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Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the December 2014 issue of Velo magazine, the annual awards issue.
American Katie Compton has been winning international cyclocross races so consistently, and for so long, it’s sometimes easy to overlook her world-class caliber.
It’s not accurate to say that Compton is without peer — Marianne Vos has proven a formidable opponent, particularly at the world championships — but in the context of an award that acknowledges consistent performances across the calendar, Compton has proven to be the most dominant rider in women’s cyclocross, and the most impressive North American woman in pro cycling across all disciplines.
Over the 2013-2014 season — which started slowly for her due to injury and illness during the summer of 2013 — Compton won 14 races from 21 starts, including five of seven World Cup events, sealing her second consecutive World Cup series title. She is the only American, man or woman, to ever win the UCI’s prestigious World Cup series.
In January, Compton also clinched an incredible 10th straight national championship. The last American woman to win the stars and stripes jersey at a national cyclocross championship was six-time winner Alison Dunlap, in 2003.
Compton has been awarded Velo’s North American Cyclocross Woman of the Year title for the past decade, but this marks the first time she’s been awarded North American Woman of the Year, which spans across all disciplines; it’s also the first time she’s been awarded International Cyclocross Woman of the Year.
“It’s pretty sweet to win all three categories,” Compton said in October. “I’m really happy with last year’s season, especially after some preseason setbacks, and these awards just top it off.”
A powerful rider who excels in sloppy, difficult conditions, Compton’s biggest adversary has always been her health. Over the past decade she’s dealt with crippling leg cramps, thyroid imbalances, and debilitating allergies, and through it all, she’s tailored her training, travel, and diet as needed to compete at the sport’s highest level. In October, she won her 100th UCI cyclocross race, as she continued to split time between the U.S. and her adopted home in Belgium pursuing a third straight World Cup crown.
Still, Compton, who turns 36 in December, knows her window of opportunity to win a world title is beginning to close. Vos, who is nine years younger, holds two significant advantages — youth, and experience. The Dutch rider, who splits her season between road and ’cross, has seven world cyclocross titles to her name. When it comes to a rainbow jersey, the pressure is on Compton, every world championship one more opportunity to execute a flawless performance against the most impeccable woman to race on two wheels.
Whether Compton’s dream scenario comes true at the world championship in Tabor, Czech Republic, in February, or in Zolder, Belgium, in 2016, or never, it’s something she refuses to dwell on.
“Of course I want to win a world championship. Everyone wants to,” Compton told VeloNews earlier this year. “Especially having been so close. But if it never happens, it doesn’t happen. I have had tons of success, I have overcome a lot of physical issues, and I have been able to win, and do well, and I am pretty proud of that. I’m not going to keep doing this forever, trying to win worlds … one of these days, I’m either going to be retired or I’ll win one. We’ll see. I’m okay with what I have accomplished, and where I am. I am still striving to win worlds, but it’s a hard thing to accomplish.”
A world championship, however, is not everything in pro cycling, and over the last 12 months, Katie Compton has proven to be the most dominant woman in cyclocross, as well as the most dominant North American woman in all of pro cycling.