BEND, Ore. (VN) — Katie Compton (Planet Bike) collected her seventh cyclocross national championship on Sunday in Oregon, riding away from Luna’s Georgia Gould on the second lap of a heavy, muddy course. Meredith Miller (Cal Giant-Specialized) returned from a slow start to earn a bronze medal.
Thousands of animated race fans looked on as Compton diced the technical, power-sapping circuit at the Old Mill District in Bend, which she called World Cup caliber.
Compton missed her pedal at the start and went backward through the second row as LadiesFirst’s Andrea Smith grabbed the hole shot only to see Sue Butler (Hudz-Subaru) replace her out front. But the defending national champion quickly moved up, jumping out of a five-rider chase and latching onto Gould, who had stormed up and into the lead on the first lap of the wind-whipped 1.8-mile course.
“I was in traffic at probably 15th or so for the first couple turns and then I finally could move through traffic,” said Compton.
Miller was even further back than Compton and fought hard to make her way back to the front.
“I was using the straight, power sections to my advantage,” said the former national road champion. “I’d take a breather where I could and then really push hard through the deep mud and power sections.”
Meanwhile, Gould’s teammate and fellow front-row starter Amy Dombroski flatted just past the pit on the first lap and saw her podium hopes ride away as she hobbled along on the rim. After receiving a bike change, the former U23 national champion struggled to refocus and bobbled in the course’s many technical sections.
“I had to ride almost a whole lap on a flat,” she said. “I’m very disappointed.”
Side by side — but not for long
Compton and Gould were side by side as they ran the steep staircase and were well clear of the field going through the start-finish. Compton pitted for a fresh bike and Gould quickly opened a three-second gap, which Compton closed with equal swiftness. Then she accelerated once, twice, and suddenly there was daylight between her and Gould.
“I just wanted to keep on going hard and put her under pressure,” said Compton. “I just wanted to push it where I could and then keep it clean.”
Gould fought to keep Compton’s wheel, but the gap only grew larger. At the end of the second go-round Compton had already begun lapping riders, and Gould was solidly distanced.
Miller made her way through more than 20 riders in two laps, and with two to go, she rode through Hudz-Subaru teammates Sue Butler, Nicole Duke and Katherine Sherwin.
“It is a little bit nerve-wracking moving up through people because you don’t know what they’re going to do,” said Miller, who didn’t wait around for the trio to begin attacking her.
Up front, by the end of lap three Compton had nearly a half-minute on Gould, with Meredith Miller (California Giant-Specialized) riding alone in third place.
“She just kept attacking. She’s riding really strong,” said Gould. “The crowd was so awesome and I wish I could have channeled all these people and forced myself to go harder.”
Compton on cruise control
Compton, resplendent in a fire-engine-red skinsuit, was blazing along the heavy course, blasting through lapped riders as though they were parked. Gould was pegged at a half-minute behind as Compton got the bell for the final lap. She pitted for a fresh machine, leaped back aboard and rolled. Gould skipped the pit and continued her pursuit of the race leader.
Behind, Miller clung to third. Ahead, Compton was giving no quarter, powering along in and out of the saddle, churning through the mud, free to take the clean line and striving to avoid making a costly mistake.
“I knew it was going to be a really hard day today,” said Compton. “It’s a hard, unforgiving course, so I had to keep it clean and not make any mistakes.”
And she succeeded — an error-free final lap took Compton to her seventh consecutive stars-and-stripes jersey. The winner of two World Cups this season finally began to enjoy the heavy crowds as she made her way up run-up, 500 meters from the finish.
She was waving to the crowd well before the finish line, and before much longer the crowd was treated to a very familiar sight — a grinning Compton coasting across the line with both hands high in the air.
Compton relished the win, which she called every bit as special as the previous six.
“It’s the national championships,” said Compton. “I love winning it and I’m glad I got a seventh. Every year’s special. Every year’s hard.”
Gould’s still game: ‘No one’s unbeatable’
Gould said at the finish that despite Compton’s strength, she starts every race with any eye on the top prize.
“No one’s unbeatable. I never go in racing for second place, ever, in any race. I race to win,” she said. “Yeah, she’s really strong and a really technically good rider too. I know when I’m having an excellent day and everything comes together, I can totally beat her.”
“Sometimes you try really hard and you only get second place. And sometimes it happens for a lot of races in a row.”
Miller surprised herself with how satisfied she was to finish third, one step down the podium from a year ago.
“I know a lot of people would give up or lose their cool, but in my mind I knew this course was good to me because it was a lot of power,” she said. “Did I think I’d make my way back up to the podium? No.”
Compton turned her eyes toward her upcoming run at the world championships in St. Wendel, Germany, in late January.
“I can’t wait,” said the former worlds runner-up. “I’m really excited. I’m going there for the win. I’m feeling better every day, so yeah, I’m really excited.”
- In her second race of the day, Kaitlin Antonneau (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) won the U23 division of the elite women’s race over first-year Coryn Rivera (Peanut Butter & Co.-Twenty12) and Division 1 collegiate champion Ashley James (Kenda).
- Riding for Appalachian State University, James won the top women’s collegiate honor, while Kimberly Flynn (Tennessee-Chattanooga) took the Division 2 title.
Stay tuned for photos.
- 1. Katherine Compton, Planet Bike, 43:48
- 2. Georgia Gould, Luna Pro Team, 44:19
- 3. Meredith Miller, Team Tibco-To The Top, 47:07
- 4. Katherine Sherwin, Hudz-Subaru, 47:25
- 5. Susan Butler, Hudz-Subaru, 47:26
Editor’s Note: Brian Holcombe is a reporter with VeloNews. He covers all things racing in the U.S. and has been accused of attacking too much on the VN lunch ride.
— Online editor at large Patrick O’Grady contributed to this report.