This Sunday, 10/2/16, we bring you the Katie Blincoe Prestige at Thornton A Sullivan park on Silver Lake. We fired a few questions at Katie this week so you could get to know one of the pioneers of PNW Cyclocross.
MFG Cyclocross: You have been one of the most influential female cross racers in the Northwest. Tell us about when you started racing, and when you stopped.
Katie Blincoe: Thank you so much for this honor. I started out road racing for the Greggs Greenlake Cycles team with a friend of mine Stephanie. She and I had met on a Young Life trip and she told me how she wanted to be a bike racer. I thought that sounded like a good idea so I just just jumped in alongside of what she was planning. In the year leading up to meeting Stephanie, ironically, I had had two different friends on two different occasions tell me that I would make a good bike racer and two of them actually even lent me their bikes.
Once Steffanie and I joined Greggs around 1992 and started doing team rides on the weekends I was hooked! That’s when I met Dan & Jackie Norton who taught me tons about bike racing.
After about 5 years of National road racing and local velodrome racing success, Dan found out that I had been a runner in college so he recruited me for cyclocross.
MFG: For many years, you raced on the Redline team with Ann Knapp. At times, the two of you seemed inseparable. Tell us about being teammates with Ann.
KB: I raced Cyclocross starting in 1996. Then in 1997-2000 with Redline and 2 years with Ann on the team. We laughed so much! Her corny humor and mine meshed well. Also, it was great to have a teammate who was always pushing to get to the next level. When we flew to Europe in 1999/2000 to race in the first ever Women’s Cyclocross World Cup races (and World Championships), I was so broke! Initially, when Ann talked to me about going to Europe to race, I said that I could not do it. Fortunately, she did not want to go without me! Ann bought my plane ticket there since Redline was not helping us other than providing two bikes/kits. We had a tremendous time in Europe. We were so well received, at each race the announcers would make a big deal of these two laughing women from the USA. It was such hard racing but so much fun to experience.
MFG: Do you see her much these days?
KB: Sadly I don’t see enough of Ann. We had a short reunion when she was pregnant and then again last year at the Jerry Baker memorial ride. Dale Knapp & Ann’s daughter is now 10, so time flies by too fast!! But, we are planning on starting a yearly reunion. Maybe at a bike race.
MFG: You’ve been on the Worlds Team a number of years. When you were going to Europe to race, what were you hoping to achieve? Did you go to those races thinking you could be competitive?
KB: Well, despite my great results and excellent experience in 1999, I actually didn’t make the Inaugural Women’s World Championship Team, but Ann did. All the rest were coaches choice and at that time the criteria were foggy. Some women who had raced on the National Road team were given the spots. I am glad now to see that the criteria are more clear and there’s more performance based choices that a rider earns.
Regardless, going to Europe was like walking into the unknown. I had heard so many rumors from some of the US guys that had gone the year before. They talked about how you get sick because the European cold virus is different. They talked about how you’re just dirt bagging and barely surviving over there. They also talked about never being able to get better than thirtieth-something place. Needless to say, I was pretty freaked out but also I knew that I would try my hardest.
In our first race in The Netherlands, Ann placed 2nd and I got 4th. After that, we were still afraid, but we at least got to be in the front 3 rows for the start! I had a few more 4th places, then 10th or 11th, then I got that crazy European cold virus and a fever ruined my last few races.
The best part of racing in Europe is that they would pay you to come to their race, which really helped us pay for the gas and rental van! Actually the best part was the party that surrounded the racing. Each male professional had a big bus full of their fan club members. The buses had their were painted in certain colors and the festivity around these rider fan clubs was fantastic. Whole towns would come out to see racers from their hometown. Every race was just a huge celebration scene with different bob bands playing. Lots of beer gardens. And people lined the whole race course several meters thick
MFG: The Super Cup was a staple in the US cross scene when you were racing. Tell us about your experience racing the Super Cup, and what you felt was done really well about that series?
KB: I really like the Super Cup series races because the courses were all very different and they had cool gear and cash prizes that helped me to upgrade my bike. I loved winning things! As far as the courses go, you never knew what it was going to be like which was fun. Also they would have a race on Saturday and Sunday to make your travel more worth the effort. I also love having new competitors to race with, I would get super nervous and go faster than normal.
I think my favorite was either San Jose because it was sunny and Philadelphia because my parents were able to come watch me race. My least was in Boulder, CO because we had about a foot and a half of snow the night before and it was about -10° out no one could get their shoes & pedals to connect. They cut the race down to 20 or 30 minutes for fear that our lungs and faces would freeze. The officials had heaters they were standing around. You had to stand on cardboard or your feet would just go numb.
The worst part about the Super Cup series is that you had to travel, traveling takes money so when Redline paid our way for a few years I was stoked!!
MFG: Many times beginner riders want to focus on learning how to get on and off the bike. Do you have an alternative tip or skill to practice beyond getting on and off the bike?
KB: I love practicing the on and off at speed going over obstacles. I think the least favorite is running up the hills! But, I think the most important thing is doing your intervals 2-3 times a week so that you can really get used to having your heart rate up to that lactic acid threshold. You have to be able to push through the pain. But you have to also not go too far or you will completely blow up like I did in 1996 at the national championship race.
I used to do sprint intervals once a week, plus longer hill or time trial style intervals that I also did once per week. Since I was older than most of my competitors (by at least 8 years) my recovery was not very good, so doing three sets of intervals in a week did not work for me. But if you are young, go do your intervals!
I also think it’s really important to run at least twice a week and to make sure you’re doing Hills or stairs. I did a lot of stair workouts over the years.
MFG: Now that you have been away from the sport for awhile, what do you notice about cyclocross in the modern era? Does it seem more similar than different? Does it seem faster? What sticks out?
KB: Cyclocross now is so much more popular. There are many people of all ages going out to race and there are altogether so many more women! YAY!. The fact that there’s that many women out there having fun and not being super crazy “Win or Quit” makes me open to coming out to race. In fact I bought a cyclocross bike last year hoping to race this year plus help some high schoolers learn how to race. But alas, I was gone too much in August and then got injured.
I love that some people are taking it seriously wanting to be nationally competitive & others not too seriously. I love that many people use cyclocross to stay fit and be outside. I miss that. I don’t miss all the bike/clothes cleaning off and hosing down, but it seems like everyone is having a great time. The races have a family friendly feel to them and a celebratory atmosphere which makes it fantastic. A favorite race for me was at the MFG Woodland Park a couple years ago, there was a gospel choir walking around the course singing! That was so cool, Now there are pros in the races like Tyler Farrar! Last year I saw Jenny Reed walking around the course cheering people on. She’s amazing, a Seattle grown former world & Olympic track champion.
I have to say too that I’m so impressed with the single speed racers. I don’t know how they do it. I love my gears.
All the racing looks faster to me! I can’t imagine being able to ride that hard anymore. What sticks out to me is that the courses have so much variety with good amount of hills//obstacles and challenges!
MFG: We see a lot of up and coming junior girls and U23 women riders having success around the US. Do you have an words of encouragement for local girls and women racing cyclocross?
KB: I love seeing more girls racing. and choosing a sport that isn’t popular like soccer. Bike racing can take you so many places in the world. So hang in there push hard get a coach and play other sports in the off-season so that you can keep your mind fresh. Stay you’ve got to be strong in the mental area.
MFG: What accomplishments are you most proud of?
KB: I’m most proud of my 3 National Championships, but mostly the one in Boston that my Masters group started back 30 seconds or a minute behind the Senior women and Juniors. I rode so hard but this time not going over my limit and also being better prepared, I managed to catch and pass all of the Juniors and Senior women landing a fifth place in their race and first place in my race!
I also feel super proud of the time I got top five placements in the Olympic trial races at the velodrome and on the road in the same year. At the track I had just flown into Philadelphia airport driven straight to the velodrome in Trexlertown and as I arrived I found out that I had 10 minutes before my first race started!! I borrowed a friends bike, helmet and shoes to race. The time was, good enough to get(I think in the kilo) me a fifth place! That’s crazy no warm-up not even writing on my own bike!
One other proud race moment was winning the Super Cup. I just put everything on the line and I was able to get enough points to win.