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Maghalie Rochette on doing the things that excite her

The 30-year-old Canadian has signed with the Canyon CLLCTV and will race a variety of events and disciplines before the upcoming 'cross season.

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Last summer, Maghalie Rochette told me, was a disaster.

The 30-year-old Canadian cylclocross pro had decided to mix things up and focus on World Cup cross-country mountain bike racing. She and her partner David (who is also her mechanic, soigner, and co-dog parent) traveled back and forth to Europe multiple times, amassing some 100,000 miles in air travel. It took a toll.

“I got sick, and then I got sick again, and then I got COVID twice,” Rochette said.

Needless to say, she was not performing well at all, and she and David realized that to have a real shot at a World Cup campaign they’d need to move to Europe.

But, they didn’t want to, and nor did Rochette want to keep banging her head against a wall for sub-par results.

“I’ve been 20th in a World Cup a thousand times,” she said. “That’s not what drives me anymore. What drives me and what excites me is, ‘how good can I be?’ That’s what I love. Showing up just to show up? I’ve done that, and I’m not that excited about that anymore.”

(Photo: Courtesy Maghalie Rochette)

This year, Rochette is moving closer toward a program that she can get excited about. A month ago, she announced that she was leaving her five year relationship with Specialized to join Canyon, as a member of its new CLLCTV program.

Two things ultimately swayed Rochette to leave her longtime sponsor.

One was a slight misalignment in goals.

Although Rochette had near total freedom in her program with Specialized, “they did ask me to incorporate a bit more gravel in my calendar this year,” she said.

Following the gravelly road is a move now common for many crossover athletes, but it wasn’t exactly what Rochette wanted.

“For me, if I do so much gravel, I won’t have the energy to be good in ‘cross, which is what I personally care about,” she said.

Rochette was willing to consider staying with Specialized, however, but Canyon’s offer was better for her future.

“The salary is bigger, and the difference is enough that if I choose to start a family once I retire, it relieves financial stress where I could take a year off of work to focus on family, and be okay,” Rochette said.

The swap in sponsors also comes with some other perks. Canyon will supply David and Maghalie with a van and trailer when they’re in Europe for ‘cross season, so that it’s easier to for them to come and go. And, other than Unbound, the brand doesn’t care if her wheels touch gravel roads.

“I can do whatever I want really,” Rochette said. “The BC Bike Race, some gravel, a lot of ‘cross. If I say I want to do the ‘wine tour of California and do something cool with it, they’re excited about that, too.”

‘There’s a job part and there’s your dream’

So far, 2023 is off to a good start for Rochette, at least in terms of doing what she wants.

In mid-April, Rochette and I met up at the Lake Sonoma Hopper, a cross-country race in northern California. She and David and their amber-colored dog Mia had been camping near the venue, swimming in the lake and riding mountain bikes.

It was a relaxed reentry to racing after a winter of training around Santa Cruz and an example of Rochette is changing her tune for the 2023.

“When you grow up in the sport, you want to be with the best at every event and now I realize maybe that’s not me,” she said. “That’s fine. That allows me to do a bunch of other things that I enjoy. It’s funny, I really really love when it’s a few months before ‘cross worlds and we’re really focused and we do every single thing super well, that really makes me feel good and I love it. But also not all the time. This also makes me feel really good, coming here and camping with David and the dog.”

Camp chef (Photo: Courtesy Maghalie Rochette)

Rochette finished second at Lake Sonoma, which felt appropriate given the preparation and motivation. She was headed into the Fuego XL at Sea Otter the following weekend with a similar mindset; however, she unfortunately didn’t start due to illness.

After the two April mountain bike races, Rochette and David made their way back to Canada, where Rochette lined up at Paris2Ancaster, one of her favorite races that, this year, was doubling as the Canadian gravel national championships. She was highly motivated for the race — it suited her skillset, she is a big fan of the organizer — but an unlucky mechanical derailed her after she was leading the race around 50k.

So what’s next?

Rochette is preparing for Unbound, one of the only gravel events that Canyon — and ostensibly every privateer’s sponsor — nudged her toward. Fortunately, she was already interested in the 200-mile gravel race.

“It’s not what I’m naturally attracted toward — I love the 55 minute races that are intense and really fun or fun riding,” she said, “but it’s a challenge, I’ve never ridden 200 miles. It’s different, and the event is so big and I’m sure it’s cool to be there.”

After Unbound, Rochette might dabble in some other gravel (she’s not a part of the Life Time Grand Prix, however) and mountain bike races. She hopes to qualify for both gravel and eMTB worlds. And racing ‘cross, her true love, is still the plan for the fall and winter.

Yet the upcoming gravel race in Kansas is good example of how Rochette has settled into this new, and in ways more expansive, phase in her career as a professional athlete. In fact, her longtime mentor and friend Katerina Nash once gave her advice that now makes more sense than ever.

“As an athlete you should be doing what you care about, not just what the industry cares about,” Rochette said. “Katerina always said, ‘there’s a job part and there’s your dream. Sometimes if you want to pursue your dream, you have to do a job. You have to do some races that maybe you don’t love as much but they allow you to have a job and keep pursuing your dream. You should still choose the races that you care about.”

(Photo: Courtesy Maghalie Rochette)



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