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BRECKENRIDGE, Colorado (VN) – ’Cross is coming.
Just ask the women’s peloton at the Colorado Classic stage race. Four prominent cyclocross racers challenged the roadies throughout two fast, demanding stages, and some will continue to do so at the subsequent Velorama criteriums in downtown Denver.
Katie Compton, Kaitie Antonneau, Emma White, and Caroline Mani are all racing with a different team, yet they share the same goal of building fitness heading into the ’cross season.
“It’s just really a good race effort, it’s good suffering, it’s good speed work, and strength work with climbing,” said Compton, who is guest-racing for the ISCorp team for the weekend. “With ’cross season starting with two World Cups, I need to come in fit. And it’s hard to get that race fitness if you don’t race.”
Unlike Compton, White, who will turn 20 at the end of August, has been racing the entire road season with her Rally Pro Cycling team. She scored a stage 4 criterium win at the Tour of the Gila in late April and powered to the overall title at the North Star Grand Prix in June. These solid results on the road have some people questioning whether she’ll step away from ’cross to focus exclusively on the road.
“I’m definitely focusing on both [road and ’cross] and going to keep the balance,” White said. From February to August White focuses on road racing exclusively. Come September, she switches gears and gives ’cross her undivided attention until January.
“My teams have been really great about it and my coach has been incredible. Right now we’re working through it,” she said. “I don’t know if I can do that forever—probably not—but we’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.”
Perhaps because of her youth, White is able to handle the constant intensity. She took third in a tight sprint on stage 1 of the Colorado Classic. The steep Moonstone climb of Friday’s stage offered more struggle for both White and Compton, however.
“I definitely struggled today,” Compton said. “I suffered quite a bit. I’m pretty happy with how it worked out. I didn’t have five laps in me but I had three.”
With the Jingle Cross World Cup of September 17 followed closely by the Trek World Cup on September 24, it is imperative that American ’cross racers be in top form for the beginning of the season. It means July and August are the months when most riders are deep into their transition to ’cross specific training and racing.
“You see a lot of ’cross racers coming into the road scene getting some experience and fitness,” White said. “The only thing lacking right now is running, so I’m going to have to pick that up when I get home. There are just some things that don’t cross over.”
Racing in Colorado was an easy decision for Compton, a Colorado Springs resident. She joined the ISCorp women’s team for the races after meeting and riding with the team at Tour of America’s Dairyland earlier this year.
“They’re a Trek team and since I ride Trek it worked out well,” she said. She had always wanted to race the women’s race associated with the USA Pro Challenge but things never came together like they did this year.
Antonneau races for the Cylance women’s team during the road season. Mani was a guest on the Palmares squad during the week. Each will jump to her respective ‘cross team in the coming months.
Compton, 38, is one of the most senior riders on the young ISCorp team, which includes the Schneider sisters, Skylar and Samantha, 18 and 26 respectively. But Compton says she’s not in a mentorship role with these younger riders.
“These girls know what they’re doing,” she said. “They’re young but they’re super strong. They’re smart and know where to be. They’re just good bike racers.”
It allows Katie to glean as much fitness from the racing as possible, which is ultimately why she’s here, just as it is with White, Antonneau, and Mani.
Compton now turns her sights toward the six-day Breck Epic mountain bike race, another event she’s using to prepare for ’cross season. But before that, she headed off toward the Moonstone climb to watch the men’s race and enjoy a BBQ her friends were hosting at the bottom of the climb.