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Katie Compton powered to an unparalleled 12th straight national championship title Sunday in Asheville, North Carolina.
The 37-year-old Trek rider from Wilmington, Delaware was locked in a tight battle with Georgia Gould (Luna) for most of the race, but the defending champion left Gould behind in the penultimate lap and came into the finishing straight with enough of an advantage to hand out high fives to fans along the barriers. Gould held on for second, while Kaitlin Antonneau (Cannondale-cyclocrossworld.com) nabbed third.
The women’s elite field made the start under cloudy skies on a chilly afternoon in Asheville, and the first lap saw a number of lead changes before things started to shake out at the front of the race. Courtenay McFadden (American Classic-Zones) took the holeshot, but she did not stay at the front for long, with Amanda Nauman (SDG-Muscle Monster) and then Elle Anderson (SRAM-Strava) spending time in the lead as well in the early goings.
Gould, an Olympic medalist on the mountain bike, powered into the race lead midway through the first lap, with Compton lurking just behind. Then the pair started to distance the rest of the field. By the end of the first lap, Compton and Gould held a comfortable lead over a chasing Antonneau and Anderson.
Compton put in multiple digs in lap two without opening up a significant gap to Gould before hostilities stalled somewhat in the third lap. That gave Antonneau a chance to draw closer to the duo, bringing her deficit to the leaders down under 10 seconds at one point, before the battle between Compton and Gould heated up again and gap to Antonneau began to widen once more.
Compton finally put Gould in the rearview mirror for good near the end of the penultimate lap as a light snow began to fall. Seeing Gould struggling to navigate a testy downhill stretch, Compton powered clear with a decisive attack and did not look back.
“She made a bobble on the descent and I took advantage of it,” Compton said after the race. The battle for the title was close enough that Compton was not going to let the opportunity pass her by.
“Georgia was riding really well,” she said. “She came out with her A game. I didn’t know what to expect—I know she’s really strong, I just haven’t seen her at any of the races over the last few months.”
Before long, Compton had a significant gap, which only grew over the course of the final lap. By the time she rounded the final corner, Compton had enough of an advantage to savor the 12th straight national championship win. Gould crossed the line with a smile to take runner-up honors 22 seconds later, with Antonneau taking the final podium spot 34 seconds behind Compton.