Compton’s surprise Hoogerheide result a pre-worlds boost

U.S. champion Katie Compton says she was holding back at 80 percent during the last World Cup. Her worlds prospects depend on careful pacing.

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Katie Compton knows she is capable of a podium-level performance at the cyclocross world championships Saturday in Bogense, Denmark. She did it in 2018, coming up just short of winner Sanne Cant.

Compton’s second-place finish at the final World Cup in Hoogerheide, Belgium last Sunday was the spark she needed going into yet another worlds. After a rocky season with few stand-out results, she battled through a muddy, heavy course against perhaps the deepest field of competitors this season.

You might think it was an all-out effort to make the podium, a race that pushed her to the limit. Surprisingly, Compton said that Hoogerheide result was the product of conservative pacing.

“I did the whole race with an 80 percent governor,” she told VeloNews. “Just because if I dug too deep I was worried about having an asthma attack and it really going badly.”

Her goals that day were avoiding an asthma attack and seeing how well she could finish with that self-imposed 80 percent rule. The second-place result was a pleasant surprise on a day when she was focused on simply riding her own race.

If 80 percent puts her within 10 seconds of ’cross star Lucinda Brand, can she push it to 100 percent at worlds?

“I know it’s there, it’s just a matter of how many times I’m going to spend those matches,” Compton said. “I have to race smart initially and see where I am and make a decision. Usually my body makes a decision pretty quick and I know.”

Looking ahead to Bogense, Compton remembers how deep she had to dig to follow Cant through the mud in Valkenburg.

“I was just kind of turning myself inside out to go faster,” she said. “That feeling kind of feels like it was yesterday. I know I can do it, I know I can put myself in that place.”

However, nagging asthma attacks have stymied the 15-time national champion this season. Whether or not her lungs cooperate could be the difference between a chance at the medals and a DNF.

Compton also said her performance will hinge on the course. Temperatures are expected to hover around freezing at the oceanside venue. If it is a heavy course like Hoogerheide was, Compton will wake up Saturday morning with a boost of confidence.

She will also be at the whim of her rivals in what should be the most unpredictable world championship ’cross race we have seen in years. Compton can’t predict whether it will be an up-and-comer like Denise Betsema or an established favorite like Marianne Vos.

“There are 10 girls who could win on Saturday, depending on who’s feeling good,” Compton said. “And I couldn’t even tell you the podium, it depends on the weather and who is feeling the best.”

For Compton to have a shot at contending in that talented field of women, she’ll have to feather the throttle to avoid aggravating her asthma, something that’s at odds with her instincts as a five-time medal winner in the world championships.

“It’s tough for me because I have that racer mentality and my mind writes checks that my body can’t cash,” she said. “I’m going to do everything I can to put a really hard, fast race in.”

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