The entertaining cyclo-cross course at the citadel in Namur was expected to produce a World Cup duel between world champion Marianne Vos (Nederland Bloeit) and US national champion Katherine Compton (Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team). A mechanical meant that would not be the case and both riders missed the chance to go head to head.
While the snow started to fall in Namur, the women lined up at the foot of the citadel. "Vos was laughing and saying that she should've worn long tights and gloves, too," Compton said.
Both Compton and Vos started well initially, but then Compton had to put her foot down. "I'm disappointed with my bad start. My chain dropped when I shifted before reaching the steeper part of the starting straight. I had to stop, get off the bike and get the chain back on. I was DFL," Compton said.
Meanwhile Vos powered away up front. For a short time, she was accompanied by French rider Lucie Chainel-Lefevre. By the end of the first lap, Vos dropped Chainel and from then on, Vos worked her way through the mud to her second World Cup win of the season. "It was a shame that Katie [Compton] had a problem in the beginning. It's more fun to fight it out with the best in front. I heard the announcer saying that she was moving up, but she had no chance to come back as she was nearly a minute down," Vos said.
During the second lap, Compton risked a lot by flying through a tricky off-camber section. She went head-first over the handlebars and in the second lap, she got stuck in the wiring at the bottom side of the section. "Running is so slow, so I gave it a go," Compton said. During the following two passages, things went smoother. "It still wasn't good, but I didn't want to change from riding to running."
In the end, Compton quite easily managed to get back to third place and she was content with that. "I'm happy that I salvaged the podium even though I lost so much time," Compton said. During the last lap, it even seemed possible to get back to Chainel, but the Frenchwoman held on to a margin of 15 seconds at the finish line. "I didn't know she was so close. I didn't see her," Compton said.
When checking out the lap times, it is clear Vos was going much quicker up and down the slopes of the citadel in Namur. Compton lost 43 seconds over Vos during her first disastrous lap, then lost 23 seconds during a not so fortunate second lap that included a bad passage at the off-camber section. During a clean third lap, she was still 17 seconds slower than Vos. Only during the last lap was Compton slightly faster than Vos. Of course, it's impossible to say how things would have unfolded if Compton would've been on Vos' wheel.
The tough conditions in Namur didn't allow any of the women to sit back and let others do the work. The snow, the mud and the steep sections in the course easily separated the good from the best. "I love this kind of racing. You need technical skills and power. It was hard and that climb after the start was the hardest. Downhill it was fun. What can happen." Compton wondered about crashing in a soft pool of mud or ice water.
Compton added that the most important thing was not to get sick at this time of the season, which was had happened to World Cup leader Daphny van den Brand (AA Drink-Leontien.nl), who finished eighth, and Sanne van Paassen (Brainwash), who didn't take the start in Namur.
It is still to be confirmed whether Compton will skip the next World Cup round in Zolder next weekend as she will soon be heading back to the US to prepare for the national championships on Sunday, January 8.