American Katie Compton continued her undefeated streak by winning her second UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup of the season in Nommay on Sunday.
The Planet Bike rider now leads both the World Cup and UCI rankings after two commanding wins in the series and her tenth win out of ten starts in UCI racing this season.
In Nommay, she was able to benefit from a front row starting position to put distance into World Champion Marianne Vos and last year's World Cup winner Hanka Kupfernagel, both of who skipped the Treviso round last month and had to line up in the last row.
Speaking from her base in Belgium, Compton gave Cyclingnews some insight into her tactics going into Sunday's race.
"Initially I thought the course would be too easy and fast because it wasn't very technical and it wasn't that muddy on the pre-ride the day before. However, once we left the course, it started raining and rained pretty much all evening and into the night so the course was heavier and muddier than expected," Compton said.
The sun came out for race day, and the surface formed into a soft but not wet mud, making conditions good for the American. "It was perfect 'cross conditions, a fairly heavy course that required a good amount of power but a sunny day and no need to pit.
"I made the decision before the start to race it 'American style' where you just drill it from the gun and there is no sitting up. The Euro girls like to ease up after two laps and look at each other before attacking again and that can give people too much recovery and change the outcome of the race."
After a fast start that forced Vos and Kupfernagel to chase, Compton said she went to the front to push the pace, but by the end of the first lap Vos managed to find her way up to the front group with her compatriot Daphny Van Den Brand.
The second lap held Compton's sole bobble, which briefly gave Vos an advantage as the World Champion went to the fore to attempt to capitalize on Compton's mistake.
"Vos came to the front halfway through the second lap and gapped me on the run-up section which she rode, and I slipped. She opened up a three bike-length gap on me."
Compton did not panic and rode back up to Vos' wheel before twisting the throttle on the next lap and distancing the Dutchwoman for good. She was then able to power to her sixth career World Cup victory.
"I didn't want to get beat in a sprint by Vos again. My only option there is go to hard and drop her before the finish. If I wait and we come to the finishing straight together, my chance of winning is lower and I didn't want it to come to that. I also had memories of Worlds fresh in my head and could use that to help buffer the pain."
After several years of steadily improving results, Compton now finds herself in the historic position of the first US rider to ever lead the UCI 'cross World Cup and the impressive fact that she has yet to lose a race this year. The difference? A smarter approach to training amidst all the travel, Compton said.
"I have backed down my training so I'm not as tired anymore and travel better," she explained. "I still get the interval work in, I just add more recovery between workouts and that seems to help."
A mysterious problem with leg cramps after travel and issues with asthma meant Compton came into the season with less intensity, but that may have been a good plan for a season that will stretch to the end of January.
"Last year I had really good form at the start of the season, I just suffered from my legs cramps traveling over to the first World Cup (Kalmthout) of the season so I had to sit out of the that race and and the next one, and took three weeks off the bike in October.
"Then I jumped into Pijnacker without much riding and it showed. There's nothing I hate more than traveling to a race and then getting my leg cramps, so now I just remember that feeling whenever I am tired and my power is low and decide to skip the intervals that day. A little more recovery and staying on the bike is better than taking three weeks off and sucking after that."
Compton will continue to wear the white jersey of World Cup leader heading into the next round in Koksijde, Belgium at the end of the month. She will remain at her base in that country before heading home to prepare for the US national championships.
"I'm really looking forward to Koksijde, it's one of my favorite races because it's a hard one. There is lots of sand so you need to have good technical skills and also a lot of power to get through the sand."
Compton won the round in Koksijde last year after placing second to Van Den Brand in 2007, and is confident going into the race. "I also know that the other girls are gunning for wins too, so I need to come to the line with my A-game if I want to win that one again. It's going to be a hard race. I love the competition though, for me the battle if half the fun."
Compton holds a 30 point advantage over Van Den Brand in the World Cup rankings, with the Netherlands' Sanne Van Passen in third at 35 points.