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Laurel Rathbun Speaks

TSH Interviews Raleigh Clement Elite Cyclocross Racer & Marian University’s Laurel Rathbun in Chicago! We visit the art institute of chicago. We Jump off of tall ledges in Hotel Rooms. Model TSH Resort! We eat pizza and talk about bike racing, boy rivals and Mom and Dad!

Photos by Alex Wallbaum!

Its ok to call her superwoman!

When Was Your First Competitive Race?

Laurel: My first competitive race was when I was 7 at IronKids Triathlon Nationals in Sacramento, CA. I don’t remember when my first cycling race was.

Can you tell us the difference and or similarities between Laurel at the start line at seven? and Laurel today?

Laurel: I’m a super competitive person, and so when I was younger and I went to the start-line the only thought running through my head was “beat the boys, beat the boys, beat the boys, beat the boys….” Now its a little different because I’m lining up with amazing women like Katie Compton, Katerina Nash, and Caroline Mani. So, the mindset is a little different because I’m thinking about getting an explosive start off line fast, clipping in as quickly as possible and visualizing the course – especially all the tricky, technical sections. The competitive spirit is definitely still as alive as when I was 7 years old, but now I’m less focused on winning and more about doing everything right to get the highest finish possible.

Do you remember a specific boy rival from your early racing? Any good details on the rivalry?

Laurel: Yes, definitely I will never forget the boy, Gage Hecht. He was 2 years younger than me and we were/ still are best friends. Except now, 10 years later, he is off crushing it Europe, getting top 3 in CX World Cups for Junior men 17-18 instead of giving me a run for my money in the local 10-12 race. Gage and I have grown up racing together, we are practically family and it’s really nice to see that we are both still so involved in racing. I love looking at old photos of racing. Who would have thought we would have both “made it” in the cycling world.

We recently walked around the Chicago Art Institute together and I felt a little guilty because we had so little time in each room but I noticed you appeared transfixed each time we entered a new space. Is art making or viewing part of your life?

Laurel: I am definitely fascinated by art in any shape or form. This may have (a lot) to do with the fact that I have no artistic talent whatsoever. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a museum and once I saw the banner that the Chicago Art Museum was voted #1 in the world, I knew I was in for a treat.

Does Laurel Rathbun race with a certain style?

Laurel: I definitely like to think that I have a style. A mix of fun, sparkly and anything pink. I used to race with knee-high socks on and once I outgrew that, I needed to come up with something new. That’s where the Superman necklace comes from. I like to be different and stand out, it’s just not as much fun blending in with the rest of the crowd.

Name three female elite cross racers and things you admire about the way they race?

Laurel: Of course, my number one pick goes to Katie Compton because she is the most badass woman ever. And with all her accomplishments and wins comes an incredible amount of humility. She has taught me so much about working hard in silence and letting the results do the talking. Next goes to my amazing teammate Caroline Mani who is probably the most tenacious person I have ever met. She won the Grand Prix of Gloucester this season with a broken wrist. Literally nothing can stop her. Lastly, Nicole Duke. I’ve grown up racing with this woman and she treats me like her daughter. She will pre-ride the course with me and help me on anything I’m struggling with and whenever possible I will line up behind her because she can start so fast!

From TSH’s perspective it felt like Raleigh Clement was the most exciting team last year on the US circuit. Not just the success of the team on the podium but some kind of joy and élan you all communicated at the races. Was it as fun from the inside as it was looking the outside?

Laurel: I honestly cannot say enough good things about the Raleigh Clement team and program. Everyone on the team is so supportive of each other. Caroline’s energy can cheer you up even on the very worst of days. It is a mixture of constant laughs, smiles and jokes, and super calm and professional when it comes to race time. I love being able to represent the Raleigh Clement team because it stands for so many positive things starting with its unmatchable support for young racers in their U23 team. It’s funny we actually sometimes have to close the tent off when it comes to warm up time because so many people just love coming over, hanging out and talking to the athletes and the mechanics. Shout out to the mechanics James Sullivan and Doug Sumi for having my bike work perfect at every race.

I think one got these feelings from Caroline Mani’s instagram. Though to be honest it looks like it was you directing the group selfie. Was this because Laurel Rathbun has exceptionally long arms or you were stealing Mani’s phone? Please elaborate…?

Laurel: Caroline loves to document all the fun the team has and most of the time a selfie is the only appropriate way to capture it. The first time Caroline couldn’t figure out how to fit all of us in the selfie and so she gave it to “the teenager” (that’s what she calls me) and I showcased my semi pro selfie taking skills. Since then, I became the designated selfie taker. I think if I were to steal Caroline’s phone she would run, jump on me, tackle me, and bite me until I gave it back. She’s a feisty one.

What special skill does Laurel Rathbun possess that the world may need to know about?

Laurel: Unfortunately I did not get any artistic or musical talent, so it’s a real blessing I did get some athletic talent or my life would be pretty boring. I do have an uncanny ability to be spotted from afar so that’s real nice. I’m also a pro sledder, can eat a whole gallon sized carton of goldfish in one afternoon, and can sample the icing off a cake without leaving a trace.

Bonus Round…Finish THESE THOUGHTS please

When I wake up the first thing I think about is…

Laurel: …food. Bacon to be more specific.

Colorado Mornings are beautiful because….

Laurel: …there’s nothing more spectacular than getting up at 5 a.m. to climb a mountain and watch the sunrise.

Colorado Evenings are amazing because…

Laurel: …the sun always sets over the mountains and we have the perfect view from our back porch.

My dad is…

Laurel: …my best friend and training partner. He’s there to laugh with me at every dumb joke either of us make, to get way too into the football game with me, and to support me at every race. I love riding with my dad because we get to spend 6-7 hours riding/ bonding together on the weekends (when I’m home) and he will get off work early to come do 20 minute intervals with me. That’s love

My mom is…

Laurel: …also my best friend, but in a much different way. My mom is the one that I lay down and talk with/cry to for hours about life. She also makes the most amazing food, takes me shopping and also always there to support my races. I have a special relationship with each of my parents and I’m so lucky.

Riding alone is…

Laurel: …scary, but necessary. Sadly, there have been multiple accidents of cars hitting cyclists in Colorado, a lot of which have been my friends. I live 5 minutes from the National Forest trailhead so I love taking my mountain bike or cross bike and getting lost for hours on the trails.

At 25 years old Laurel is happy because…

Laurel: …she has life figured out. 18 year old Laurel is still working on that.