Katie Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective) made history last season as the first American to win a cyclo-cross World Cup title and after winning this season's fifth round today in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium, her fourth straight World Cup victory and the 20th of her career, another overall title is well within her grasp.
Compton now holds a 65-point lead over British champion Nikki Harris (Young Telenet-Fidea) on the World Cup standings while Belgian champion Sanne Cant (Enertherm-BKCP) retains third overall, 104 points in arrears. Two World Cup rounds remain and only Harris and Cant have a mathematical possibility of overtaking Compton, but as long as the American finishes ahead of them at the penultimate round in Rome, Italy on January 5 then she'll have an insurmountable lead ahead of the final round in Nommay, France on January 26.
While another World Cup title is surely important to Compton, the one accolade missing from her lengthy 'cross palmares is a world championship. Compton has finished on the 'cross Worlds podium four times, but never on the top step. Her latter three podium finishes - 2009, 2011 and 2013 - have been during Marianne Vos's current streak of five straight world championships but in the past week Compton has achieved a pair of morale-boosting victories over Vos at the fourth and fifth rounds of the World Cup.
Notably, Compton overcame poor starts to chase down and pass Vos at both the Namur and Heusden-Zolder World Cups, but perhaps more importantly was that the feat was achieved on two dramatically different circuits. While Compton has always felt at home on very muddy, technical circuits such as the conditions at Namur, today's victory in Heusden-Zolder was on a very fast, dry course - the type of circuit typically much more favorable to Vos.
"It is new," Compton said after her victory in Heusden-Zolder. "When she (Vos) races she always races to win and she always comes in with good fitness.
"I just got into chase mode again - I'm good at that," Compton said with a laugh. "I just went as hard as I could and once I caught Marianne and Sanne I just relaxed, recovered a bit, and then I attacked on the far side of the course."
Vos has only recently returned to 'cross after taking a break, and Compton is well aware of the challenge she'll face at Worlds - still more than five weeks away.
"I'm riding really well right now and I'm happy with my form" said Compton. "To beat Marianne is pretty amazing. I wasn't quite sure I could do it. But she only gets faster, but I just need to get faster, too.
"Of course Worlds is huge, it's right up there and is a priority on my list but Marianne always comes in fast at Worlds. The ability's there, it's a matter of bringing it all together on the right day."