Quebec.
I’m not sure I’m as nice as the other Canadians *laughs*, but I’m constantly reminded by my American friends how oddly I say words like “bag” and “out” and how often I use the word “eh.”
CXM: Canada seems to be coming into its own as a cyclocross country. How did you get into the sport? Do you do any road or mountain bike racing? BMX?
RW: Totally. Canada has really ramped up its cyclocross scene since I started racing ’cross four years ago. I got into it having heard of it through my friend Emma White, who I met through racing on the road. Up until this point, I’ve been a roadie also doing ’cross in the fall, with a bit of track in there on the side. This year I’m hoping to do some more mountain biking as well as road during the cyclocross offseason.
CXM: What does it mean to you to win the Vittoria series? There is a lot of history there and a ton of great riders in the fields.
RW: I was thrilled to win the Vittoria series. I don’t think I fully appreciated how cool it would be to be in that jersey until I got it at NBX on Saturday for the U23 category. Getting to race in it on Sunday gave me some extra motivation to try and win the Elite series, which up until that weekend I didn’t even think of as being possible.
There are always so many strong riders at the Vittoria series races and having missed Gloucester to get ready for Canadian Nationals, I didn’t think I would have enough points to be in contention, but with a few of the leading riders being away during Supercross and NBX, I was able to move up the standings.
CXM: What about winning Canadian Nationals? How does it feel to wear the Maple Leaf jersey?
RW: Winning the U23 title at Nationals was for sure a highlight of the year! I was really motivated for that race this year, so I was really excited when I pulled it off. I was so grateful that Castelli made me a custom Canadian Champ skinsuit to race in; it is by far the coolest kit I’ve ever had! It totally gives me some extra motivation when I get to race in it — unfortunately there aren’t too many opportunities to do as the U23 champ — but it’s a really special feeling.
CXM: Is there a race this year that was a breakout moment for you? Any that stick out in your mind?
RW: I think Northampton Day 2 was a bit of a breakthrough ride for me. I was second to Emma that day and we were together for the whole race until late into the last lap. Riding with her gave me a huge boost of confidence, realizing that on a good day I could keep up with one of the best riders in America. That was a cool feeling.
I also think think the NBX weekend was a mental breakthrough for me. I’d had some really awesome races earlier in the season, but that weekend I think was an accumulation of what I’ve learned this season, especially from what I learned at NoHo about my strengths and about how to race. It all seemed to come together and to be able to do that two days in a row really reinforced that I’m on track to where I want to be.
CXM: How have you benefitted from being teammates with Kaitie and Emma?
RW: I can’t say enough about being able to learn from Kaitie and Emma, it’s truly invaluable! Anything and everything from getting to pre-ride with them, hearing what pressure they are riding and just getting to hang out and de-stress with them before the races is all so amazing.
We’ve got such a supportive team with everyone at Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com, with the staff and pro team riders, the mentorship we get on the development team is incredible. It’s such a positive and fun environment to be around and it’s for sure making a difference in how I’m able to race.
CXM: You’re pretty tight with Maghalie Rochette as well, right? How has she helped you as a young cyclist?
RW: Yeah, Magh and I are great friends. Ever since her fiancé Dave started coaching me last year, we’ve gotten to know each other really well. I’ve always looked up to her as a role model in Canadian cycling and especially as one of the few Canadian women doing cyclocross internationally, but once Dave started coaching me, I had more interactions with her and got to know her better.
She’s such a cool woman, as well as a badass role model and all-around awesome person. I learn so much from riding with her and all the tips she gives me on and off the bike. It’s a really special thing to me. She’s got a lot of experience that she shares with me, so I can learn the lessons she has through her time in the sport.
CXM: What are your plans and goals for the rest of the season? Have things changed at all thanks to all the success you’ve had?
RW: My plans for the rest of the season are lots of training before Worlds. I’ll head down to Tucson to stay with Dave and Magh and do a big training block before heading to Europe at the end of January for the World Championships.
I would say the only thing that has changed with the recent results is my UCI ranking, other than that things are the exact same. It’s given me confidence for sure, but I know I still have a lot of work to do before heading over to Europe and I’m excited to prepare with Maghalie to be as ready as possible.
CXM: Any advice for other young cyclists who are looking to have the level of success you have?
RW: Enjoy it! Take opportunities that come your way, you never know what may come of something. I’ve had so much traveling around with my friends because of cycling, I’ve seen so many cool places and met so many cool people I otherwise wouldn’t have.
And most of all keep it fun, it’s way too hard of a sport to do if you don’t genuinely enjoy it, make it fun, find what you love about it and always remember that.
CXM: Anyone you want to thank?
RW: So many people! My parents, first and foremost, they are for sure my biggest supporters and always have been and are the reason I am where I am today. Also my coach David Gagnon, for all his guidance and support through the ups and downs of the last season.
And of course everyone over at Cannondale p/b cyclocrossworld.com. The staff, Stu Thorne and Chandler Delinks, for running such an amazing program; our all-star mechanic; Michael Berry, along with the pro team mechanics that help out Mike when he’s working on countless different bikes at once; and our rider mentors Matt Timmerman and Tim Johnson, who are always up for pre-ride and to offer their expertise and to all the other riders on the pro and development team that make it feel more like a family than a team. Also our sponsors, who generously support the team, that really make it all possible. Everyone is integral to the success of each and every rider, it’s seriously the best team I could ask for.