Katerina Nash likes to change things up. Nash can usually be found racing mountain bikes and cyclocross with the Clif Pro Team, but this week she will line up at the Amgen Breakaway from Heart Disease Women's Race empowered with SRAM with Team Illuminate. It will be Nash's first Women's WorldTour event, and the largest road race she has competed in for several years.
Nash was intrigued by an offer from Team Illuminate's Manager, Chris Johnson, to guest ride for the young team in California. For Nash, a resident of Truckee, CA, it was an opportunity to race against some of the best road races in the world, right in her backyard.
"I think Chris knew a little bit about me and figured I might be a good addition and bring in some experience to his very, very young team," Nash said. "I jokingly asked him, 'Dude you realise I'm a mountain biker right?' I don't know as much about this side but having the local knowledge of the courses here, and having a good experience from cyclocross and mountain biking, will make it very exciting to line up on Thursday and ride around the lake."
Constant change and evolution have enabled Nash to lead a long and successful athletic career. Before she became a fixture on the pro mountain bike circuit, Nash competed in the Olympics as a cross-country skier. In recent years Nash has found additional success as one of the top cyclocross racers in the world.
Road racing is not an entirely new endeavour for Nash. Early in her career, Nash made frequent appearances with teammate Alison Dunlap at races like Redlands to help prepare for the mountain bike season. As the off-road season got longer, and her focus on cyclocross increased, Nash dialed back her road racing but continued to compete successfully in regional races like the Tour de Nez and Nevada City Classic.
Nash only recently returned to competition after a successful run in 2016. Nash finished third in the Telnet UCI Cyclocross World Cup standings and placed third at the Cyclocross World Championships in Luxembourg last January. Her appearance at Sea Otter in April was Nash's first race back since Worlds.
"It was definitely a big year," Nash said. "But I managed it really well, and I got to Worlds super fit and got third on the World Cup overall which was pretty amazing for me because I never get to do all the events."
Nash credits her success at this point in her career to experience and an improved mental approach to racing.
"As the age is going up you realise, 'This is my last shot,'" Nash said. "I can't retire and come back at this point, so I'm making the best out of it, and I have to say the last few years have been the most fun years of racing.
"I'm not necessarily chasing the contract next year. I still want to do well, and I'm training and working just as hard, but the mental piece got easier."
Nash is a contender for most races where she takes the line, but she is not sure how she will fare this week at the Tour of California. As a resident of the Tahoe area, she is well suited to tackle the altitude, weather, and local roads but the Women's WorldTour is uncharted territory for her.
"I don't know the level of the WorldTour," Nash said. "I don't know many of the riders, I read about them, but not being involved in it is an unknown for me. I also feel like that that is almost an opportunity. I have no huge expectations. I want to do well and do my best, but I don't know where I fit in. If there is an opportunity to get in a break and ride with the best people out there, that would be super awesome."