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With one title down and two to go, Katie Compton is looking forward to carrying her World Cup-winning form into the upcoming U.S. and world cyclocross championships.
Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective) clinched her second consecutive World Cup crown on Sunday in Rome, winning a last-lap battle with world champion Marianne Vos (Rabobank), who took the runner-up spot at 24 seconds down, with Eva Lechner (Centro Sportivo Esercito) third at 1:10.
The muddy circuit on the Capannelle hippodrome was tougher than it looked, according to Compton.
“The course is all flat here and the mud and switchback turns are what made it hard,” she said. “It was fairly technical in the fact that you had to use lots of finesse to go fast and then apply power when the course opened up a bit. It was windy, too, so you could easily spend too much time driving the pace at the front and then crack if you’re not careful.”
After the first lap, Compton and Vos put some daylight between themselves and the rest of the field, and from there on it was a two-woman battle — until the last lap.
“I attacked and managed to get a gap through a power section and then went full gas to the finish,” said Compton. “I think I was riding the pure power and mud sections faster than she was. And there were a lot of those.”
With just one World Cup race remaining, Compton has an insurmountable lead in the series with 350 points. Nikki Harris (Telenet-Fidea), who finished ninth on Sunday, sits second overall with 249. Sanne Cant (Enertherm-BKCP), fifth in Rome, sits third with 221.
Her Cup crown secure, Compton turns to another challenge — the USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships January 12 at Valmont Park in Boulder. Compton said she would fly back to the States on Tuesday and head for Boulder either Saturday or early Sunday morning.
“I don’t know when I’ll be there yet — it all depends on how much I want to spend one more night in my own bed. And I’m staying on the Euro time zone so I’ll be awake super early to drive there,” she said.
“I think it’ll be a great venue and I can’t wait to race in front of a crazy Boulder crowd. It will be so fun and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Compton said she expects her chief rivals to include Georgia Gould, Elle Anderson, Kaitlin Antonneau, Crystal Anthony and Meredith Miller.
“And Chloe [Woodruff] too,” she added. “She was riding really well early in the ’cross season and has a good turn of speed and skills for CX, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see her fighting for the podium as well.”
Following nationals, it’s the big show — the UCI Cyclocross World Championships February 1-2 in Hoogerheide, Netherlands. There she’ll face Vos again, and while the reigning world champ may have yet to reach top form after a layoff and minor surgery, Compton has no illusions about the Dutch rider’s drive and abilities. And there are other contenders, too.
“For worlds, Marianne is my biggest competition but also Sanne Cant and Nikki Harris are both riding well,” she said. “And Eva Lechner had a great ride today and is getting faster every week. And the French always have strong women for worlds.”
Still, Compton has beaten all comers this year, and she’s keeping her eyes on the rainbow-striped prize.
“I’m definitely feeling stronger each week and racing better, trying to be smart about it and put a governor on my efforts so I don’t do too much too soon. Right now I just need to train in between race and travel days and keep building for worlds,” she said.
“I also need to get plenty of rest so my leg pains don’t creep up on me. I’m in a good place so I don’t have to push too hard to improve. There are always things I’m working on to get better, and right now I’m continuing to work on my strength and sprint since that’s what I need to win worlds.”