Editor’s note: The January 2013 issue of Velo magazine, which is on newsstands now, is our 25th annual awards issue. Our 2012 Cyclist of the Year was announced on November 29; we’ll be rolling out various other award winners throughout the month of December.
The riddle of the European cyclocross race has long proven a tough problem for North Americans to solve. Year in and year out, however, Katie Compton has proven she belongs among the best in the sport, no matter which country she finds herself racing in.
In January, Compton won the national championship, her eighth consecutive title. Worlds in Koksijde, Belgium, didn’t go as planned — she spent too much energy fighting back from a crash to contest for the win, finishing fifth — but the mere fact that a fifth-place finish at worlds is a disappointment for Compton speaks volumes about her ability.
Thus far in 2012, she has won the opening World Cup round, in Pilsen, Czech Republic, and domestically, as this issue went to press, she’d won all six Trek U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross events she’d started, and swept the Cincinnati three-day event in November.
Compton didn’t win the world championship she coveted in Koksijde or the 2011-12 World Cup overall, a title she is targeting a year later, but she, more than any rider, determined the racing throughout the year. INTERNATIONAL CYCLOCROSS WOMAN OF THE YEAR Marianne Vos (see page 30) continued her worlds streak at four, tying the all-time mark of Germany’s Hanka Kupfernagel, but raced for just two months. From October to January, it was Compton who dictated the racing, even if she came up short in the Koksijde sand.
Compton benefits from exceptional power and impeccable bike handling skills. She’s built for the sport: if it’s muddy, her handling skills can carry her, and if it’s clean, her power can take her away from the rest of the field. Compton’s focus is laser-sharp and she sprints well; the only aspect of her game that could be construed as a weakness is her tendency to start slowly on occasion.
All told, Compton, 33, has amassed 15 World Cup victories and three medals at the world championship, making her the most consistent American cyclocross racer, male or female, ever. Though this season isn’t yet in the books, Compton’s poise, and understanding of the Louisville world championship course, is setting the stage for her best-ever season.