Katie Compton had perhaps the best season ever for an American cyclocross racer, dominating Elite Women’s fields both in the U.S. and Europe until her leg cramps put the brakes on her hopes for winning the World Championships and the UCI World Cup overall. The possible upcoming sale of Planet Bike leaves one of the World’s top racers without a contract for next year, as she was until soon before the 2009 season started. The difference – she’s even more well-established now and has lots of time to shop around. We touched base with Katie’s husband, Mark Legg-Compton, to get an update on Katie’s search for a sponsor and how she’s dealing with her leg cramps.
Just as she did in 2008, Compton ended her season on a low, skipping the last two World Cups and not finishing the World Championships due to a re-occurrence of her leg cramps. But Compton continues to search for both answers and a solution to her career-long problem. “We’ve received an overwhelming amount of support and ideas, however this isn’t as simple as it sounds,” said Legg-Compton. “We’ve been working on this issue for many years and have reduced Katie’s episode from five to six times per year to once every 16 months. We’re following up on some treatments which may yield results, however we’re not going to get ahead of ourselves just yet.”
With or without a diagnosis, Katie has achieved an impressive amount of success in the sport, more than any other male or female U.S. racer, with six consecutive National Championship wins, six World Cup wins, leading the UCI points and World Cup competition and two World Championship medals. “We’re looking forward to the future and making adjustments as we learn how to race in both the U.S. and Europe and learn how to cope with Katie’s legs versus what she is physically capable of performing,” explains Legg-Compton.
The couple’s endless search for answers has covered two continents, as they took advantage of the access that the Belgian health care system provided to top medical experts. “We saw some Belgian doctors, who gave us some ideas of treatment, but there wasn’t enough time to run blood tests or perform a muscle biopsy…we still have yet to find anyone else who shares identical symptoms, although there is a large group in the cycling world suffering from mysterious, undiagnosed cramping episodes,” said Legg-Compton. “The difference between Belgian doctors and the U.S. doctors is an athlete like Katie is able to visit the same doctors who work with Pro Tour athletes and teams, compared to in the U.S., where the Pro Tour riders’ doctors are not accessible to athletes like Katie who operate outside of the men’s racing circle. We, like most of the riding public [in the U.S.], have to deal with medical insurance coverage issues and overwhelming medical costs that limit our ability to access specialists in the field of sports medicine. You wouldn’t believe how often Katie has been told by the medical community that she should stop riding to prevent the cramp-like episodes.”
As for her other search, Compton’s contract with Planet Bike expired Jan 31st and she is currently looking for a new title sponsor for both the mountain bike and cyclocross seasons, as she builds towards racing the 2010 Mountain Bike World Championships at Mount Saint Anne, Quebec, the 2012 Olympic Games and her lifelong goal of a UCI Cyclocross World Title.
But while her struggle to solve her leg cramping and find a title sponsor consume much of her time, Compton is also working to make sure the next generation of women cyclocrossers have an easier path, including mentoring her former Planet Bike teammate. “I believe Kaitlin Antonneau is the next up-and-coming, great American rider,” said Compton. “I’ve started working with her late in the cyclocross season, to help her, as the opportunities for women to make a living in the sport are very limited compared to men.”
As part of their sponsor search, they’ve compiled a highlight video of Compton’s racing achievements over the last few years: