Despite being one of the top riders in the UCI rankings, the rainbow jersey has eluded American Katie Compton over the past four World cyclo-Cross Championships.
While she landed on the podium in two of the four races, the other two resulted in DNF's when she was hit with mysterious and debilitating leg cramps. With her health finally resolved, all systems are a go at this year's World Championships for the most dominant woman in 'cross this season.
"After years of feeling badly, dealing with muscle pains and a list of other symptoms, I went to see an Endocrinologist to have hormone-specific blood tests done. Last summer, we finally discovered that my body doesn't convert the hormone T4 to the usable form T3 very efficiently.
"T3 pretty much is the one that regulates your metabolism and energy levels, and once I started taking T3 and not just T4, I finally started feeling better. I'm still dialing in the dosage but getting closer to feeling normal again. It has been a really long time since that has happened, so I'm not sure what normal is yet but every week seems better and better," explains Compton.
Over the last few months, 32-year-old Compton has had numerous opportunities to test our her newfound health. Of the 13 races she entered, she has won 12, earned her seventh US National Cyclo-Cross title, and won all five World Cups she entered.
When asked if she regretted skipping the remaining two World Cups that would have given her the overall World Cup win, in order to put it all on the World Championships, she muses, "It was unfortunate, I was a little disappointed but I just can't do everything I want anymore. I'm still really happy I finished second and won the races I started.
"I know it is a little risky [to put it all on Worlds] but you have to take those kind of risks in order to win big. I'm coming in as prepared as I can be this year. I feel better than I have ever felt, my energy is good, my legs are good and I'm excited to race."
When asked if this is a course for her, Compton replies, "I try not to have specific courses that I favor, but rather try to be good at all of them. I think my biggest strengths are that I am a power rider and mentally strong. I have good technical skills and ride well on a variety of course conditions. But those ruts are going to be the trickiest parts if they stay frozen. It will be a challenge to keep it upright."
As the indisputable favorite going into Worlds, the stress has to build, but Compton has it well in control. "I try not to think about it too much and just drink more red wine," jokes Compton. Adding, "All that resveratrol has got to be good for stress, right?"
In a moment of reflection, Compton gives thanks to having the opportunity to realize her dream. "I've always dreamed of being a legitimate contender for an Elite World Championship since I was a junior racing on the track. For it to become a reality is very special to me. I'm so happy to be doing this. Every day I am thankful that I don't have to wake up to an alarm clock and I get to travel around the word racing my bike. It's a good life."
As for the job at hand this Sunday, Compton says, "Even if I don't win, I still had my best season yet by winning five World Cups and a seventh National Championship so I'm going to be happy with that. More importantly, I have my health back and I am happy again. Everything else is just icing on the cake."