Katie Compton's struggle with allergies at the end of the last cyclo-cross season put a dent in her ambitions to secure the rainbow jersey, and kept her resting for much of the spring and summer months. The US champion is fully recovered but has had a slower start to this season, something she believes could pay dividends come January when she is hoping to be motivated and in top form at the World Championships in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium.
"I do plan to build for the World Championships and be riding faster in January, and since I came into the season fully rested, I should be set to ride my best in January," Compton told Cyclingnews.
Compton has had a history of allergies during the cyclo-cross season, and last year she was forced to drop out of the Nommay World Cup because of an allergy attack, something she never fully recovered from until taking a long break this spring and summer.
She is going into this season with a clean slate and somewhat of an unknown, given this is the first year she has taken such a long rest between cyclo-cross seasons.
"What I've learned from previous seasons in regards to racing and preparation [for Worlds], has little effect on how I planned my season this year," Compton said.
"I had some health issues that started last season and carried over to this spring and summer, and I didn't recover from that till this last month. I didn't prepare like I wanted to, I instead spent the summer resting and trying to recover, so I came into [Cross] Vegas with the least amount of fitness I ever have.
"Even though I hate racing that way, I think it may pay off come January since I'll still be eager to ride my bike and go hard. In past seasons, I've always been tired for the World Championships and not had my best racing legs."
Compton started her season at the new addition to the World Cup series, CrossVegas, where she placed 11th, 1:20 behind winner Katerina Nash (Luna Pro Team), runner-up Eva Lechner (Team Colnago Sudtirol) and third-placed Sanne Cant (Enertherm-BKCP).
She bounced back at the Gran Prix of Gloucester where she was third on the first day and won the second day. She also placed second to Nash, twice, at the KMC Cyclo-cross Festival last weekend in Providence.
"My start has been getting better each week," Compton said. "I didn't ride all summer then was sick for Vegas, so I knew that race was going to be my worst all season. I suffered more than I ever have and fought for 11th place, which I'm really proud of considering my lack of preparation.
"I already felt stronger at Gloucester and raced better the second day, which doesn't usually happen for me so that was positive. Each week I'm finding more fitness and getting stronger so that makes racing easier. Providence went well again and it was some really fast racing."
Compton will race at the Trek CXC Cup double header this weekend before travelling to the second round of the World Cup in Valkenburg on October 18. "I'm feeling better with each race so hopefully I'll be even stronger in a couple weeks for Valkenburg," she said.
She has decided to reduce her time overseas this year and only compete in the World Cup series. Instead, she is opting to stay closer to home racing on the domestic circuit.
"I decided to stay in the US more this year and only go over to Europe for the World Cups," Compton said. "The money is generally better over here and the racing is hard and fast. I also don't have to deal with allergies as much in the US so I can train better. We'll see how it pays off towards the end of the season."
There has been no shortage of competition on the US domestic scene, with a series of fresh faces on the podiums and in the top-five challenging for the win each weekend including Nash, Caroline Mani (Raleigh Clement), Amanda Miller (Boulder Cycle Sport/Yogaglo), Emma White (Cyclocrossworld Devo Team), Ellen Noble (Jam/Ncc/Vittoria), Courtenay McFadden (American Classic/Zones), Kaitlin Antonneau (Cannondale Pb Cyclocrossworld.com), to name a handful.
"The women are getting stronger, faster, and more proficient technically so we now have a group of women at the front making the racing hard and attacking each other," Compton said.
"I think it's great for all of us so we get better and can compete for higher places in the World Cups, but it's also more fun for us as well as better for the spectators. The racing is exciting and fun to watch."