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The keys to the Compton vs. Vos showdown at Louisville 2013

BOULDER, Colorado (VN) — One woman is the five-time world cyclocross champion, traveling across the Atlantic to defend her rainbow jersey outside of Europe for the first time. The other has never won at worlds, medaling three times, but is the newly coronated World Cup champion, racing worlds on home soil for the first time.

And while there are a handful of other contenders that will be vying for the title of world cyclocross champion in Louisville on Sunday, two women — Marianne Vos and Katie Compton — are the overwhelming pre-race favorites.

Vos is the undisputed queen of bike racing. She’s the reigning Olympic and world road champion, and has not been beaten at the world cyclocross championships since 2008, when she took silver behind German Hanka Kupfernagel.

Compton has come as close as possible to winning worlds, twice taking silver. In 2007, she finished second to Maryline Salvetat of France; Vos finished seventh in that race. Compton again finished second, in 2010, behind Vos.

During the 2010-11 season, Compton went undefeated in World Cup competition, taking five wins. But she opted not to start races in Plzen, Czech Republic, and Pont-Château, France, instead making a win at the worlds in Sankt Wendel, Germany, the focus of her season. She finished a heartbreaking second to Vos, and missed the World Cup title by a mere 10 points as well.

And for all of her accomplishments, the rainbow jersey is the final, elusive title Compton is lacking over a career that has amassed nine consecutive national titles, 16 World Cup victories, and most recently, a first-ever American World Cup overall title.

Simply put, there’s one major barrier between Compton and a world title, and it’s the woman who has worn the rainbow jersey for the past four years.

Each rider brings a unique set of skills and circumstances to Louisville.

Compton, 34, produces tremendous power and is without peer in challenging, muddy conditions; Vos, 25, has incredible speed and is a world-class sprinter. Compton has raced in Louisville on four occasions; Vos will be visiting the Eva Bandman Park course for the first time. Compton will have the home-field advantage, but also tremendous pressure; Vos will be out of her element, but has much less to lose.

During the 2012-13 cyclocross season, the two have squared off at three World Cup events. Compton beat Vos in Namur, Belgium; Vos beat Compton at events in Rome and Zolder, Belgium. Compton won the World Cup overall; however, Vos did not start her season until midway through the series.

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