US national cyclo-cross champion Katie Compton will most likely start her season this weekend in Madison, Wisconsin at the US Gran Prix of Cyclo-cross opener. A still-healing knee injury forced her to miss out on a planned start at CrossVegas this week.
While the final decision on whether or not to race will be made Saturday morning, Compton is hopeful to make the start and use the race to see if the injury she sustained in a crash during the team relay at the mountain bike world championships has healed sufficiently.
"It was hard not to be able to race the kick-off race, but the knee is healing," Compton told Cyclingnews during Interbike. "I'll race one race in Madison and see how the knee feels for the second race."
Compton crashed on a rocky section of the Mont-Sainte-Anne course and suffered a torn bursa and bone bruise in the fall on September 1, ending her most successful mountain bike season to date on a disappointing note. After a win in the US short track championship and a fourth place in the Val di Sole World Cup, the crash forced her out of the cross country race at Worlds.
While more mountain bike racing may be in her future with an eye on the 2012 Olympic Games, cyclo-cross will remain her focus and she is determined to win the world championship which has so far eluded her.
Toward that goal, Compton will be limiting her travel back and forth to Europe in order to avoid the fatigue which ruined her drive toward last season's Worlds. "I'll do five of the seven World Cups, along with the US races - the Madison USGP, the races in Ohio, Fort Collins and Nationals.
"I need to get enough UCI points to get a good position at Worlds, but I need to balance that with avoiding getting run down by the travel."
Her first World Cup will be in Aigle, Switzerland on October 17, after which she will immediately depart for home and remain there until the end of November for the Koksijde World Cup. "There's another World Cup in the Czech Republic, but it was logistically too much to get there. After the Koksijde World Cup it's back for Nationals, then we'll be back in Belgium in December for my pseudo-hometown race in Kalmthout, Zolder, Hoogerheide and then Worlds in St. Wendel, Germany."
Compton's talent is obvious - with six World Cup victories, a silver at 'cross Worlds in 2007 and bronze in 2009 and six national titles - but she has struggled against a myriad of health problems which have prevented her from performing consistently overseas.
"I've been dealing with low thyroid function all season, and am just starting to feel better," she said. "I started having issues last November, and I pretty much cracked and by the time Worlds came around I just didn't feel good. I discovered the thyroid issues and in June I saw an endocrinologist and got some medicine to take, but it takes a while to see an effect, so I'm trying to be patient.
"I think everything will get better from here. It's frustrating. I'm just good enough to keep at it, I get good results - but if I could take out all the health conditions and just be able to train and race and feel good it would be a lot different.
"I don't like making excuses - I just want to come into racing feeling good. I miss those days of feeling strong."
Travel fatigue has always been an issue for US riders who try to balance a domestic circuit with the importance of gaining the huge number of UCI points available at the European World Cups. While that series has yet to make it to US soil, and is unlikely to do so anytime soon due to the costs involved, Compton is looking forward to 2013 when the world championships will be held in Louisville, Kentucky.
"I would love to key up to have a great race there, and I really like Louisville, it's a great part of the country. It's such a huge thing for us. The Europeans will finally get to experience what we've had to deal with all these years!"