Thirteen-time U.S. national champion Katie Compton has had an up and down 2017 season.
At the first World Cup race in Iowa City, she crashed so hard she was flung over the course’s barriers. Five days later, at the Trek headquarters in Waterloo, Wisconsin, she recovered to win the UCI C2 race on Friday. But on the following day, she had an allergic reaction to a bee sting and barely managed to finish Sunday’s World Cup race.
In order to fully recover from the inflammation from the bee sting, Compton had to take prednisone; she was then mandated by UCI rules to take a break from racing “for good reason,” she says. She had to miss the KMC CrossFest, the first round of the U.S. Cup-CX.
She flew to Belgium and won the GP Mario De Clercq, the first event in the DVV series, in commanding fashion. At the Koksijde World Cup, Compton was pleased with her hard-fought fifth-place finish, despite suffering from allergies brought on by pollen.
On Wednesday, she’ll toe the line for the second race in the DVV series, Koppenbergcross, as the overall leader. We talked with Compton preceding her first ever Koppenbergcross, which will stream live on FloBikes, starting at 7:35 AM CST.
FloBikes: What do you anticipate on Wednesday?
Katie Compton: It’s a race I’ve always wanted to do. But in past years, I’ve always been in the U.S. through November racing cross. It’s such a classic race. It’s such a hard race. And this year it’s actually harder, because we have to ride up the whole Koppenberg every lap. The start actually starts at the bottom, and you’ve got to ride up to the top. That’s going to be a full on, max effort at the start, and then sprinting up that hill — it’s gonna be hard. I don’t know how much climbing we have per lap, but I know we go up and down the Koppenberg every lap. I’m pretty sure it’ll be muddy, since we’re getting rain lately.
Is there any other race that compares to Koppenbergcross?
It is unique. I can’t think of any cross race that has a hill that long, and that steep. And it’s not only the fact that it’s long and steep. The cobbles aren’t easy to ride up. The TV doesn’t do it justice. The cobbles on the Koppenberg — they’re not the biggest cobbles, but they’re not easy. That’ll be tough. Namur World Cup is probably the closest race that has that much climbing. But Koppenberg will be one of the hardest races that I’ve done.
We’ve seen a different winner in almost every women's elite race at the international level. What are your thoughts on the current parity in women’s racing?
The women’s fields are getting stronger, and they’re getting deeper. Their technical skills are good. The racing’s been exciting. I line up at the start, and anyone on the front row can win the race. Even in the second row — they can win the race, too.
Depending on what their goals are for the season, or how they’re feeling, if they’re tired, the women’s racing changes every weekend. I think it’s awesome; it’s great to see. Especially now that there’s more racing on TV.
Who do you anticipate will be your biggest rivals on Wednesday?
It’s hard, because you think it favors a climber, because there’s lots of climbing every lap. But it’s kind of power climbing. So you need someone who can climb well, but also has good technical skills to descend quickly. I’m looking at Maud, of course, because she’s been riding really well, and she’s good technically. Sophie De Boer climbs well. Nikki Brammeier climbs well.
Sanne, of course. She’s always strong. Sanne’s out of the overall now, because she dropped out of Ronse. So, that’s unfortunate. She’s been sick.
Oh, and Helen Wyman, too. She climbs well also. It’s going to be a good race because it could be anyone of us at the front.
Does the Koppenberg present any equipment challenges?
I’ll probably ride intermediate, or mud tires. I don’t think it’s going to be dry enough for a fast sand tire. Tire pressure will be tricky, because you want it low enough for the descent. But, you also don’t want to be hitting rim riding up the cobbles. Or adding any more rolling resistance than you have too, to get up the cobblestone climb. I’ll worry about that on race day.