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BEND, Ore. (VN)_ One face missing from the final domestic race leading up to this Sunday’s U.S. national cyclocross championships was defending champ Katie Compton (Planet Bike). The six-time national champion was home in Colorado Springs, Colorado, after dominating the Koksijde World Cup on the 2012 worlds course.
Compton has taken to a light travel schedule this season to help her avoid health issues that have kept her away from top form by the time of the world championships in late January. The former worlds silver medalist has won both World Cups that she has entered this season and has been beaten only twice since September. She’ll enter nationals this weekend as the top favorite for a record-breaking seventh title.
VeloNews caught up with Compton as she made her way to Bend, Oregon, Thursday.
Q. You’re chasing the very real possibility of a world championship this year. With that in mind, where does nationals stack up?
A. Nationals is always a priority. I mean, I want to win worlds this year too, but it’s always a big race. It’s important. It’s great for sponsors and it’s special to win a national championship so it’s still on the radar for me. I’d be pretty bummed if I didn’t win.
Q. Does winning the national title ever lose any of its magic?
A. Every one is special because they’re all hard and they’re all different. And It’s not just nationals. I’ve had a lot of issues to deal with this year with my health and not feeling great, so when I come to a race and feel good and I win, it makes up for disappointments in other places throughout the year.”
I like to win races. I think everybody likes to win races. But national championships are special.”
Q. Do you have a favorite?
A. It has to be the first one in 2004. Nobody knew who I was. I was an underdog. I started in the back row and had to fight through. I think that was most special.
I think last year was a special one too because I tied Alison’s record.
Q. You’ve won six national titles in a row. You demonstrate week in and week out that you are the strongest American ’cross racer, but at the same time you’re a humble champion. How do you keep grounded?
A. I just don’t like being over-confident. When you come in cocky and over-confident, that’s when you make mistakes and you don’t think about every little minor detail you have to do to win a race.
When (husband) Mark and I look at every little detail then I come to the race I’m 100 percent prepared and I have the opportunity to win.
I never take my competition for granted. I always give them respect because there’s no guarantee that I can go in and win a race. I have to be sure to bring my A game and race well and be smart and have a clean, competent race to win. I always take the approach that everyone can have a great day any day of the week and I have to have a great day too. That’s how I look at every race I do.
Q. You have Georgia Gould who has shown that she is likely your top challenger on Sunday. But then the women’s field is deep this year with Sue Butler, Amy Dombroski, Laura Van Gilder among the ladies that should vie for the podium.
A. Georgia’s riding really well this year and it’s good to see her come back after struggling last year. I think it’s going to be a good race. I hope she’s feeling good and we can push each other and make it a really exciting, hard race. I extra excited to race against her when we’re both riding well.
I think it’s going to be an exciting race for the podium spots and then for the girls that want to qualify for worlds too.
Q. You sat out the U.S. Gran Prix in Portland last weekend. We’ve seen this season that a week away from racing doesn’t really impact you negatively.
A. It’s worked out really well. I’m feeling better. I’ve been able to get some training in. I’ve been recovering after the travel better. When I’m racing now, I’m racing for the win.
Coming into nationals I’m feeling better now than I have in a long time, better than I have the last couple of years, so I’m really excited to race on Sunday.
Q. What have you been up to since we saw you dominate at the Koksijde World Cup two weeks ago?
A. I came home from Koksijde and got some rest after the travel and jetlag. I’ve been training and recovering and catching up with home stuff, Christmas shopping, and prepping for nationals. I’ve trying to be a normal person, but also getting the training and recovery in as well.”
Q. What do you think of the course in Bend?
A. I haven’t seen it yet, but I loved it last year. I know they’ve made changes. I hear it’s muddy and wet, but also really fun too.
Q. We’ve seen you hang back for a lap or so before attacking for most of the year in the States. With the conditions we’ll see Sunday in Bend, is it more important than usual to get to the front of the race early?
A. I usually just left the race play out itself. I usually have a game plan going into every race of how I want to approach it and what I want to do – where I want to attack, when I want to attack – but to be honest, when it’s crappy conditions and tough, I want to be out front to pick my lines and be clean.
But you know, I’ll wait to see how it all unfolds. I don’t ever throw all the cards on the table at the first turn.