Katie Hall: Going to California…
The 2018 cycling season was one of domination for Katie Hall. She won all four stage races on USA Cycling’s Pro Road Tour (PRT) and took the overall at the Tour of California, beating a field packed with World Tour pros. These 2018 palmarès, which might never be surpassed by another rider, led to Katie being signed by Boels-Dolmans to race the 2019 UCI World Tour. Now, as the UCI World Tour approaches its halfway point, Katie Hall is returning to California to revisit her landmark win and see if she can take a second win at America’s premier stage race.
Making a move to Europe to race in the UCI World Tour isn’t always an easy transition for American cyclists, but Katie seems to be taking it in stride. “This is my first time being based in Europe and having the pressure to perform in these European races,” Katie says. “I’ve been coming to race in Europe for years, but my teams just came to do our best, no one expected us to win. This year has a different feeling because Boels-Dolmans is so experienced at winning and is so professional.”
Despite the adjustment, Katie seems to already be making her mark in European races. For example, Katie finished eighth overall in the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana stage race in Valencia, Spain thanks to a strong climb up the third stage’s big uphill finish. Of course, always the competitor seeking perfection, Katie gives much of the credit to her teammates and points out that “I didn’t go uphill as fast as I wanted to!” With a hunger like that, there’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll be seeing Katie on the top step of the podium in no time.
This nearly seamless transition to Europe hasn’t been a fluke, it’s the result of intentionally making Europe a home. According to Katie, “I think that getting use to living here has been an easy transition for me. I’ve really made a wonderful home for myself in Girona with two of my old teammates, Leah Thomas and Lauretta Hanson, and I’m loving living and training there. Having a base of operations has made it easier for me to just focus on being the most effective cyclist in these races. It’s a hard process, but I think that I’m figuring it out.” Boels-Dolmans’s open and supportive environment has also been a key factor in Katie’s successful move to Europe. “The whole team is helping me find my way,” Katie says. “Some of the girls have been competing in these races for a decade. They know where the potholes are, they know when you want to be on this side of the road, and they know where moves have gone in the past. Their experience, willingness to share, and their belief in me has been huge in my growth here this season. It’s just a great team to be a part of, I'm really grateful to be part of it.”
A reignited relationship with Specialized also plays a role in Katie’s successful transition to Europe. “I’ve raced Specialized bikes in the past, so I was really happy to be back on a Specialized this year. I feel like they make some of the best race bikes for women. The Specialized headquarters is very close to where I live in northern California. Sometimes I even ride over to the Specialized headquarters – which is about a 40-mile ride from my house – and join them for their famous lunch ride. Plus, having their experts so close to help with bike fits has been really nice. I’m a little bit picky with my bike fit so being able to check it a couple times at the Specialized headquarters has been a real luxury."
Looking towards the Tour of California, American cycling fans will be eager to see how Katie has strengthened her already fearsome ability to shoot up mountains. And, with the women’s race moving south from its traditional route in northern California, the experience of the field will be leveled, possibly giving Katie an even greater edge. “I really loved racing at Tahoe and in northern California, but the change will be nice. Looking at this year’s course, I think it’ll be a really hard and exciting race. I’m going to love the uphill finish on Mt. Baldy on the second day and the other days will lend themselves to really aggressive racing. I think it’ll be a good little stage race.”
With so many varied strengths on Boels-Dolmans’s five-rider California roster, it will be interesting to see who will emerge as the leader. According to Katie, “The strength of my teammates means that we’ll have multiple strategies to play on each day. If one of our riders gets up the road, you can have confidence in them. That gives us a lot of options in the way that we’re going to race. It’s still a little up in the air on who the supported rider will be. Both Anna van der Breggen and I can be really good on the course. If either one of us wins, we’ll all be happy.”
With Amgen, the Tour of California’s title sponsor, usually taking advantage of the women’s race to promote their Breakaway from Cancer initiative, the Boels-Dolmans team is likely to have some poignant words to say about cancer research. After all, this Spring, Boels-Dolmans partnered with another cancer charity, Pink Ribbon NL, to raise money for breast cancer.
“During Amstel Gold, we had the chance to do a fundraiser for Pink Ribbon,” Katie said. “Our sponsors got very involved and it was a very successful campaign. Specialized made pink Tarmacs – hot pink, sparkly Tarmacs – and we got to ride them in the Amstel Gold Race and then auction them off for charity. Santini also made us beautiful pink kits that we got to race in and then auction off. It was really cool to get dressed up in pink and talk to people about where the money was going and how to donate. The auction was able to raise 51,000 euros for Pink Ribbon NL, that is a chunk of change! I feel so grateful to Specialized and Santini for making it possible!”
Although Katie will be racing a less colorful S-Works frame during this year’s Tour of California, expect that passion to keep burning strong. She’s my top pick for the overall win. No doubt the first of many during what should be a long and illustrious World Tour career.