Skipping one of the biggest American cyclocross races of the year wasn’t how U.S. national champion Katie Compton had envisioned beginning her 2010-11 cyclocross campaign.
But following a devastating crash at the UCI world mountain bike championships earlier this month — Compton injured her left knee and elbow in a crash down a rocky descent during the team relay competition — the six-time national champion sat out last Wednesday’s CrossVegas, held during the Interbike trade show.
The crash left Compton with a cut that required stitches, as well as a bone bruise and a partial rupture in the bursa sac of her left knee. Following Interbike she traveled to Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, in hopes of racing the Planet Bike Cup, the first two of eight races in the 2010 Greenware U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross. But it wasn’t until Friday night, roughly 18 hours before her race start, that the Planet Bike rider decided to race.
“I didn’t want to rush (the healing process),” Compton said. “It’s a long season, and I want to do well at the world cyclocross championships. I was still on the fence, but I wanted to start today. I felt okay walking up and down the stairs in the hotel, so I decided I was okay to race.”
It seems she was. Following a first-lap surge by Sue Butler (Hudz-Subaru), Compton settled into her usual place at the front of the race. Luna’s Amy Dombroski proved the last rider capable of staying with the national champion, with Butler, Georgia Gould (Luna), Andrea Smith (Milton CAT) and Meredith Miller (Cal Giant) chasing.
But by the third of six laps over the 40-minute race Compton was away for good.
Gould recovered from a sluggish start to join Dombroski in the chase. But after Dombroski lost traction on one of the course’s countless tight, twisting turns, Gould was alone in second place, where she would finish, 18 seconds behind Compton. Dombroski held on for third, 31 seconds back, with Miller fourth and Butler fifth.
“I crashed in a sandy corner, and it took me a little while to get back on my feet,” Dombroski said. “I was feeling all the standing and walking around from Interbike. I just have to remind myself that this week, with CrossVegas and the trade show, is like a stage race, and I might be tired, but everyone else is tired, too.”
Coming off a mountain-bike season that included a national cross-country championship as well as second-place at a World Cup, Gould was philosophical about finishing second to Compton after sitting fourth at the end of the second lap.
“I think I had a pretty solid race, and rode a steady pace,” Gould said. “I didn’t have it to follow the surges at the start. I know if I dig myself a hole in the beginning, I will pay for it, so I played it more conservatively.”
Given that Sunday’s course, and cool weather conditions, will be very similar to Saturday, Gould was asked how she might be able to reverse Saturday’s outcome.
“Every race is different,” Gould said. “The start can be different, people make mistakes; it’s always different. I’ll just do what I did today and try to win, and see how it goes.”
And for Compton, the win was a positive sign that her knee injury is healing, and her fitness has remained intact.
“It was really my first hard effort since mountain bike worlds,” Compton said. “I’m happy I won. Some races feel really good to win, and today was very satisfying.”
- The SRAM Most Aggressive Rider award went to Teal Stetson-Lee (California Giant-Specialized), who lined up last but powered her way up to a seventh-place finish.
- The USGP paid the top three elite women the same as the top three elite men, with roughly $2,200 awarded to the winner and about $1,150 to second place.