Curtis White (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld) had a strong start to the season, winning in solo fashion on Day 2 of Rochester Cyclocross and racing well at the two U.S. World Cups.
One month does not a season make, so White has now turned his eye toward the Cincinnati C1 weekend and the Pan-American Championships coming up in a few weeks. White had planned to kick off his next block of racing close to home at GP Gloucester, but with the race canceled, he instead opted to head to Fayetteville for FayetteCross.
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Cyclocross Magazine: FayetteCross had a solid field, but some riders like Stephen took the weekend off. What was your motivation for racing there and how does it fit into your plans for now to Pan-Ams?
Curtis White: Coming into the season, I felt like there was a nice flow to the traveling and racing up to Pan-Ams. My original plan was to come into the season on good form for the first C1 and US World Cups, regroup and train through the Gloucester and Baltimore weekends, and sharpen up through Cincinnati and leading up to Pan-Ams.
I wasn’t originally planning on racing in Fayetteville, but things changed with the unfortunate cancellation of Gloucester. I saw this trip to Fayetteville as an opportunity to get myself acquainted with the course and familiarize myself with the area. I’m not just thinking about my short-term goals. I have long-term goals of medaling at the World Championships in 2022. In order for me to visualize that, the natural first step was learning to be as comfortable in that environment as possible. Just because the course is in the United States, it’s important that we not overestimate our “home field advantage”.
For me, there’s still a fair amount of travel involved getting to Fayetteville, and it’s a place that’s relatively new on the cyclocross radar. I want to make sure I do my homework, I don’t want to show up to that start line with any uncertainties.
Regarding my short-term goals, this year’s FayetteCross race fit very well into my program. I was able to spend the week training in Bentonville at the USA Cyclocross National Team camp, it was the perfect combination of working hard and connecting with the community.
CXM: It sounds like you raced on two completely different courses over the weekend. Does your approach from Saturday to Sunday change on weekends like that?
CW: On the subject of trying to familiarize myself with the venue as much as possible, it was great to see how the course rode in varying conditions. Brook Watts likes to create courses that have high variations in speed and lots of hard accelerations, that was evident this past weekend. After talking with Brook, it sounds like the park will go under construction to build new features and incorporate more of the venue. I’m looking forward to seeing how the venue transitions into a more World Championship caliber course, but all I needed was a sense of what I’m working with over the next couple of years.
With respect to my approach for Saturday versus Sunday, that didn’t change at all. My goal is to always bring my best to the start line and get the most out of every opportunity I have.
CXM: On Sunday, my understanding is you started back a bit and then moved up to race against Gage. How did the race play out for you?
CW: I definitely had some ground to make up after the first 90 seconds, but I felt like I rode a very consistent race. One video I saw had me back almost as far as 15th, but I think holding that steady pace and just trying to focus on racing the course well played to my advantage in the end with the conditions being so heavy.
Gage took an early advantage, so I couldn’t waste any time chasing back. He’s a very tenacious racer. It required constant focus, but I knew that so long as I kept him in my sight, I had a chance of bringing him back in the finale.
CXM: Were there any tactics involved? How did you end up getting the win?
CW: Unlike Saturday’s race, the main tactic for Sunday was to win the race against the course before I could win against my competitors. Our National Championships in Louisville last year required a similar tactic. Taking a handful of wrong lines could have an impact on increasing fatigue. I had to be just as consistent mentally as I was physically. Once I caught Gage on the last lap, that was the first time I was able to exploit his weaknesses and take advantage.
CXM: You seem to do well in the mud. What has helped you be successful when the conditions turn ugly?
CW: Over the last couple of years, I’ve put a lot of work into upping my technical game. I’ve also been fortunate enough to learn a lot from Stephen Hyde, who, as we all know, is an extremely proficient and meticulous technical rider. I’ve also learned to be a much more patient racer. All of these things have helped me become a more well-rounded athlete in all conditions.
CXM: You’ve had some battles against different riders—Gage, Stephen, Kerry—do you change your tactics at all based on who you’re racing?
CW: We have had some epic battles, and no doubt there will be plenty more in the future. Each of us has a different skillset we bring to the table, and that influences all of our tactics.
Every race is an opportunity to learn something new about my competitors. For Stephen and me, our goal is to represent our sponsors to the best of our abilities and put a Cannondale jersey on the top step. One thing we’ve learned to do very well over the last few years is to play off each other and race as a team. We were guest riding for a road team at the Tour de Beauce this past June, and it was clear that we are in sync once the whistle blows, on and off the road. Ultimately, we’re all pushing each other to our limits, and looking to constantly improve.
CXM: What did you think of the course and venue two years out from Worlds?
CW: I love it. The venue has a lot of potential to be World Championship caliber. Brook and I discussed some of the changes and improvements he was thinking of over the next few years. There are a lot of exciting things happening in Fayetteville to make this event top notch.
CXM: How do you think this weekend’s results are going to affect the CX Heat Check Power Rankings?
CW: I’m answering this question the morning after the Heat Check was released, so I’ve had some time to calm down. I thought for sure this would be the weekend that Kerry and I broke the algorithm, trading 1st and 3rd both days.
That said, my sister, Emma, is a computer science major and she hasn’t been able to replicate any such algorithm or code that acts in this way. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.