Katie Compton (Rabobank) churned through the sticky Wisconsin mud en route to her eighth elite national title, beating 19-year-old Kaitlin Antonneau (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld) by two minutes, as she rode to her second U23 title.
Compton made the slippery USA Cycling National Cyclocross Championships course outside Madison, Wisconsin look easy. Below-freezing overnight temperatures and a partially rolled-flat course made for a very fast, frozen course for the collegiate men in the morning, who posted the fastest lap times of the week. But by the time the women went at noon, the course was warmed up and rutted into a criss-cross of muddy trenches that sent most of America’s best to the ground at least once.
Merideth Miller (Gal Giant-Specialized) got the holeshot with Compton on her wheel. But Compton came around after only two corners and started opening the gap immediately, riding cleanly through the course’s early off-camber U-turn that jammed up the racers as rider after rider took the single decent line.
By the time Compton hit the course’s long, early climb, she was putting daylight between herself and the rest of the women’s field, and she didn’t stop adding to her gap until the finish.
“I figured, shit, I’m in the front. I might as well keep it going. With the ruts and with the conditions, it’s really hard to follow.”
The Race For Second Place
Racing against Compton in a national championship has traditionally been a race for second place — and what a race it was!
The protagonists in the battle for second were Cannondale teammates Antonneau and Nicole Duke and Specialized teammates Teal Stetson-Lee and Merideth Miller.
Duke and Antonneau were together for most of the first lap, as Stetson-Lee made contact with her teammate a few seconds behind. The stage looked set for a Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld vs. Cal Giant-Specialized battle. But Miller crashed out of contention, leaving the young breakout rider to the task of bringing back the Cannondale duo.
Duke and Antonneau weren’t so much working together as pushing each other.
“[Antonneau] would pass me and then I would pass her back,” Duke said.
“We were pushing each other,” Antonneau said. “I was pretty good on the hill and she was pretty good on the technical” Antonneau said of her former-downhill racer teammate.
Stetson-Lee dangled ten seconds behind the Cannondale women until the penultimate lap, when Antonneau shot ahead of Duke on the final climb and Stetson-Lee clawed her way up and past Duke.
Antonneau had already practically secured the U23 national title, but she didn’t have time to think about that. She had a silver medal in the elites to hold onto.