Katie Compton - Hoogerheide Cyclocross Word Cup 2011

Katie Compton - Hoogerheide Cyclocross Word Cup 2011 © Bart Hazen

The 2011 World Cyclocross Championships are fast approaching, and the best racers from each country are putting in their last-minute preparations. We caught up with a few of the US Women to hear some of their thoughts as they look to Sunday’s race. Stay tuned for reactions on the course after riders have the opportunity to pre-ride at St. Wendel.

With 11 wins this season including her seventh National Championship, and coming off of another impressive World Cup win at Hoogerheide, Katie Compton is looking to be the woman to beat in this year’s World Championships at St. Wendel. We caught up briefly with Katie, and her husband Mark, who are currently in Putte, Belgium, putting a final polish on Katie’s legs with former Belgian national champion Paul van Loome. From there the pair will head to St. Wendel to pre-ride the course on Friday. “We’re not riding the course on Saturday,” said Mark Legg-Compton. “Mostly recovery and chilling at the team hotel. We’re really psyched to be staying with the US team, it’s a good group of people, the kind you’d like for a dinner party.”

“It’s mostly recovery this week and trying to work on not thinking about the race too much,” Legg-Compton continued. “Katie’s racing instincts are very good; we’ll pre-ride, talk tire setup and lines, and run through some racing scenarios, but in the end it’s going to come down to racing instinct. I believe this is going to be the most competitive World Championships we’ve ever witnessed. Unfortunately we’re not going to have Daphny in the battle, she’s a great competitor and adds a dynamic into every race that Katie has to cope with.”

And Katie’s Stevens bike? “I’ve been spending the last couple days replacing cable housing, care of SRAM, and prepping new bearings with oil so they spin super-smooth. They only need to run for one race; with the special oil I use, they spin with the tiniest of resistance,” he said.

“I’ll have four bikes set up for Katie with five sets of Rhinos and two sets of Typhoons. There’s a special set of the new Dugast tires available that we’ll probably not use, but they are there if we need them. Speaking of Dugasts, I don’t know of any other sport that is dominated by one piece of equipment. One piece of advice I would offer is get a jump start on ordering a set of Dugasts now before next season. I have a feeling the demand is going to be ever higher as more riders make the switch to tubulars.”

Sue Butler - Hoogerheide Cyclocross Word Cup 2011

Sue Butler - Hoogerheide Cyclocross Word Cup 2011 © Bart Hazen

Portland, Oregon, Elite racer Sue Butler is one of five women chosen to represent the US at Worlds this year.  Butler capped off a great year by taking fifth at Nationals after several strong showings in Europe. A highlight of her European campaign includes a 14th place in Plzen. Once you’ve read her thoughts here, check out her recent photo tour of the Ridley Bike Factory.

“I am feeling confident going into Worlds,” she said. “With jetlag subsiding, I know I have the fitness to obtain my goal of a top 10. I had a great training block when home and finally felt like I was riding like I should be. I told my coach that it’s the first time this year I feel fast. I just need to have a race where everything goes right. It has to be one of those days that it all comes together.”

When pushed for her predictions for the win, Butler replied, “I have my money on Katie. I think this is her year to complete the medal collection. She has shown that she is on form and ready to take it. I would guess that Vos and Kupfernagel are going to be strong contenders. It is in Hanka’s home country, Vos is defending the title – both have some pressure. I would not count out Katerina Nash either. Men? Who knows? Albert, Stybar, Pauwels, Nys. It will be interesting.”

“This year is much different. I did not stay the full six weeks in Europe. I actually went home and think the quality of the training was better,” said Butler. “Also, with my mid-season break due to a pesky sinus infection, I feel a lot fresher than I have at this time of the year in the past. It’s nice.”

Meredith Miller leads Sophie de Boer, Nikki Harris and Amy Dombroski

Meredith Miller driving hard at Hoogerheide © Bart Hazen

Last Sunday, Meredith Miller (Cal Giant-Specialized) took a solid 12th at Hoogerheide and vindicated herself after a difficult European race swing in December. The Fort Collins, Colorado, resident shares some thoughts about the World Cup and Worlds.

“Man, Hoogerheide was brutal! After my pathetic performance at the last round of World Cups, I was happy to have a solid ride,” she said. “I’m stoked about St Wendel. I hear the course is going to be hard, and I keep hearing reports for rain and possible freezing. So, the weather will keep things interesting.”

“I’m excited but nervous at the same time. It’s Worlds! Even though I’ve been to Worlds before, I’ve still got a lot to learn in the world of ’cross. Each and every race I pick up something new that I hope to carry over to the next race.”

“Clearly there are a lot of women riding strong right now,” she continued, “but there’s one who stands out among the rest. I think we all know who I’m talking about. We can name names after the race.”

On the relationship between US and European ’cross, Miller had this to say: “It’s no secret that the racing in Europe is more difficult than in the US. The fields are deeper, the riders aren’t scared to throw elbows, the courses are trickier and more challenging, and the weather always plays a factor. The races are faster. Courses here include every sort of element you can imagine in one race – ruts, mud, steep run-ups, sketchy descents, wicked-fast straights. You name it and it’s here. I think that in the US space is more limited, so the organizers have to figure out a way to make a course long enough in a smaller space, which means using 180 after 180 to get from A to B. Here the course is spread out over a much larger area, so it’s easier to include more technical aspects without having to ride on top of each other.”

“The number of spectators at a cyclocross races here is impressive, but I still have to say that the lack of whoops and hollers and cowbells is disappointing. It’s almost eerily quiet out there, and as a rider and a spectator I do notice it,” said Miller. “Americans know how to make noise and that’s what gives me goose bumps at ’cross races in the US. They don’t just cheer for the leaders but every single rider out there, first or last.  That’s how it should be.”

Her prediction for the men? “Stybar is a favorite. He’s won just about every race he’s entered this year, but Albert and Pauwels are nipping at his heels.”