Katie Compton overcame a difficult first lap to claw up to second place © Cathy Fegan-Kim

Katie Compton overcame a difficult first lap to claw up to second place at Worlds. © Cathy Fegan-Kim

by Molly Hurford

Last week, we checked in with the King of Scottish cyclocross, Rab Wardell. So it only seemed fitting that today we see what the Queen of American cyclocross has been up to so far in the off-season. With the Tour of California happening right now, and Compton taking part in the women’s time trial section of it, it was the perfect time to check in.

The first thing I want to know is, what’s next? I’d spotted her name on the time trial start list for Tour of California, but Compton’s traditionally been more of a mountain biker in the off-season. “I’m not doing much mountain biking, but I’m doing Gila this year. That will be a good training race, and then Tour of California and that’s about it for the next couple of months,” Compton says.

Does this mean a focus on the road? “No,” she laughs, “Let’s not say mostly road. I’m going to do some track racing for speed and fitness and fun. The road racing just came about because of the Tour of California.”

“The asked me about the time trial, so I said, let me check with Trek about getting a time trial bike. That’s a whole other sport, really. So SRAM said they already talked to Trek and they said, ‘we’re good.’ So I figured, what the hell, it’s an invite for the Tour of California. It’s hard to turn that down!”

“I think it’s a pretty cool event that they’re putting on. It’d be great if there was more to it, but you need to start somewhere! Gotta walk before you can run, and getting the time trial off, if people are interested and excited in it, I think it’ll be good.”

The time trial start list reads almost like the Nationals start list for cyclocross, with Meredith Miller, Jade Wilcoxson and Compton all lining up. “She’s just a good bike racer,” Compton says of Wilcoxson. “She’s new but she’s obviously talented and she obviously knows how to suffer and work hard, so I’m curious to see how she develops over the next few years! She really impressed me at Nationals. Can’t discount her skills if she can get through that course.”

“If you have strength and technical ability, ’cross is great for that,” Compton muses. Her and Wilcoxson have a common background: both are track racers; in fact, Wilcoxson was at a track camp right before Nationals. “It’s the intensity from the track. It’s a different kind of technical riding. It’s the intensity and the suffering and the ability to ‘go’ over and over again.”

Tour of California aside, Compton is taking the off-season seriously this year. “It has been really nice. It’s been the first off-season where I’m not stressing about money or having to be fit for MTB season, so I’m really enjoying it. I needed it.”

“I haven’t really thought about the summer yet, to be honest. Mark is thinking about MTB Nationals. He wants to race it. I’m like, ‘I don’t know…’ Maybe short track or Super D but not cross country. So that might be a possibility.”

As far as fun in the offseason, Compton says she’s been skiing and riding dirt bikes, “And riding. I’ve just been doing some long endurance rides, and we’ve had some nice weather. And hanging out with friends! It’s been nice to kind of relax and be busy doing fun stuff instead of being worried about training and logistics. My friend and I, it’s been awesome, we’ve been just looking at the weather and saying ‘let’s go skiing today,’ or ‘let’s ride dirt bikes.’ We’re at the point where we can wait and see how we’re feeling that day and decide what to do.”

Compton was one of the only pro racers to try to soothe relations between racers and USA Cycling when the unsanctioned race rule was announced last month, and took a lot of heat for it on social media. “I think the major point that wasn’t addressed is why don’t races want to sanction with USA Cycling? … Nobody is happy, the UCI is looking at pro men’s teams, not mountain bikers. Mountain bikers don’t make much money doing this, and they need to do any race with good prize money. We need to look at ways to make these races happen and keep everyone happy.”

She adds, “But we don’t need to be mean about it. I’ve had a couple mean tweets with foul language in them … I know a lot of people working at USAC and I know that they’re working hard to fix it … I don’t think there’s a reason to be mean to people.”

“Road and mountain bike are different,” she added, talking about racers who threatened to ignore the sanctioning issue and race wherever the money was. “Mountain bikers, a lot don’t make a lot of money. In the US, if you get product and your travel covered, that’s success right there. That doesn’t pay the mortgage, so it’s like, what are you gonna do?”

“I think negativity hurts more than it helps though.”

As for Compton’s own situation for the coming year, she’ll be sticking with Trek. “I’m already excited. It’s so nice to prepare properly, to have the down time and build up training slowly and not have to race and condense it into two months before cyclocross starts.”

“I have a game plan and periodization for ’cross, but I want to have some fun as well.”

Looking back at 2012, Compton says, “I’m really happy with it. I accomplished a lot of things. My personal goals. Not just winning the World Cup but being first or second in every World Cup was nice. And having some really good races. I had some issues with my starts. Goal for next year: work on starts and get my shit together early! That would be good. But I’m so happy I was able to travel back and forth, that I didn’t have leg issues this year, my health was good, my fitness was good, I felt like I was building. I was a little tired by January, but it seems like no matter what I do, January is always one of the hardest months to push through. Mark and I need to sit down and figure out a way to come to Worlds without being tired. But it’s hard when you have to start racing at that level of intensity in September.”