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Defending champion Katie Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective) had to get her World Cup campaign started the hard way on Sunday, coming from behind to win the first race of the 2014-15 UCI series in the Netherlands.
Compton needed a bike change early on after dumping her machine on the drive side, but bounced back to take the World Cup opener in Valkenburg by just 13 seconds over Helen Wyman (Kona Factory Team).
Sophie De Boer (Kalas-NNOF) rounded out the podium in third at 25 seconds.
“I got stuck in traffic and then I got stuck behind someone on one of those steep uphills and they came to a stop and I was in the middle and I stopped and then I couldn’t unclip. And then I fell on the derailleur side and then I had to run to the pit,” she said.
“It was just one of those stupid things where, when you’re going up steep stuff and someone stops in front of you, there’s not much you can do.”
But Compton didn’t panic. She got back to business and set about reeling in riders.
“I knew this course wears on some people and I knew I’ve got a good finish, so I was just patient and tried to time trial it,” she said.
“This course is so hard that if you go too deep at times, you just can’t recover, so I just made sure that on the steep run-up and on the steep hills I went hard, but not so hard that I couldn’t recover and do it again.
“It was a hard effort today for sure. I don’t think I’ve dug that deep in a long time.”
Wyman was content with her ride, which she called “more than okay.”
“I felt really good at the beginning of the season since I’ve come back from America, and I thought I could do well here. It’s a really hard course and it’s hot, but you’re just sweating the whole time, it’s really humid heat, so it’s okay. I got an average start, but managed to work through pretty quick and then Katie was nowhere to be seen and I was thinking, ‘Seriously, what do I do now? There’s no one driving the race forward, what do I do?’
“I tried to break as many people as I could. I was starting to crack people and then she came past and then you’ve got a carrot to follow so I tried to follow her.”
De Boer was also looking for a wheel while trying not to overcook herself. After a good start she slipped past Wyman, but didn’t feel confident about staying out front.
“I was riding alone in the front, but immediately I felt I needed to take it a bit slower because my legs were okay, but I didn’t feel in top shape. So [I thought] I need to be careful and not over-push myself,” she said.
On the last two laps she was riding with Nikki Harris and Sanne Cant, and took advantage of a technical section to make her move.
“In the last two laps it was just with Nikki and Sanne and I knew I just had to pass them in the technical sections, because especially Sanne is a very technical rider. And I could, and then something happened with her chain, I don’t know, and Nikki dropped, so then it was in the last half lap I just thought I needed to keep going, don’t make any mistakes.
“But it was really hard, especially with the warmth. I really had to give like 120, maybe 150 percent today.”
Not far behind, Compton’s American compatriot, Elle Anderson (Kalas-NNOF) finished fifth, a career best for her in a World Cup cyclocross race.
“It was a really really awesome course. It just reminds me why I’m here in Europe this year … to race the most challenging courses out there, and this one was so hard. Every second you had to think about the obstacle coming next, but I just had a lot of fun,” said Anderson.
“It’s really different, it’s a whole different story than the racing in the U.S. It’s so demanding, and I just had a great time.”
Asked whether she was focused on earning a spot on the U.S. worlds team, Anderson conceded that she thought of it out on the course, but added: “Regardless of the place, I made up some spots in the last lap or two, and just what was important for me today was to never give up and to just keep riding as hard a race as I possibly could. And I think the fact that I really pushed myself the last two laps makes me really happy.”
Editor’s note: Dan Seaton contributed to this report.