Mounds View senior Kelly Catlin watched the North Star Grand Prix professional bike racing last year with great apprehension.

Her view will be much different as a competitor this time around. Catlin, a world-class talent, will compete in the five-day stage race beginning Wednesday in St. Paul and continuing through Sunday in Cannon Falls, Minneapolis, Menomonie (Wis.) and Stillwater.

“Last year I thought, ‘I’m really glad I’m not racing in this,’ ” said Catlin, who was content handing out snack bars and talking cycling. “It was pretty terrifying because it was really fast. A lot of the top women in the U.S. were racing in it.”

Despite a little more than two years racing, Catlin joined those ranks after success in Canada and Italy. A strong showing at the North Star Grand Prix, considered the most prestigious race on the USA Cycling national racing calendar, will help solidly her place among the top riders in her age group.

She spoke to Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about her start in cycling, her favorite riding routes and memories of competing in Italy.


Q: How did you get involved in cycling?

A: We’ve always biked recreationally in our family. And my brother starting doing cycling races for a merit badge. It looked really scary, and I didn’t think I wanted to do it. But after getting shin splits, cycling was the only thing that came to mind.


Q: How much different is the bike you’re riding in competition vs. the one you rode for recreation?

A: I did have a road bike with drop bars, and it was a pretty good bike made out of carbon fiber. That was a racing-quality bike. But when I got into cycling in larger, regional races, I got a Felt Bicycle. It was significantly more expensive but it’s about half the weight and more aerodynamic.


Q: What does your training regimen look like?

A: I’m in the racing season now so the training is a little different. We’re not doing as many hours on the bike but it’s still pretty intensive. In an average week I’m trying to train 1.5 to two hours every day. Depending on the weather I might use a trainer indoors. During the season it’s more intervals, whereas during the winter I’m doing longer base miles.


Q: Where do you have to go to get your outside training done?

A: My team, Northstar, hosts training rides every week. We basically ride through the suburbs as a warm-up, then once we get to the more rural roads we can do intervals and group rotations. It’s a little safer that way. When I’m training by myself, I try to find a stretch of road without stoplights. High traffic is OK because then you can race the cars.


Q: What are your favorite local training routes?

A: In terms of rest days, I really like going around the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes. And there’s a really nice hill next to my house and I usually just go up and down that for a long time.


Q: You took seventh in time trail at the junior women championships in Italy. Is that the pinnacle for you right now?

A: For juniors, yes. It was really cool racing in Italy because there were cobblestones, which made everything bumpy. But it was amazing going right past the Duomo, a really famous in church in Florence. You’re in the middle of your racing mind-set but you’re like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I’m going past this.’

David La Vaque