By Laura Weislo in Southampton
US Champion Katie Compton got a small taste of Belgium in the Southampton 'cross races in Long Island, where supporters of World Champion Erwin Vervecken added a bit of 'Euro' flavour to the proceedings last weekend, but Compton won't have to settle for second hand Belgian culture, as she will soon be heading overseas to get the experience first-hand. Compton, who had to start from less than ideal positions at both of the last two World Championships, will be heading across the pond for the first World Cup in Kalmhout, Belgium.
"First I'm heading to Cincinnati," Compton told Cyclingnews that she'll take on the two Ohio races this weekend rather than the Granogue, Massachusetts event. "Then I'm heading to a handful of World Cups, hoping to get more points for a better start position for worlds."
"It will help me a lot to get a better feel for how people race over there, and to check out the competition," Compton said, adding that World Road TT Champion Hanka Kupfernagel will be hard to beat.
How long Compton will remain in Belgium is to be decided, but she plans to be back in the US in time to defend her championship title before going back across to get more preparation for the World Championships in Treviso, Italy, at the end of January. "I'll play it by ear see how I'm riding and decide the schedule later," Compton said. "Trying to work out logistically - it's hard. Me and my fiance - he's my support staff - we have to work out the logistics of where to stay, when to travel... we're still planning it out."
Her main competition in New York came from Canadian champion Lyne Bessette, who will focus on winning the US Gran Prix of Cyclo-cross for the second year in a row before heading over to Belgium for the busy holiday 'cross schedule. "I'm going to Gloucester," Bessette indicated where her next race would be. "We live in the area, my husband [Tim Johnson] is from there and it's his home-town race."
"I'm going for the USGP again this year, but the competition is fierce. I think it's great. There are a lot of great women out there - the Luna girls, Katie, and now Alison Sydor is racing 'cross. She was fifth in Las Vegas - she's a very smart rider. She'll tag along not doing anything and then she'll sprint you. She reminds me of Mark McCormack as a rider. A lot of experience, she's been racing for 20 years."
After the USGP wraps up in early December, Bessette will have a rest and then head to Belgium for the string of races in Belgium that fall near Christmas - at least six UCI races all within easy driving distance of each other. The proximity is something that doesn't often happen in North America. "The bad thing is our country is too big - it's not our fault!" she said. The USGP has just six weekends in three locations: Kentucky, New Jersey and Oregon, which means plenty of travel time.
"There are so many people interested in cross - the series wants to please everybody," Bessette said. With only six races, if she wants to win, she cannot afford to miss a single race or have a bad day - something that adds a bit of a challenge to winning. "Maybe we need to have eight races - two out west, two east - it would give people an extra chance to compete in the series."