When Curtis White captured the 2022 USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships, many fans and competitors alike were happy for White. A fixture in U.S. cyclocross since his youth, White is known for his unmatched work ethic. The cyclocross community recognized the win as the fitting outcome of years of hard work. Moreso, White was rather overdue the win. He had finished second at Nationals the three previous editions.

After so many silver medals, White’s 2022 victory was particularly sweet: “It was totally surreal. Close to home, surrounded by my friends and family, in the mud and snow, loads of cowbells, and top-level competition,” said White. “I’ve never heard so many people scream my name in a race before. The energy was electric.”

Perhaps, we should stop here and provide some context? 2022 Nationals were in Hartford, Connecticut. White grew up in New York State, close enough to Hartford that many of White’s long term supporters were on hand to enjoy the moment. As White alludes, the conditions were particularly memorable. The previously muddy course had frozen solid and snow whirled in the wind. The mud, snow, ice mix made for particularly technical riding.

Now more than six weeks into wearing the “stars and stripes” of the U.S. National Champion, White reflects on the added pressure: “There is more pressure because I’m no longer representing just myself and my sponsors. I’m now representing my country every time I take the start line. With that pressure comes excitement. I want to show my competition and the fans where U.S. cyclocross is, and I want to give them something to cheer for.”

Although White raced a variety of disciplines growing up, cyclocross holds a special place in his heart. “I’ve always loved road racing, but my true passion for cycling came when I saw the mayhem of cyclocross for the first time,” said White. “There is no hiding in cyclocross. At its core, it’s the most honest form of bike racing. It’s a ton of fun because you always get to challenge yourself with different conditions, features, and skill sets.”

White’s career has allowed him to witness cyclocross culture worldwide. Although White sampled European racing as a junior, as an elite, he has made the commitment to do lengthy blocks in Europe. In fact, during the pandemic, when all North American racing was canceled, White spent the entire season abroad. His diligence was rewarded with a breakout 13th place at the Dendemonde World Cup during the 2020 “pandemic season.”

Reflecting on European cross, White explains: “Cyclocross requires a versatile and well-rounded athlete, and you can especially see that in Europe. The level is higher and deeper than in the US, and you are always having to challenge yourself to improve.”

Given White’s experience racing “on both sides of the pond,” we asked him to comment on the situation, “the health,” of cyclocross in the U.S. and Europe. “From what I see, there has been growing energy over the last couple years in US cyclocross,” said White. “We have a solid national series that provides an exciting storyline for the domestic calendar, we have multiple World Cup stops in the US, and eleven broadcasted events with an international audience just this season alone. Internationally, you have the ‘Big Three’ raising the level and profile of the sport. On top of all that, cyclocross still remains the most interactive discipline with fans and athletes.”

A Challenge rider for several years now, White understands how critical good tires are to performance. “Racers have to spend more time getting to know their tires than almost any other piece of equipment,” said White. “Tire suppleness and tread can affect handling and power output, and we are always having to weigh low rolling resistance with the traction needed to keep moving forward.”

As a means of skill building, White suggests the following: “If it’s raining outside, try running a lower profile tire, like a Grifo, to practice sliding around and keeping the bike upright. Training this skill will carry over in your bike handling on the road, MTB, or gravel bike.”

Speaking of Grifos, they are White’s favorite tire! “Grifo all day! It’s the standard midrange tread, but incredibly versatile.”

Of course, not every day is a “Grifo Day.” White explains: “I genuinely like the variety of options that Challenge tires provide. As a racer, I’m always trying to find the balance between maximizing traction and minimizing rolling resistance. From the Dune to the Limus, there’s a tire for every course.”

White’s favorite course is a muddy one. (Remember, White had a breakout race at Dendemonde in 2020, the year it was the muddiest of muddy races!) “I love the mud!,” said White. “It requires the most skill, and most likely requires a lot of dismounting and running with the bike.”

For mud treads, White urges you to test Baby Limus: “Normally, the Limus has been the go-to mud tire, but the Baby Limus provides a nice alternative. It has lower rolling resistance, but still finds grip.”

White’s next race is Cyclocross Worlds in Hoogerheide. After the season wraps up, White will “shift gears” and focus on the gravel calendar in preparation for 2023–2024 cyclocross season. He also looks forward to coaching summer cyclocross camps and clinics. Regarding his future, White says, “I’m excited to keep progressing, and to keep giving back to this beautiful sport!”