It can be hard getting ready for World Cup cyclo-cross racing in the U.S. but Katie Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective) has spent years dialing in a winning system. Compton recently raced her last U.S. event of the year at the Derby City Cup, in Louisville, Kentucky. Compton used the former World Championship course, replete with several sand sections, to help her prepare for the beaches of Koksijde, which she will attempt to win a fourth time.
‘That was really my goal for the race,” said Compton at Derby City. “I really wanted to push the sand traps and ride well through there, and hold the line. It was pretty good, I was smooth for the most part.”
The lead up to her current season has been anything but smooth for Compton. The U.S. champion’s spring and summer was plagued with setbacks. Compton sprained her knee in April, suffered a recurrence of chronic leg pain in July, and then was off the bike for four weeks as a result of a cellulitis infection. The silver lining of a late start was that Compton came into the season well rested, and eager to race.
After a several domestic races in October, Compton started to regain her form and placed second to Marianne Vos (Rabobank) at the opening World Cup round in Valkenburg. She followed up Valkenburg, her first European race of the year, with a win a week later at the World Cup in Tabor. Compton heads to Koksijde as the current World Cup leader, and without Vos scheduled to race, she is likely to extend her lead barring a mechanical or travel fatigue.
Compton is pleased to have the Word Cup lead so early in her schedule, despite her off -season woes. “I'm surprised that I'm leading it now, just because I wasn't sure of the fitness coming in,” said Compton. “It wasn't great and it's getting better, I think I had just enough time to bump it up before the first two World Cups.”
Vos has been the only woman on the cyclo-cross circuit to consistently win against a healthy Compton. Compton used to be able to eek out an advantage on technical courses, but Vos’ riding skill has improved each year. With almost a 10-year difference to Vos, Compton feels she’s running out of time to find new ways to beat the reigning World Champion.
“I need to have a great perfect day, and she has to have some kind of mishap or to not be feeling good. She's so strong at so much, sprint, mud, technical, fast, she's a pretty hard rider to beat,” said Compton. “She's only gotten faster. She's only like 25 or 26. She's only going to get better. I'm 35, so I'm just trying to maintain, and get slightly faster, and she's getting a lot faster.”
Compton has carved out a unique schedule for herself as the top American cyclo-cross export. She’s opted to live in the U.S. through most of the year, and only heads to Europe for a few months at a time. Though her time in Europe grows every year, she remains committed to living and racing in the U.S. “I may not always do it this way,” said Compton. “Next year I may stay over there a little longer, or start earlier over there, but I like U.S. racing. It’s fun, good competition here, good prize money, so I'm torn.”
Compton’s American ties also go deep with her primary sponsor Trek Bicycles. Trek kicked off their involvement in cyclo-cross with Compton’s signing in 2012, and worked diligently with her on their cyclo-cross bike designs. Compton has been extremely happy with the Trek relationship over the last year, and her product testing work resulted in Trek’s flagship cross bike, the Crockett. Though her contract is up at the end of this season, Compton hopes to finish her career with Trek when the time comes, though that time is not likely to come soon.
“I take it one or two years at a time. I like racing my bike, I like the lifestyle,” said Compton about retirement. “As long as I'm riding and getting results, I'm going to keep doing it until I can't.”