Emily Kachorek isn’t new to the pro peloton, but after eight years on the road, the 33-year-old rider from Sacramento, California, has decided to redefine her career as a cyclist. From incorporating a broader race calendar that now includes a heavy dose of cyclocross racing to pursuing innovative sponsor agreements and promoting global women’s race advocacy through the WCA (Women’s Cycling Association), Emily is proof that some of the best opportunities for female cyclists lie within the individual initiative that each of us take. Although a succession of serious injuries over the last few years have taken their toll, Emily’s future looks as bright and colorful as the kit she brought out to the ‘cross races last season. Emily gave us a look at her plans for 2014.
RBA: What’s new for 2014?
Emily: I am really excited for 2014! I will be starting the year coming off of a great first domestic UCI ‘cross season. While I didn’t make it to the podium of any UCI races, I got pretty close. I was able to make it to a majority of the biggest ‘cross races in the U.S. and learned a ton that will help me better prepare for next season. Most important, I had a blast in the dirt!
RBA: Will you be on a team, or freelancing and possibly be a guest rider with other teams?
Emily: I am stoked to be racing on the road again for Vanderkitten and will focus on late-season races. I will be racing some form of a road schedule with Vanderkitten. They were tremendously supportive of my efforts last season, which included them supporting and working with my national team racing and my limited domestic road racing with a focus on preparing for ‘cross. It has been great for me to be part of their vision of long-term commitment to the sport, and in particular to women’s racing. Plus, they sponsored my ‘cross campaign; awesome people all around.
RBA: What will your 2014 cyclocross season look like?
Emily: In terms of cyclocross, this year’s program and schedule will be bigger and better. I decided to race a full 2013 ‘cross season with the knowledge that I was starting in a different sport. This seems pretty obvious, but I really don’t think I fully understood how different it really is compared to road racing until I started doing the bigger races. It was fun, but it initially seemed like a short, hard off-road time trial. The bikes look similar; you pin a number on your jersey and you push on the pedals to see who wins, but I have realized that there is so much more. Handling skills, focus, line choice, tactics, fitness. The whole race is a series of little decisions- line choice, where to pass, when to use a ‘match,’ etc. I have been really enjoying being able to see my skills improve and really appreciate how experience is valued in the racing itself.
RBA: Are you recovered from your previous injuries, and how has that influenced your plans for 2014?
Emily: I dislocated my patella and got a nasty bone bruise on my femur mid-2012 season. My knee injury and the prior season’s seriously broken arm were part of the reason I decided to focus more on cyclocross. I was a bit worried how my knee would handle the running over all the unstable course conditions, but surprisingly, I feel that my knee has gotten stronger because of it.
RBA: How have you found racing as an individual style different from team racing?
Emily: Road racing is a team sport. You win as a team and you lose as a team. That is part of what I love most about it. However, when I decided to race a full 2013 ‘cross season, I knew that the individual nature of the sport would allow me the opportunity to run my individual team of one anyway I wanted. While this was a frightening and somewhat overwhelming endeavor, the experience has been really rewarding. Running my own ‘cross program this season has really allowed me much greater control of everything-from my schedule to my sponsor to my support staff-and has allowed me to be more personally expressive through my racing. Whatever I dream up I can work to make happen, and that has been pretty cool.
RBA: You’ve developed some innovative partnerships; have you found that to be beneficial to your success?
Emily: Although I am not the only, nor the first, person to run a privateer campaign, I chose to invest in myself as an athlete and as an individual, aiming to follow more of an action sports model. My hope is that my success as a sponsored athlete will be measured in ways that go beyond number of UCI points or races won. My sponsors and partners are a big part of why I get to do what I love. Traditionally, I think a lot of a rider’s and team’s value is placed on winning. Winning and standing on the podium are certainly important; it gets recognition and prestige for sponsors, but I feel that there’s a lot of other value that riders and teams can provide. My kits and bikes this season reflect that. I am working with sponsors-Voler Apparel and Rouse Bicycles-that have allowed me to design crazy, neon bikes and kits that have drawn amazing reactions everywhere I have raced. I have been really stoked on people’s responses. In running my own program I was able to handpick all my partners and love that I get to maintain open dialogue, feedback and appreciate accountability on both sides. It has been fun to work on the business side of the industry, and I am constantly thinking of new ways to provide value for my sponsors. In ‘cross, where the racers interact with the spectators on a more personal level, racers come by more slowly; the race is exciting and engaging, even if the racer passing by is not racing for the win. Everyone is racing to do the best they can, which also makes the sport easier for spectators to understand. I have been given a number of nicknames from unknown spectators over the course of the year, my favorite of which has been Rainbow Bright. It’s pretty cool when random people along the course are engaging with you enough to give you nicknames!
RBA: What’s your greatest motivator, and what are your biggest goals for the 2014 season?
Emily: While it will always be important to me as an athlete, as a person I try to work on not being race-result focused. I try to focus on experiences. I love that I get to ride my bike and work on bike-related projects full-time. It sounds kind of silly, but a lot of my motivation comes from harebrained and sometimes grandiose plans I come up with my buddies. Big-picture stuff is what really keeps me going. It is more important for me to share my love of the bike and see the sport and industry grow in directions that I embrace than it is for me to stand on a podium.
RBA: Do you work on your training alone, with a group or with a coach?
Emily: I have never had a coach in the traditional sense. My husband would look over my self-developed training plans, but that was the extent of it. Additionally, my training has never been data-based; I don’t own a power meter or heart rate monitor. I’m old-school, I guess. I try to keep a balance of riding with friends and alone since I love both. Not surprisingly, I have been spending a lot more time riding on the dirt than on the road and have really been enjoying that.
RBA: Are you having more fun?
Emily: I notice that I smile and laugh during races, and I like to think that is an indication of how much fun I am having. I get to ride my bike every day, spend more time in the dirt, minimize time around dangerous cars, travel to new cities and race venues, and spend more time with my family and friends. It is hard to say that I am having ‘more fun’ than in previous years, but I am definitely having a blast and am enjoying the new challenges.