Never Complacent – An Interview with 7-Time National Champion Katie Compton
Katie Compton (Rabobank-Giant) has done what no other American cyclocrosser – male or female – has: won seven consecutive National Championships. On Sunday, she will line up in Madison, WI, to attempt an eighth victory. Cyclocross Magazine caught up with Katie as she makes her final preparations to talk to her about her season, her new team, and her plans for the future.
You’ve had an interesting season full of changes. You’re on a full-on pro team, made equipment changes, and have some aspirations in mountain biking. How’s that all been, and how has it impacted your cyclocross season?
It’s been a decent season overall. It was a big transition from the way we’re used to working to being on a big team with different equipment, but so far so good. I’m happy I was able to deal with the added travel and racing a full mtb season and still have energy and excitement for ’cross. My ’cross racing isn’t as strong results-wise at it was last year, but I’ve had some good races and I’m feeling pretty well. Hopefully Worlds will be better for me this year.
You skipped Vegas and its craziness. Was that always planned or a late decision because of needing rest from the mountain bike season?
It was always planned. I really didn’t want to make the trip down there this year since I hate Vegas and I’m not a big fan of racing down there. I also needed a break after a long mtb season and didn’t want to jump into racing ’cross right away. Since the first mtb World Cup is earlier this year, I won’t have much of a break between ’cross and mtb so I needed to take some time in the fall before building up again. I also needed a mental break from racing and going hard so I could be fresher and excited to race again.
Have your revised travel and race schedule helped you physically? Are your leg cramps a thing of the past?
So far so good. I’ve been feeling better physically this year, have more energy, and my muscles don’t hurt all the time now that I have my thyroid issues figured out. I think that has helped the most. I’m still proactive in getting enough rest and recovery, and balancing the travel and racing as best I can to avoid getting the leg pains. I’m not convinced they will ever be behind me, but if I can manage them better then I’ll be happier and able to race ok.
Heading into Madison, you have a chance to extend your all-time record of wins and consecutive wins. Does setting records motivate you? Is each title as important as the last? Or does it ever become less significant because you are focusing on a world title? Was the World Cup overall title a goal earlier this season?
I’m not thinking about an overall record or consecutive wins, I just want to win another National Championship and have a good race. I try to win every race I start and put everything out there and sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. I never get complacent about any race since that’s when you make mistakes and have bad days. I’m preparing as best I can for Worlds this year since I really like the course; it’s a very hard course and you have to be a great ’crosser to win there, so it’ll be really special if I can have a great day there in January. I want to make winning the World Cup a goal at some point but it wasn’t the goal this year.
If you trust the long-term weather predictions, it might be mid-30s during the day, below freezing at night – not all that different from Bend. Are you hoping for snow or mud? Any thoughts on the course?
After seeing videos of some courses last year, I’ve decided not to judge any course from watching videos so I haven’t really looked at it much. I think the course and race will be hard regardless of the conditions. I’m hoping for some mud and technical riding because that is the most fun for me, but I’m excited to race no matter the conditions. Since it’s ’cross, it’s always hard and always fun. I really hope it’s not a grass crit. Regardless, we all have to race it and bring our A-game, whether it is a fast course or hard and heavy.
How do you like the Giant TCX Advanced and Shimano components? Anything hard to get used to? How has having full team support changed your race prep and race day?
It’s still a work in progress since it’s different from what I’ve raced on in the past. I’ve had to get used to the way the bike handles and the new shifting, as well as the new equipment. It’s taken longer than I expected to get things set up and dialed in as I like them. The position is different for me so that has been the biggest challenge and taken the longest to get used to. Nothing support wise has changed for us in the US; we’re still operating out of the back of our car or a rental and getting help from others at races as needed. Europe is the same as well. Our Belgium family provides the most support at races and Mark still has lots of work to do on the bikes, so that hasn’t changed. I try to keep my race day prep the same as I always have, once you get it dialed in and know what works, there’s no need to change it.
We know Mark is quite particular regarding equipment and wrenching. Does having the team support help Mark relax more or make him more anxious?
Let me just say that Mark is drinking more now than he has in the past. So I’m pretty sure it makes him more anxious, he still has lots of work to do with bike builds, re-gluing and gluing tires and maintaining my bikes. It’s harder this year because everything is new and different, and takes a little time to get it dialed in so it works in sand and mud.
Do you interact much with the Euro Rabobank men? Any funny stories about De Knegt, Van der Haar, Boom? Is Groenendaal still around the team, and is he a resource at all? We watched the video of the Koksijde World Cup, and there were times during the race you looked visibly frustrated, while last year you crushed the competition by minutes. Can you tell us about the two races, and what the difference was?
I don’t get to see the guys much at the races, since we are all on different schedules and pre-riding the course at different times. I’ve got a couple funny stories about Van der Haar, but I can’t really share those with everyone. Let’s just say he is a character and has a great sense of humor, or at least one I can appreciate. Groenendaal is still around the team and helps out the riders where he can.
As for Koksijde, it was a very frustrating race for me and one I’m not happy with. It was an awful day from the start and just got worse as the day went on. I was still getting my Euro bikes set up so they weren’t quite right and I was struggling with mechanical issues the whole time, on top of having crappy skills and bad legs. It just made for a tough, unforgiving day. We all have those days, but I was annoyed to have one of those on that course, since there is no faking it in the sand. I learned a lot though and will have everything set up properly and come in rested for Worlds.
Are you surprised that Vos has come out of the gates so strong? How about by her performance on a super-technical, sandy course like Koksijde? Who else are you worried about this season?
Not at all. I followed her amazing road season and knew she would come into ’cross season riding fast and be fit, even after a short break after her road season. She hasn’t won 4 ’cross World Championships by not having ’cross skills, and she’s ridden well at Koksijde in years past. I knew she would be a threat. She’s such a talented, hard working, and smart bike racer that she is a threat in any race she starts. Daphny is also riding well this year and is always very good in the sand, so she will be one to watch in January as well.
Last year you dominated almost every race you entered, in a younger Nys-like fashion, but didn’t quite make your goal of a rainbow jersey. Are you purposely taking a different approach this year? Hoping to save something for late January?
Yep, I figured I should change it up some since it hasn’t quite come together for me at Worlds in years past, so I might as well approach the season a little differently and see if that helps me come into Worlds a little fresher and stronger.
What does your 2012 season plans look like? Are the Olympics on your radar, and if so, will that impact your next cyclocross season?
2012 will be another big year. I’ll be doing the full mtb World Cup schedule and the first four races count towards qualifying for Olympics so we will know by June who is going. I’ll do my best to ride fast in those first four races and see how it goes. I think there will be time between mtb and ’cross seasons to take a small break again and then resume ’cross racing a little later like I did this season. I think starting ’cross in October worked well this year, so I can plan on doing that this fall too.
What’s are your thoughts about Worlds in Louisville? Will having Worlds in the US alter your plans for next year – will you base domestically for the run-up? Do you like the course?
I think the only thing that will change with having worlds in the US will be January. I still need to go over to Europe to race and also compete in the World Cups for the competition and the points, so I plan to spend time over there again. I think the course is good but it does need to be much harder for Worlds. They have enough terrain to work with and the venue is good, so the course design will be what makes it hard and technical or just plain fast.
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