While most riders would be thrilled with a third place finish in a cyclo-cross World Cup, such a result was a poor finish for American Katie Compton in last weekend's race in Koksijde, Belgium. But the seven-time US champion isn't worried that the outcome may portend another failed quest for the elusive rainbow jersey when she contests the same course at the 2012 World Championships.
It's a course on which Compton utterly dominated in 2010, but on Sunday she was slow to start, losing the advantage of her front row position and having to ride through traffic to chase after eventual winner Daphny Van den Brand and world champion Marianne Vos.
"Over the last 5 years I've raced Koksijde, I've had good and bad days," Compton told Cyclingnews. "Bad days are the worst because the sand only gets deeper and harder the slower and weaker you get. I had a great day last year since my skills were on and my legs were strong, however this year I was just tired and I couldn't get out of my own way.
"I made a lot of mistakes from the start when I was slow off the line then missed my pedal. I can make more excuses, but I just had an off day and usually my strength can make up for it but not this time."
Compton has a challenge that most of the rest of her competitors lack, the fact that she steadfastly holds to her Colorado home base and has to endure long flights and jet lag to compete in the world's top events.
"I'm slowly figuring out the jet lag and training fatigue and rest I need in between the two and sometimes I don't always get it right," she said.
However, like all top competitors, Compton quickly shakes off the embarrassment of a substandard performance and uses it as an opportunity to make sure she doesn't make the same mistake when it really matters - the 29th of January when she will attempt to win the world title.
"As much as I don't like racing like a hack and not having a clean smooth day, I tend to learn the most when I make mistakes and do everything wrong, so I think it's a good thing in the long run. I know what I need to work on and things I need to do differently for worlds so I can feel and race better. I'm not going to stress about having a bad day right now, riding well in January is the important thing and I'm preparing well for that."
Compton will compete in the C1 Scheldecross and Vlaamse Druivenveldrit in Overijse, Belgium on December 10-11 before the next World Cup round in Namur, Belgium on December 18.