Cyclo-cross stand out Katie Compton is on her way home to seek a record-tying sixth US title after a lengthy European cyclo-cross campaign. Currently leading both the UCI rankings and World Cup standings, Compton's season has undoubtedly been a success so far, yet a mistake-riddled race in Koksijde has put her series lead on shakier ground.
Cyclingnews caught up with Compton before she flew back home, and she was still kicking herself for the crash-laden World Cup last weekend which saw her rally back from a hideous first lap to claim third place behind world champion Marianne Vos and Dutch champion Daphny Van Den Brand.
"My race this weekend in Koksijde wasn't a pretty one and I'm just really bummed that my skills sucked so badly since I generally really like the sand. It's one of my favorite courses because it is tough both physically and technically, I didn't bring my A-game for it and it showed. I made a lot of mistakes in that one and it's a good reminder of what not to do in a race," Compton said.
The five-time US 'cross champion will head to Bend, Oregon to seek a record six consecutive wins - tying Alison Dunlap's career total. Compton will look to perfect her game and shake off fatigue from her busy travel schedule in order to take home another stars and stripes jersey.
"Nationals is always an important race to win and an event that is very special to me. I'm just looking forward to racing in the US again and also enjoying a fun weekend in Bend, seeing friends, racing hard and enjoying the US 'cross scene. I haven't put a lot of thought into winning another championship, I just want to have a clean race with good legs and not make any stupid mistakes. As long as I can do that, I'm confident I can defend my championship."
While the US championship is important, Compton's focus is clearly further down the road toward the world championships in the Czech Republic at the end of January.
"I'm so focused on worlds right now that every race I do up to that point is a building block, and yes, I want to do well and win as many races as I can, but my main focus is to be riding fast at the end of January.
"I haven't been feeling as good as I did earlier in the season and that's due to the travel and the racing. I knew I would hit a bit of a lull during this period of the season and plan to start building again in the lead up to worlds ... I definitely feel like I need some hard rides now to get ready for the next couple of World Cups in December."
Despite having a "lull", Compton is still in the position of being the first US rider ever to lead the World Cup, although having to wear a pure white skinsuit in the races does have its drawbacks. "I'm not indulging in as much chocolate, beer and waffles as I'd like to!" she joked.
Through her success this year, going undefeated in ten straight UCI races, interrupted only by a third in the race in Niel which was not ranked before having her worst result with a third in Koksijde, Compton has gotten an unprecedented amount of respect from the European cyclo-crossers - not just for herself, but for the women's field in general.
"It takes quite a bit of time and consistent results to earn the respect of the Belgians and it's been fun to hear the cheers increase as I do more and more races. The interest in the women's side of the racing is improving in general and I hope that continues."
Yet the difficulties of maintaining both US and Belgian bases puts Compton at a bit of a disadvantage that most Europeans do not have to deal with - traveling across many time zones several times during the season.
"We're starting to get used to the travel a bit more but I still struggle with the jet lag from going back and forth. It's just the way it goes though and I'm learning to just suck it up and keep going even if I'm in a daze and tired at all the wrong times. I just have to remember to not make big decisions on days 5-8 of arriving in Europe."
Compton will race the US championships in Bend, Oregon on December 13 before returning to Belgium for the next World Cup in Kalmthout on December 20.