by Dan Seaton
On a day that dawned wet and windswept, leaving an already challenging course in Gavere muddy and slick, Katie Compton again powered herself to a solo victory over World Champion Marianne Vos. Compton’s win on a course famous for both its difficult hills and messy conditions was an exclamation point on her best season to date, already full of dominating performances in both North America and Europe.
Daphny Van Den Brand surged to an early lead, opening a gap as riders transitioned from the road to the first muddy descent. Van Den Brand was able to take advantage of her position at the head of the race, riding smoothly down the hill while many in the pack behind struggled to handle their bikes in the crowd. Once the race reached slightly more solid ground, a chase group, including Compton, Vos and Belgian rider Sanne Cant, coalesced behind her. But the group only stayed together for a few minutes before Compton decided to take matters into her own hands, launching a solo bid to reach Van Den Brand.
By the middle of the second lap, Compton was bearing down on Van Den Brand, who poured it on in an effort to stay ahead. Nonetheless, Compton caught her just before the pair reached the flat section of road at the top of the course. Van Den Brand and Compton would trade the lead, with Vos chasing several seconds behind, for the better part of a lap. Finally, as the two ran the steepest section of the hilly course, Compton shouldered her bike and charged past Van Den Brand. From there, Compton didn’t look back, quickly opening a gap of several seconds as soon as the course leveled off and the two remounted their bikes.
Meanwhile, Vos and Van Den Brand joined forces in the chase, but neither could match Compton’s pure power in the mud. Both seemed to struggle to just keep their bikes moving on the climb, while Compton appeared smooth and relaxed all the way around the course. It was vintage Compton as the U.S. Champion stretched her lead to nearly thirty seconds over the next several laps. Meanwhile, the chase fractured behind her as Van Den Brand fell into third, temporarily holding at around 10 seconds back from Vos, but slipping eventually to more than 45 seconds.
Compton, however, had no such problems and rode to another impressive solo victory, crossing the line nearly a minute ahead of second place finisher Vos. Van Den Brand took third with Sanne Cant, who continues to make progress on the world stage, in fourth. Sanne Van Paassen crossed the line in fifth, nearly four minutes behind Compton.
After the race, Compton told Cyclocross Magazine that she was very happy with her race on one of Belgium’s most difficult courses. “This is my favorite course all year,” said Compton. “It’s really challenging, both technically on the downhill and hard, with lots of power, on the uphill; and it’s super heavy today and pretty slick. So it’s definitely a skill day today.” After a disappointing third place finish in Niel, Compton said she was feeling better today. “I definitely had good legs today. Any place you could apply power I felt good, and I only crashed once or twice, so I felt good skills-wise and kept it upright. That’s half the challenge, just not crashing and losing 20 seconds.”
Compton, who has occasionally had difficulty with her legs following the long trip between North America and Europe, told us she was feeling fine and enjoying her stay in Belgium. “The weather’s been great, and it’s been pretty warm, so we’ve gotten to ride out in the sun. We live right near a forest, so I can go ride singletrack and ride the sand. It’s been fun.”
Christine Vardaros, the other American in the race, also said she had good legs today. “I was riding with Pavla [Havlikova] and Veerle [Ingels], but then I broke my derailleur and it was over,” she told us. “I had to run the climb and they left me there.” Vardaros, told us that she enjoyed the difficult conditions. “This is what I like,” she said. “I like it to be really hard: no rest and technical. If it’s not technical, it’s not a real ‘cross race.”
Mindi Wisman contributed to this report.
Full Results (32 Starters)
|3||Daphny VAN DEN BRAND||NED||32||42:56||12||12|
|5||Sanne VAN PAASSEN||NED||22||45:03||8||8|
|6||Linda VAN RIJEN||NED||22||45:57||5||5|
|9||Sophie DE BOER||NED||20||48:21||2||2|
|19||Ellen VAN LOY||BEL||30|
|24||Steffy VAN DEN HAUTE||BEL||17|
|25||Kim VAN RENTERGHEM||BEL||21|