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American cyclocross champion Katie Compton said she was content with her third-place finish at Sunday’s World Cup race in Namur, Belgium, after breathing issues nearly ended her race early.
The threat of an asthma attack, combined with a missed pedal at the start, forced Compton to stay within herself over the muddy, hilly course at Namur. The Trek Factory Racing rider, who has been crowned World Cup series champion the past two seasons, never saw the front of the race, where world champion Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv) and Katerina Nash (Luna) battled for the victory.
Instead, Compton worked her way through the field, finishing third, 1:07 behind Nash, and 34 seconds behind Vos, who was returning to cyclocross after her traditional break after the road season.
Though she’s won 10 consecutive national titles, Compton’s career has also been beset with physical struggles, including crippling leg cramps, hypothyroidism, and allergy-induced asthma that has hindered her at key events, including the 2014 world cyclocross championship in Hoogerheide, where she finished a disappointing ninth.
Asked if third place in Namur is a result that she could be satisfied with, Compton answered, “Yeah, because I was on the edge of having an asthma attack the whole time. The way I’m feeling, and the way training has gone, today was actually really a successful day for me. Today, I’m really happy. I felt like today I won, because I finished the race. I was able to manage my breathing enough to get to the finish.”
Compton blamed her asthma on mold, and said she came into the race knowing that Nash and Vos would set a speed that would be difficult for her to match.
“I knew Katerina was riding fast, and I knew Marianne was going to ride fast, so they were off the front and I was like, ‘I’ve got to cut my losses and just finish as high as I can,” Compton said. “It was so hard out there today, it was more like a time trial. If you could ride faster, you were going to ride faster, and I couldn’t.”
Though she started on the front row, Compton missed a pedal at the start, and found herself well behind the leaders from the gun.
“I missed my pedal at the start, which is odd because I’ve been doing starts — and hill starts — and I still missed my pedal,” Compton said. “So that sucked, but I actually didn’t lose so much time, I was probably in tenth or fifteenth spot. So I was able to pass a few girls and be patient. I didn’t feel that great today, so I knew I couldn’t go too deep. So I just slowly picked people off and rode steady.”
Compton also said she could take solace in the fact that she rode a technically clean race, devoid of crashes that slowed down both Vos and French champion Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (Rabo-Liv), who finished fifth.
“Technically I felt pretty good. I was able to push hard on enough sections to not lose time,” Compton said.
As for the World Cup series, a third consecutive overall win is still a very real possibility for Compton — with two events remaining, she sits one point behind Belgian Sanne Cant (Enertherm-BKCP) who finished sixth in Namur, with Belgian Ellen Van Loy in third, a distant 32 points down.
“I’m one point back [in the World Cup overall] so of course [it’s still a goal],” Compton said. “But I want to win a race, that would be nice. I really just want to feel well and ride better. We still have Zolder [December 26] and Hoogerheide [January 25] — Hoogerheide has never been a good course for me, so we’ll see how that one goes. But I like Zolder, and it’s a fast race, so we’ll see.”
As for her asthma issues, Compton said that a week spent training in Mallorca, Spain, prior to Namur hadn’t solved the problem, but she was optimistic that time spent at her home in Colorado Springs, following Zolder, would alleviate the issue.
“I’m going to go home, and I think that once I’m in a desert climate it will be better, “Compton said. “The mold here is really bad, I’ve got to get out of Europe. So I’m going to go home after Zolder and hopefully train and recover and feel good for Worlds. That’s the goal.”
VeloNews.com correspondent Dan Seaton contributed to this report from Namur, Belgium