Rain is rolling into Asheville, North Carolina and the climb-heavy cyclocross nationals course has turned soft and slick. It’s likely to get worse before Sunday’s elite women’s race, which will see a form-building Katie Compton attempt to defend her title against one of the strongest groups of American women the sport has seen in years.
Katie Compton (Trek) — 3:1
Will Compton’s run as national champion end? It’s a question we’ve been asking for 13 years, and the answer is always no. But Compton has struggled this year after an injury last summer. She started the season slower and didn’t win a single World Cup race.
But does that matter at nationals? She still won almost every race she entered on American soil, and her form at the Namur and Huesden-Zolder World Cups over the holidays, where she was fourth and second, suggests that she may have timed her fitness perfectly.
American women rode better than ever on the international stage this year, piling up multiple top-10s. But Compton is still the queen. Someday, Compton won’t win nationals. We just don’t think that will happen this year.
Kaitie Antonneau (Cannondale-cyclocrossworld.com) — 5:1
A career-best second-place finish at the Valkenburg World Cup was the highlight of the season for Antonneau, who was second behind Compton at nationals last year. It was a year of second places, in fact: at Derby City, Jingle Cross, PanAms, and the second day of Ellison Park. Many were behind Compton.
Antonneau won the first day at the Trek CXC cup in October, ahead of Compton and Amanda Miller, and will need to find similarly spectacular legs to pull on her first elite national championship jersey this weekend. If anyone in the field can topple Compton, Antonneau is that woman.
Amanda Miller (Boulder Cycle Sport-YogaGlo) — 8:1
Miller’s season was one of resurgence. She stepped back from road racing and toward full-time cyclocross, and soon the results began pouring in. She performed well on the international stage earlier in the season, finishing 5th at the Valkenburg World Cup, but fell off a bit in her last European round and only broke into the top 10 at Azencross.
Miller excels in technical races and considers herself something of a mudder, but she falls short on courses with a lot of running. Asheville is a running-light course, and it could be muddy this weekend. She’ll have no real advantage, then, nor any great disadvantage. Second or third behind Compton would be an excellent result.
Crystal Anthony (Boulder Cycle Sport-YogalGlo) — 10:1
Anthony has had a heavy schedule this season, including multiple trips to Europe and races every weekend since September. A peak of 12th at the Valkenburg World Cup showed that she has the power to be a factor and will be a contender for the podium.
Elle Anderson (SRAM-Strava) — 11:1
Anderson, who took silver in 2014, had a slow start to the season, pulling together her one-woman SRAM-Strava team at the beginning of September and training through many early-season races. Three top-10 finishes in Europe over the holidays showed her form is on track, but she may still be a bit behind the favorites. She’s admitted that the world championships and late-season European races are her primary goal, but she’s motivated to put in a good ride in Asheville to make the worlds team.
Rachel Lloyd (California Giant Berry Farms-Specialized) — 12:1
After retiring in 2009, Lloyd returned to racing in 2014 on a bit of a lark, hopping into costumed races near San Francisco. It sparked a return to high-level racing, but she still doesn’t take things as seriously as before her first retirement. That means she hasn’t raced since November, putting a big question mark over her form. Prior experience has taught us to never leave her off a list of favorites, and she’s sure to be in the mix on Sunday. Nobody but Lloyd, however, knows exactly how well she’s riding right now.
Georgia Gould (Luna) — 12:1
On a tough, physical course that’s likely to be muddy come Sunday, Olympic mountain bike medalist Gould can not be overlooked.
She’s had a light program this year, with no trips to Europe and only nine races since September. But it seems that’s how Gould likes it these days, allowing her to tailor her training at home without the stress of travel. We’re tempted to bump her odds up considerably based on prior performances (hello, Olympic medal), but she just hasn’t raced enough this year for us to know whether her form is on track.