Collegiate
CX
National Championships

KK Santos Prepares to Race CX Nats with a Hometown Advantage

Katherine “KK” Santos doesn’t come from a bike racing family. But, after one ride in her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, she was hooked.

“My brother’s friend was riding mountain bikes and my brother wanted to try it. So, they took me out to try too,” she said. “I could ride some things my brother couldn’t, and thought it was the coolest thing ever. That made me want to stick with it.”

She stuck with it and her career has continued to progress in multiple disciplines. While racing in the junior ranks, she won the 17-18 division at the 2014 USA Cycling Cyclocross Nationals – her career highlight to date.

Now, she’s almost mid-way through her senior year at Marian University where she’s racing mountain bike, cyclocross, road and track – “Everything except BMX,” she says. At Marian, she helped the team to a first-place finish in the Team Omnium at last year’s USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships, as well as a third-place team finish at this past October’s Collegiate Mountain Bike Championships.

 Cyclocross, however, has become her focus. And, while she’s switching between disciplines throughout the year, cross is always top of mind.

“I like to think that everything is preparation for cross,” Santos said. “Of course, my coach at school likes to think everything is in preparation for what we’re in season for. Each discipline is a mental break. When we go from mountain bike to road season, it’s a mental refresh – it’s something new to focus on, it’s a different style of training – which is why I can train all year round. I like to think it’s all in preparation for cross, and these 6 months from July to December are all focused on cross.”

Her affinity for cross was undoubtedly cultivated by her hometown. When Louisville opened a cyclocross course at the 59-acre Eva Bandman Park in 2010, it became America's first permanent, major-city cross facility.

The community embraced the sport, and with the addition of a dedicated cross course, Louisville also became a destination for riders. That position was solidified when Eva Bandman Park was host to the 2013 UCI Elite Cyclocross World Championships, marking the first time in the 64-year history of the event that the championships were held outside of Europe.

Between the development of the park, the active community of riders, the opportunity to watch the world’s best just down the road from her home, and being able to race on the same courses, Santos, like her neighbors, embraced cross.

“There were so many people who were racing cross in the area,” she said. “I was originally racing mountain bike, and I saw how popular cross was and tried it. Then I got addicted.

“The community is so good about supporting juniors, and the city is good about supporting juniors, so cyclocross became my main discipline,” Santos continued. “There were also a lot of kids my age doing it and my family supported me riding on the courses instead of on the road. The community helped the most – so many people in Louisville ride cyclocross and it’s amazing.”

Santos is preparing to return to her hometown to compete in one of the biggest races of her career – the 2018 USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships at Louisville’s Joe Creason Park. She’ll have the support of friends and family, and she plans to arrive to the course on race day by bike.

“The hometown crowd will fuel the fire for sure,” she said. “Racing with people you grew up with or lived down the street from or trained with all out watching, it gives you at least an extra watt. I don’t know how, but it does. The fire from people cheering and sleeping in my own bed – it will all be really nice.”

With her local knowledge of Louisville, Santos provided a few tips for those headed to this year’s cross nationals.

Where to Watch

“The more technical portions of the course will be a good spot to watch,” she says. “The steps in the back are great because the riders are moving a little slower and can really hear the fans. The finish is also probably going to be really interesting because there will likely be a lot of sprint finishes.

“There will be some really technical aspects and also power sections,” Santos says of the course. “It doesn’t favor one type of rider, which is exactly how Nationals is supposed to be. It’s a course where anyone can win and anything can happen.”

Where to Ride

“If it’s a road ride, Cherokee Park. It’s scenic and there’s a bike lane – it’s where USA Cycling’s Amateur Road Nationals were held last year. It’s also a great place for mountain biking,” says Santos. “If it’s a cross ride, Eva Bandman Park.”

For another Louisville adventure, Santos suggests visiting “The Mega Cavern Underground Bike Park – you can also ride cross bikes there or rent a bike.” The park sits below the city in an abandoned quarry and features 320,000 square feet of trails and tracks great for year-round riding.

What to See

“There are bourbon tours, the Louisville Slugger Museum is neat, and Churchill Downs is something people should see. There won’t be any racing at that time, but the museum is great,” Santos says.

Where to Drink and Dine

“There are a lot of really cool local breweries. Against the Grain is really good – it’s right downtown and they sponsor a lot of local races,” suggests Santos. “The coffee shops are also awesome. Heine Brothers is super good and is pretty close to the course, and cyclists always like their espresso shots.”

For pre- and post-race meals, Santos has a few favorites in Louisville. When she’s thinking about breakfast, “I’m a big Wild Eggs fan, and Con Huevos is good.” For later in the day, she says, “Feast and Butchertown Pizza Hall are both really good local restaurants for dinner.”

The USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships take place December 11-16, 2018, at Joe Creason Park in Louisville, Ky. For more information or to register for the event, go to the event page here. Follow @USACycling across all channels for updates throughout the event and for the latest on Team USA. 

Please contact Kelly Fox with questions at kfox@usacycling.org