In cycling circles, the word ‘pro’ has been used with increasing frequency in the last few years. In fact, one could say that it has nearly reached ‘epic’ proportions. Which is precisely why it deserves investigating once again. Over the next two weeks, Rapha is launching our latest Pro Team range. In addition to new Pro Team Base Layers, there are updates to the Pro Team Shorts and we also have something for those of you who are fans of the chartreuse colourway. Here at Rapha, all this Pro Team activity has reignited the age-old debate: what does the term ‘pro’ actually mean? Is it something tangible, something that happens to your legs after countless shaves and miles? Is it the way you wear your cap, or the length of your bib shorts? Or is it simply a question of attitude? To help explore this highly-contested subject, Rapha wants you to join the debate by telling us what you think makes for ‘pro-ness’ in a rider.
To get yourself started, take a look at Sella, a new film documenting life – on and off the bike – at a Rapha Condor Sharp pro team training camp in Spain. Former pro rider Tom Southam also offers his thoughts on the nature of pro style but we get things underway with a look at Julie Krasniak, the Rapha-FOCUS rider who, for me, sums up what being pro is all about.
The Pro-est Pro I Know
Maybe it has something to do with heritage? It is easy to attribute her pro style to this. Well, that and her being a professional, after all. With a Great-Great Grandfather that rode in the Tour de France; a Grandfather that held a Cat 1 Pro license into his 50s, and an Uncle that would introduce her mother to his teammate – her father (a Masters World Champion Mountain Biker) – through their road racing team, it is no wonder that she became a racer herself. However, those things alone will not a champion, or “Pro” make.
It wasn’t until meeting up with Julie Krasniak a few weeks ago for her her French Cup Mountain Bike Race in, St. Raphael, France that the thought started to form. This girl is the real deal. There are people who provide all the pomp and circumstance to get the Pro look down right, but this one lives it to a degree that not only makes it stick but does it, seemingly, without effort.
Then she is off to prepare herself for the start of her race. I am sure that her warm up must be similar to that which we saw during the entirety of her time with Rapha-FOCUS this past cyclocross season. She rides past the tennis court and out of site in a few brief moments. A ride on the road followed by sprints to warm up the legs and make sure that they are ready for the intense fury that happens directly after the gun goes off. I am left standing watch over her spare bike among a crowd of French spectators.
The heritage is not enough on its own, but it should be noted that she has put in the work herself. Starting early it was non-stop winning. National titles on the mountain bike came first and then, when the training on the road took precedence the Time Trial bike came out and there were wins there too. Then real-life took over and the training became more and more difficult. Not impossible, just harder to see the sudden leaps and bounds that are associated with younger riders. Now, with an Olympic year upon us, everything is important again. The UCI points, road racing on the French National Team, everything working towards that one singular goal. Everything that, when you ad it up, combine it with the hours spent training, listening, learning what you can eat and when, how much sleep is necessary, what parts of “normal” life need to be cut out entirely (cakes, alcohol, standing) whether you like it or not, these are the things that make one “pro.”
No dairy the morning of a race.
They come back to you quickly, the warnings, the suggestions, especially when you start to think about them. There are the ones about food, rest and recovery.
When you are done riding, get out of your chamois.
Sure, maybe this one was first put into my head by my friend Matt Roy, but it is still pertinent here and I’m surprised when she reminds me of it. Besides, if this were a stage race, that would be valuable time right there not to mention the threat of infection on an already low immune system.
Take more food than you think you will need. You will need it eventually.
Always be prepared. Riding with a professional cyclist is like hanging around with a boy-scout in training. They are constantly reciting to themselves (and those around them) what needs to be done to keep their Pro lifestyle on track.
More clothing is better than less clothing. You can always remove layers but you cannot put on what isn’t there.
Days after the French Cup race we are riding on the road and the sun is out. In this instance we, as the peacock cyclists that we are, are naturally included to show off our feathers at this point. Maybe oil up the legs and really “take the dogs for a walk.” However, when I see that she is dressed from head to toe, ears covered, Oakley’s on (always), gloves (every single time) and full Winter Tights to boot. So, I tucked my tail and followed suit. I mean, she must know something about riding in France that I do not. And of course she was right. Sure, the sun was out, but so was the windchill and so was that hour of rain and so was the fog on the descent. Damn it, outfoxed again.
Gloves and Glasses will be worn at all times. (See above.)
It is a few weeks after the French Cup race and the lengths to which one goes are realized. The racing is full bore this time of year and add that the possibility of representing ones country is a wonderful, if stressful, motivator. Two World Cup races in quick succession are enough to push one close to the edge. The return of the Houffalize Mountain Bike World Cup in Belgium falls close enough to the the Road World Cup Fleche-Wallone Feminine to make starting (and finishing) both a grueling reality. A 25th place finish on the VTT and a 33rd on the Road are admirable in any sense of the word but the true test lies just in simply being able to pull both of them off.
Then again, she is the Pro-est Pro I know.
In the top photo Julie wears the Women’s Classic Wind Jacket in Cream – the Women’s Winter Tights and the Pink Winter Collar she is also an admitted fan of (and has been seen riding in) the Pro-Team Jersey. Julie races Mountain bikes for the German based FOCUS MIG Team on the road for the French National Team and Cyclocross with Team Rapha-FOCUS where she will continue again this coming season.