_G5Y8490.jpg Katie Compton (Spike Shooter) represents the best chance for an elite American medal at the world championships this weekend in Hoogerheide. Since her silver medal at the 2007 world championships, Compton has remained one of the favorites to win any international race she lines up at when she can avoid her chronic leg cramps (last year, the cramps forced her to pull out on the first lap). We caught up with her this week as she prepares for this weekend’s race. Photos by Joe Sales.

How are you feeling leading up to the big race? Are you glad you skipped Milan?
I’m feeling pretty good, still a little tired from the past weekend (I raced a small local race for training that was a really hard and heavy course) but I’ll feel good by the time the weekend gets here. I am happy I skipped Milan, although it looked like a super fun course. We watched it on tv here so I still got to see the race. I just can’t risk that much travel the weekend before worlds if I want to have good legs on race day.

How do you like the course at Hoogerheide?
The course looks good so far. We’ve ridden over there a couple times last week and checked it out last Saturday and it was almost all set up. We weren’t able to ride it yet but it looks like it will be a tough course regardless of how muddy it is.

This year your legs seem pretty good going into the big race. Does that make the pressure on you higher, as you go into the race as one of the few favorites and have a chance at the first U.S. elite rainbow jersey?
It doesn’t add to the pressure; I actually feel more pressure when I have bad legs because I have that feeling that I won’ be able to drive the pedals around like I need to in order to win. When I feel good, yeah I’m nervous, but I know with good legs I can have a great race. Right now, I’m not thinking about the rainbow jersey as much as I’m thinking about what I have to do to win. I have a win in me but I have to do everything right first and have good legs on race day.

Was it a tough decision to skip Milan?
I wasn’t going to move up in the WC even if I won Milan and Daphny skipped it or DNF’ed so that made my decision to skip Milan pretty easy. Even if I could have moved up one more spot, the difference in prize money between second and third in the overall standings is about what I would have spent on travel down there so it would have balanced itself out anyway. A world championship means much more to me than another possible WC win and a little extra prize money. Now if we were making what the men were making, and I had a chance to win a lot more money, then that would have made my decision more difficult.

_G5Y8396.jpg This was the first year women received money for the World Cup overall, but we’ve heard Hanka Kupfernagel said she won’t race the World Cup next year if the women don’t get 50% of the men’s money. Would you follow suit? What do you think the right percentage should be?
I disagree with the way Hanka is approaching the fight for equality of the women with regards to the prize money. Peter Van Den Abeele has worked really hard to get us an overall prize list for this season and he is up against a difficult battle, so demanding more as soon as we make a little progress isn’t going to win over the people at the top who make those decisions.

First of all, women need to be able to put on a show for the spectators so we can bring more money into the sport by way of people coming to see the race and also getting more advertising for the tv audience. If the best women racers opt to skip the racing because there isn’t more prize money then we won’t improve the racing and make it more entertaining. Hanka may push for equality in the prize money but we also have to step up and race the same difficult courses as the men. For example in Roubaix, she and Kluge were against the women riding the steep downhill because it was supposedly too dangerous for us so the UCI decided to take it out for the women and the juniors. I believe if we are racing at the top level of the sport (which I think a WC qualifies as that) then the women (especially the top women) need to have the technical skills to ride the difficult terrain and not fight to make the course easier. Why would we want to lower the bar at the WC level? That doesn’t help us fight for equality. If we want to be equal to the men then we need to have the skills to ride the same terrain and take the same risks. All the North American women rode the steep drop in training, and if you were worried, you could also run it like most of the elite men did.

I would love to have half the money of what the elite men make, but a good start would be making the prize list top heavy for the women since our talent pool isn’t as deep as the men. Start with more money for the top 5 and then increase that as more money comes into the sport. I also feel that men getting lapped shouldn’t be making more than what I do for winning the race since those lapped riders aren’t adding any entertainment value to the race.

So as much as I hate making a lot less money than the men, we need to keep racing and keep pushing our cause in order to make a change. This is something that will take some time and we need to push at the right times and through the right avenues in order to make progress to bring about that change. Giving up and leaving the sport is exactly what some men at the top want and we can’t give that to them. I’m in this for the long haul and I want to do everything in my power to push for change, but it’s a fight all the women need to make by performing at a high level to make the race more entertaining from the first woman across the line to the last.

On the women’s team, will there be any conversation about team tactics?
Most likely not, there isn’t a lot of team tactics involved in cross racing, especially if the course is hard and heavy. Tactics will come into play on a fast frozen course but I’m hoping that it won’t come to that this weekend.

Guess on the tires you’ll be running?
That’s still a secret…I don’t want to give anything away before the start!

Good luck out there!
Thank you!