For Katie Compton, a little time off was just the ticket. Sure, it’s early in the cyclocross season, but she’s won three times so far, and there’s no reason to think she’ll lose sight of the podium anytime soon.
“It’s been a really good start,” Compton told VeloNews. “I’m feeling better and I’m riding better.”
Better is a scary concept for Compton. So far, it’s meant that the eight-time U.S. national cyclocross champion won both races at the Planet Bike Cup in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, last weekend and took Wednesday night’s Gateway Cross Cup in St. Louis. She plans on lining up at a local race, the Primalpalooza, in Golden, Colorado, on Saturday and will head from there to Los Angeles to race the Madison at the USA Cycling Elite Track National Championships.
Compton, who came into 2012 aiming for the U.S. Olympic mountain bike team, had a rough spring and quickly decided to take a break from April to June at home in Colorado Springs. The rest has paid off.
“I kind of just relaxed and had a rest,” she said.
In July, Compton ramped up her training again, making ready for this season’s ‘cross campaign. She left Rabobank-Giant after a single season and signed with a new team in the Trek Cyclocross Collective, which has helped her refocus this season.
“This year, I have better support around me… Trek has been just huge,” she said, pointing to the equipment, staff and general team support. “I’m just feeling better. I think after trying to race mountain bike and trying to do both, I just spread myself too thin.”
Winning here is one thing for Compton, who has dominated U.S. ’cross for years. It’s abroad where she’ll test herself against the world’s best again this season. She is no stranger to the white World Cup leader’s jersey and is aiming for the overall title this season, “and then, world championships, of course,” she said. “I want to win that elusive world championship.”
Compton has finished on the podium at the cyclocross world championships three times: second in 2007, third in 2009 and second again in 2011. Marianne Vos (Rabobank) has won the world title every year since 2009. Last season she rode into the worlds as every bit the favorite as Vos, but came up short in the sand at Koksijde, Belgium.
In a departure from her last few campaigns, Compton plans to start all eight rounds of the World Cup this season. She’ll hop across the pond first for the two late-October World Cup events in Tabor and Plzen, Czech Republic. She’ll come back stateside to race domestically afterward and head back to Belgium in late November for the Koksijde and Roubaix, France, dates and again for the late December races in Namur and Zolder. Compton will race in Rome on January 6 and immediately return to the U.S. for the national championships before returning to the Netherlands for the Hoogerheide World Cup two weeks before the worlds.
Though taxing, particularly for Compton, who’s dealt with severe cramping issues in the past, it’s important to race in Europe and the U.S., for the competition and UCI points she finds at World Cups and for representing her sport in America. Last season, Compton adopted the model of flying into Belgium just before a run of major objectives and returning home quickly after. She also reduced her U.S. racing calendar to cut down on travel time.
“I won’t deny that. It is hard. We try to make the most of it. I’m not a person who can stay in Belgium the whole season long,” she said. “It’s good that I do both.”
It’s probably good for the sport that she does both, too: just recently Compton was working with a friend on basic cyclocross techniques and a woman out walking her dog wondered if it was already ‘cross season.
“It’s huge,” she said. “People are buying bikes, they’re starting to race — it’s pretty cool.”