French racer Julie Krasniak up a run-up. Bart Hazen

French racer Julie Krasniak up a run-up. © Bart Hazen

Cyclocross Magazine’s Bart Hazen caught up with Julie Krasniak, the 23-year-old racer for the Rapha-Focus Cyclocross Team.

by Bart Hazen

Cyclocross Magazine: Can you introduce yourself (to the people who might not know you)?

Julie Krasniak: I have been a cyclist for the last 7 years — on the road, MTB, Time Trial and now cyclocross. I just completed my first real cyclocross season with the Rapha Focus Cyclocross Team. I’m also a twelve time national champion on MTB, road and time trial, in junior and under 23.

CXM: How did you get involved with cycling?

JK: My family is a real cycling family. My dad (he won 200+ races in his career), my brother (currently Cat 1 in Rennes, France), my uncle Franck (he raced in the same club as my dad), my grandfather Claude and my great-grandfather also compete or competed in races. 

As a young child, I hated cycling for a long time because my father was always away for races and was not often at home. When I was 11 years old, I started to like it while riding and training with my grandfather during the summer holidays.

Krasniak on course. © Bart Hazen

Krasniak on course. © Bart Hazen

CXM: How do you look back at the cyclocross season?

JK: It was hard, really had. Even harder than I expected. There are a few reasons for this, I think. 
First of all, I had a nine month break without my bike and sports in general (my last race was in September 2010, the World Championships MTB in Mont Saint Anne, Quebec) to finish my master degree in Laws at the University of Nancy. So when I restarted with cycling on the road in June 2011, it was only pain for months. I did quite OK as I got selected for the French National team for the World Road Championships in Copenhagen. 

After the road season, I immediately started with cyclocross. My fitness level was OK but it wasn’t enough to have that bit of extra. I needed to take my time to switch over from road to cyclocross and do specific cyclocross training and not just long road rides. So when I started to do specific training, I also began to have some good results at the races in the USA, like several top five places in UCI races. 

After all the racing in the USA, I came back to Europe for the remainder of the season. I had a hard national championship race, finishing in eight place. For some reason, I had to start in the back because I didn’t race the national races (kind of like the USGP in the US) in France. I am glad to discover this sport and I really have big ambitions for next year.

CXM: The World Cyclocross Championships in Koksijde are next week: France will only sent Caroline Mani and Lucie Chainel. Surprised? And what did you expect?

JK: It is a shame. The French National team will only take two girls (of their five or six allotted) and I wish I got a selection, it would be awesome … I feel a little bit sorry for my team (Rapha-FOCUS) because it was the biggest goal of the season and I’m pretty good in the sand! 

But I also have to understand that this is just my first season. I hope this experience will make me stronger for next year. I wish all the best for my teammates Chris Jones, Jeremy Powers and Zach McDonald. They all have really big potential and who knows what can happen if they have a good day? Koksijde will be a great moment for this sport. 

For myself, I will take a rest period and start my preparations with my MTB and my road bike seasons.

CXM: You have done a lot of cyclocross races in the USA this season. Can you share your experiences?

Krasniak is in her first season of riding for Rapha-Focus. © Bart Hazen

Krasniak is in her first season of riding for Rapha-Focus. © Bart Hazen

JK: The races are very different than Belgium or Europe in general. It is very friendly in the USA. In Europe, the riders make it a show but also consider it to be a really serious race. In the USA, it’s only tension and a big fight during the actual race. Before and after the race, there is really a lot of fun and more interaction with the other girls.

I never expected to race next to downtown Los Angeles, or through the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco but I did it! It was so much fun, all of it! The food was very different in each place. Kind of heavy in Louisville and Iowa, but very good in San Francisco. In Bend, we cooked with the entire team. The public is great too, and to have a team only for cyclocross is like a total luxury. I feel very lucky, it’s a great team, amazing races, fantastic cities and it was so great to meet so many cool cyclists and people. I am also glad to learn more English at the same time.

CXM: What is your favorite cyclocross race in both USA and Europe?

JK: I can’t really answer this question because it’s my first season in cyclocross. After the Road World Championships in Denmark, I have spent the majority of my season in the US! But I races in Plzen (Czech Republic), Tabor (Czech Republic), Zolder (Belgium), Leuven (Belgium), Petange (Luxembourg), Quelneuc (France) and Lievin (France). From these my favourite one was Zolder. It was a really fun course for a mountain biker like me. I liked the very slippery downhill sections, even if I crashed a lot during the race. In the USA, I really liked Bend, Oregon. It was the final USGP race. It is high desert there, the landscape is awesome and the course was very fast. I like fast races in general, but I also like to have some technical and steep parts.

CXM: What will be your goals for the remainder of the cyclocross season?

JK: This weekend is my last world cup of the season in Hoogerheide. Top 10 will be awesome. I know I can do it. I have no doubt about that.

CXM: What achievement are you most proud of?

JK: I’m really proud to have passed my exams in law school in June this year, because they were long, hard years and I had to quit cycling for that. But, I don’t have any regrets, it’s more important for my future. 

I’m only 23 years of age and I have 10 years in front of me If I want to reach something with cycling. Now, I must take my time to come back strong. I have raced for six months now, give me another three months and I am at the same fitness level again as before the break. I know sport is a matter of time and you have to be patient. When my fitness level is back, I will also be proud of that.

CXM: What are your strengths as a rider and what are your weakest points which need to be improved, in your opinion?

JK: I need to trust more in myself. I was so focused on my studies for the last three years that I felt like I will never have my chance to challenge the girls who have been training. I know I am going to be OK and I will fight to be amongst the best, like you must do when being a cyclist.

CXM: You are riding for the Rapha-Focus team in the USA. Can you tell us more about how you ended up with them? And about the team and their philosophy?

JK: I met the US Rapha manager this summer. We had some rides and at that moment, I wasn’t sure if I would go to Copenhagen for Road Worlds. That finally happened and after Worlds, I couldn’t stop thinking about racing in cyclocross. So, I spoke with them and they gave me a chance to ride for Rapha-FOCUS.

I think this season was a test for me. I decided very late to do cyclocross and then, only three months after restarting on the bike. I was thinking, “let’s give it a try, it can’t be too bad.” 
So I met the USA people responsible for Focus at Eurobike and also the Rapha manager, Slate Olson, in Portland over the summer. They both do a great job for bike competition in general. I just wanted to have bikes and support to race. Finally, they helped me much more and I have raced a lot of races this year, and I think it’s a good thing.

I have discovered all the big races in cyclocross and it really means that I am ready for next year. I know where to go now for the best races and I know that I want to make my team very proud. I think the philosophy of the team is to win! But to do that with a passion for cycling and the respect for other racers. Cyclocross teams in the USA are like a big family and Rapha-Focus is right at the center of this family. I realized that I felt very lucky to race with them and wanted to give them the best I can.

CXM: You are an excellent road and MTB rider as well. What are your plans for 2012? And for which team you are going to ride?

JK: I’m going to race for MIG Focus. I know Jan Henning, who has managed this team for a few years, because I used to race in Germany when I raced MTB. 

I wanted to find a road team too but because I restarted very late last season, due to my exams in June, so it was too late to get a lot of results. Also, after having raced cyclocross and realizing that it gives me more pleasure to race off-road, I have a feeling that 2012 will be a great year for me. Plus, I will race all the MTB World Cup’s and I hope some Road World Cup’s with The French National Team as well. 

I also want to do more Time Trial’s which is closer to MTB and cyclocross than road racing. That way I will start next cyclocross season with a better fitness level and I am better prepared.

CXM: 2012 is an Olympic Season. For which disciplines you want to qualify yourself?

Krasniak "focuses" mid-race. © Bart Hazen

Krasniak "focuses" mid-race. © Bart Hazen

JK: The Olympics games is one race, with special rules and limited places. My goal is to try and have my place in the best races in the world, so that my selection will be a logical one for the French Olympic Committee.

CXM: What will be your goals on long term as a person and as a cyclist?

JK: I really like cycling, but you know I also need to make money to live. If I can make money with cycling, I would like to race for many years and try to become one of the best cyclists. But I have worked hard at University to have a good job one day, so if I must make more investments in my personal life, I will do it.

CXM: Who are your role models?

JK: My parents have taught me that I must be my own role model. I’m Julie and I must follow the way I choose for myself. They gave me all the tools I need to reach my goals.

CXM: Do you have any rituals you have to do each day or before a race?

JK: Actually when you race, everything you do is a ritual! I follow a list of actions and I must do and check it. The stronger I get the bigger this list becomes and more natural to follow. Right now, I need a lot of concentration to follow this list.

CXM: What are you doing when not riding a bike?

JK: I spend time with my boyfriend and hang out with my friends and my family. I like to read quite a lot, especially books and magazines (fashion, MTB, Road and Triathlon) and I also like to write about bikes. In the recent issue of VELOVERT MAGAZINE (A French MTB magazine) I have written eight pages about Boulder, Colorado, and their riding and bike culture. But I have to limit the time I spent on writing to focus on my training. Although, recently I have received a 35mm film camera for Christmas (it’s a Ricoh!) and so I try to take some pictures with that too.

CXM: Next to being a good cyclist, you are also a cycling model. You think it is a good way to promote women’s cycling to potential sponsors if more girls will do that?

JK: I don’t know? I think when you are a cycling model, you do it for all riders and not just for women just because you are one. You promote your sport in general, a large part of my fans are men because they are riders as well and know how hard it is to ride a bike (and they also know I probably ride stronger than them, hahaha!). I also know women who ride just for fun and they are fans of pro men’s racers.

I  will keep fighting for the idea that the cycling industry must pay and use pro women’s racers for everything because they are more valuable (better than pro men’s cyclist sometimes) in both marketing and communication aspects for promoting the sport. 

In Europe, cycling is an old sport, and the large part of the managers are 60 years of age and older. They are coming from a time when women were supposed to be “in the kitchen.” So sometimes it is hard to explain to sponsors that women race too. 

So, if you are a woman and you ride your bike, it’s for your fun even if it is your daily business now. Every sports club ( gym, yoga, jogging, swimming) are full of women, we need to push those girls to start riding their bikes by making bikes for women, making nice clothes, creating a good spirit, et cetera … The bike industry will also be a winner with this idea, because when a woman wants something, in general, she goes after it!

CXM: What do you think is necessary to promote women’s cycling?

JK: Each brand needs to have a message and understands this message. I think the brand that understands this is going to make a difference. You (as a woman) are an individual athlete and need to have your own personality. And when you work with a company who believes in you, you can both work to establish something for your sport and women in general.

CXM: You have a masters degree in Business Law. So after your career you want to become an advocate or you prefer a total different direction?

JK: I have a degree to be a lawyer, but I’m young, full of energy and totally obsessed with sport. I would like to try and be a writer of sport and cycling first. This is a great way for me to still be involved with what I love the most … cycling!

CXM: Final question. What is your motto?

JK: “Life outside of bikes is fun!” Watching a good movie … go to a good restaurant with good wine! Play piano, read books … spend time with family and have good moments with best friends. It reminds me that there is so much more outside of cycling.