A year of firsts for 19-year old Kaitie Antonneau. Her first season with Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com, her first Stars and Stripes on her first year as a U23 rider at US Cyclocross Nationals in Bend and this weekend her first World Cup followed by her first time at the Cyclocross World Championships.
“It will be a big learning experience.” she laughed.
Though she raced at the Junior World Championships on the road this past summer where she finished 8th, it will be her first time at the Elite level for Cross Worlds. She’s going in with no set goals or expectations.
“I’m really nervous but I’m really excited and eager to learn. I don’t know if I really have any other expectations other than just as long as I do my best and race my hardest then I’ll be happy. I just want to learn and do my best.”
Learning was a recurring theme in our conversation that took place on Wednesday, one day before her flight to Europe.
First time in green. Antonneau was the first woman to join the Stu Thorne’s squad Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com. Yep another first.
She called the experience with the team beyond her expectations. “All good. I don’t think there were any bad things, actually I know there were no bad things with that experience with them. It was just amazing having all the support and being around those great people so I’m really happy I got the opportunity to do that.”
She took the opportunity to observe and learn from her teammates Tim Johnson, Jeremy Powers and Jamey Driscoll. “Seeing what they do in the morning, leading up to the race and what they do after the race. I just took little mental notes and just kept that in mind, it helped me do my thing and I think it helped me prep better just by watching little things they did and just copying them.”
And she did see a change in her race preparation from her first race to her last races in December. “I think throughout the season I became a lot more focused, the day before and the day of, just by watching them but at the same time I was still having fun, I was still staying really focused and concentrated on what I wanted to do so I think that was an improvement for me throughout the season.”
Down to earth and quick with a laugh, Antonneau has been taking notes and learning alright as her results show.
Along with her U23 title this season, five top 10s at the USGPs races and was the highest U23 rider of the Greenware Gan Prix of Cyclocross with 7th overall. She also finished third at Cincinnati UCI3 Harbin Park Cyclo-Cross, but that wasn’t her first UCI podium at the elite level, as she also finished third twice at the Jingle Cross Rock UCI Weekend in 2009, all the while racing as a junior.
But she did have a bit of trouble identifying her strengths as a cross racer. “I don’t know. I think this season I got better at starts, so that might be one. I like running when you do the runups, I’m pretty strong at that.” Antonneau also competed as a cross-country runner in high-school.
With no U23 or junior cross races for women, except for Nationals, Antonneau has been competing against the Elite Women for many years, and enjoying it.
“I think it’s good because I learn, I may not place very high, say I get 13th that might have been a really good race for me just because of the women I’m racing against and they are all so fast and so experienced and I’m only learning. I think it’s only benefitting me, I don’t think it’s hurting me that I’m racing against all those experienced women, I’m glad that I get to do that.”
She’s also been learning from her coach, 7-time and reigning US National Cross Champion Katie Compton (Planet Bike). The two could be sometimes be seen before a race, pre-riding and talking lines.
Balancing act. Native of Racine, Wisconsin, her first racing experience was on the velodrome at age 10 but cyclocross was discovered two years later. And it was love at first sight.
“My mom took me to a local cross series and I did it on a mountain bike, I was like ‘wow this is so fun’. So I just kept on doing that, then I eventually got a cross bike, I just really loved it and soon figured out it was my favorite out of the three disciplines that I was doing.”
Why does she like about cross? “I just like it because it’s always different, the courses are always different. Nothing is ever the same.”
But track and road have not been forgotten. Antonneau currently attends Marian University pursuing a degree in biology and is a key member of the Marian University Cycling Team. She won the points race at the USA Cycling 2010 Collegiate Track Nationals and was part of the gold medal winning team for both Team Sprint and Team Pursuit competition.
She acknowledges that keeping a balance between school, training, racing and life is very hard. “But I’ve gotten a routine down and I stick to that pretty well, it’s really hard but I know that this is what I want to do so I make sure that it happens.”
It’s all about planning. “I wake up early in the morning.” she explained when asked about a normal week. “Today I woke up early because I knew that I had to do a lot today, so I rode before class. Usually, my latest class goes to 1:45 so then after that I just ride. After I get my training in then I just do homework the rest of the day. Unless I don’t have any then I get to do something fun.” she added with a laugh.
Another laugh and “Sometimes yes.” when I asked if she did have time for fun once in a while.
Speaking of planning, what is the one thing that she must take with her while traveling? You guessed it, her planner. “My life is in that planner, I write everything down there. “ she laughed.
How far does she want to take cross racing? “I’d like to go as far as I can with it but I still really like the road too, I don’t know really yet. I’m just going to take it one day at a time but I’d really like to go as far as I can in the sport.”
Antonneau is looking forwards to racing on the road with the Peanut Butter TWENTY12 squad in 2011. But first two more races this cross season. “I’m excited to see what it’s all about and what the courses are like.” And she’s ready to take it all in and learn.