Catch Me If You Can
Katie Clouse knows how to set goals. She also knows how to reach her goals. In the fall of 2017, Katie moved across the country to begin her junior year of high school at the Miller School of Albemarle (MSA). With this move, her goals were and remain quite simple: balance rigorous academics with elite-level bicycle racing.
For Katie, succeeding as a cyclist means achieving excellence in all three major disciplines of racing: mountain biking, road racing, and cyclocross. Doing well in a single one of these disciplines is a sufficient challenge that requires an entire year of focus and energy, but for Katie, anything less than standing on the top step of the podium at National Championships in each would fall short of her goals.
Katie is one of America’s most decorated junior cyclists. She has won 21 National Championships as a junior racer. This past summer, she won both the short-track and cross-country events at USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships in Snowshoe, West Virginia and in January of this year, she won Cyclocross National Championships in Reno, Nevada. Her cyclocross season concluded at the World Championships in Valkenburg-Limburg, the Netherlands, where she represented the United States of America as a member of the Under-23 National Team--she is the youngest rider in history to make a U-23 World Championship team.
At the age of 16, she is taking her racing to the next level and competing in the professional ranks. This past cyclocross season, Katie competed against America’s and Europe’s top professional cyclocross racers in events throughout the United States. This is something that she has been eager to do for a number of years, but this is the first year she meets the minimum age requirement set by the International Cycling governing body (UCI) to compete as a professional in UCI events. During her first season as a professional, Katie proved that her age is not a limiting factor; she routinely finished in the top ten at the most competitive events in the pro circuit going head to head with Olympians and World Champions.
As the cyclocross season comes to close, Katie is already preparing for the road and mountain bike season. In the spring, she travels to Europe with the National Team for two weeks of intense racing against the best road racers in the world. For a cyclist, competing in these events is the equivalent of making it into the NBA as a basketball player--there is no higher level of competition. In addition to her European campaign, Katie will jump back and forth between professional road races and professional mountain bike events in the United States.
While her aspirations as a racer are remarkable, Katie is equally focused on keeping her academics up to speed with her fast pace on the bike.
“Academics remain my top priority, especially as I look ahead to my senior year and begin focusing on college,” Clouse said. “I do as much homework as I can when I’m traveling to races, and my teachers are always working with me to catch back up when I return from a trip. When traveling, I get emails from teachers every day on what to do--it’s really nice to go to a school where my teachers and the administrators understand cycling and support my goals as an athlete and student. It’s really helpful, and school’s going well, even with my extensive travel schedule.”
Originally from Park City, Utah, Katie became a competitive athlete as a skier before finding bike racing. Her older brother, Evan Clouse, began racing bikes as cross-training for the ski season, and he quickly realized he had both a talent and passion for the sport. Evan, who is a senior at MSA and a member of the USA National Cycling Team, took his little sister under his wing and guided her into the sport.
“Evan is the reason I was able to progress in the sport so quickly. He always pushed me in training and would attack me on the climbs, look back, and yell, ‘Catch up, Katie.’ As you can imagine, I never wanted to get left in his dust, so I’ve been digging deep since I was 11 years old to keep up with my big brother.”
This positive encouragement is not limited to the roads and trails. Evan is an honors student and pursues academics with the same intensity he does sports.
Attending MSA together has allowed Katie and Evan to continue pushing one another in cycling and academics. “Evan is such a committed student! He always wants to talk about history class or foreign languages. He’s all business on the bike, and then he switches gears the minute the ride is over to academics. I figure I should keep up with him in this, too.”
Katie spent her sophomore year living in Colorado in order to train and race in close proximity to her cyclocross team. She transferred to MSA in 2017 to be a member of the MSA’s acclaimed cycling program and to be coached by Andrea Dvorak and Andy Guptill, both former professionals with decades of racing experience.
Attending MSA has helped Katie deal with the pressures to perform. For the first time, her training and academics are under one roof. She is able to ride daily with her coaches and fellow teammates, who are like-minded student-athletes.
“Being able to actually ride with classmates and my coaches is a motivation for me to go out and train and is definitely a lot more fun,” Clouse said. “It gives me more motivation because I’m actually having fun training and having fun racing. Plus, my teachers care about helping me discover my talents and reflect on my goals and achievements. This is priceless for me as a student and athlete. It both inspires me and keeps me grounded.”
For Katie, her long-term goals may one day include representing the United States at the Olympic Games and winning World Championships. For now, she is taking things one pedal stroke at a time and enjoying a successful ride with many intellectual and athletic mountains ahead.