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National cyclocross champs Powers, Compton talk with Velo

Jeremy Powers and Katie Compton are the best the U.S. has to offer. Can they get the job done across the pond this season?

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As the sun falls on the road season and we begin to look for mud, Velo magazine editor-in-chief Neal Rogers and managing editor Chris Case sat down with national champions Jeremy Powers and Katie Compton for articles featured in the October issue of the magazine. Since the season begins Wednesday night in earnest in the Las Vegas desert, at CrossVegas, here’s a sneak peak of what’s to come in the latest Velo magazine, out soon.

Powers looks to later in season

Jeremy Powers (Aspire Racing) is fast. Real fast. He won his second national title last year en route to the overall title of the USA Cycling Pro Cyclocross Series.

Maybe in years past he’s been too fast in September. But this season, he’s looking further down the line than before. He didn’t race on the road for Jelly Belly coming into this season, and feels a bit out of sorts being farther from the razor’s edge. He’s looking ahead to showcase his talents at more European races than in years past.

Focusing on the World Cup races has meant a full restructuring of his season: his schedule, his training, his mindset. World Cup courses are traditionally more technical, and demand a more diverse set of skills. Not to mention the fact that every elite racer in Europe is also focused on taking maximum points at the biggest races of the season.

The World Cup season kicks off October 19 in Valkenburg, Netherlands, and wraps up January 25 in Hoogerheide, Netherlands. Powers isn’t so much focused on going fast for CrossVegas; he is looking toward January to be at his best.

“It’s kind of crazy to not be going really good right now,” he told Velo. “It’s nuts, I’m not flying right now. I don’t have to come off of [Tour of] Alberta or Colorado… In years past, I’ve always had road races that I’d use to get ready for ’cross season, and so I’ve always had so much speed, and it would start me flying even before August, like, the end of July I would just be motoring, and skinny, and all that. And, now, I’ve really, almost uncomfortably, stepped back, so I can really try to put it together for January. It’s a completely different program.”

What’s more, Powers is racing on his own team now, after the departure of Rapha-Focus from the scene. The Massachusetts resident now runs his own team management program, Aspire Racing, comprised of familiar sponsors (including Rapha and Focus).

“I had always dreamed I would have a team at some point,” Powers said. “Rapha-Focus, being such a major team, they couldn’t do it at the same level that they had, so I thought, ‘This might be the moment when I need to do this. Not because I want to, because I need to.’”

What’s left for Katie Compton?

Katie Compton is undefeated in the last 10 years at the U.S. national cyclocross championship. Undefeated. Undisputed. So what’s left?

The obvious. Beating her undisputed rival, one of the greatest cyclists the world has ever seen, in Marianne Vos (Rabo Liv).

Compton has finished on the podium of the world championships four times, including three silver medals, without taking home the big prize. Like it or not, that’s the thing that comes up now for Compton. She is irrefutably great and consistent. The stripes, though, still elude her. This season, she’s coming in a little slower, much like Powers. Will it pay off at worlds in the Czech Republic in February?

“This year I’m coming in a little slower than in years past,” Compton said. “Last year I was sick or injured most of the summer. I think that helped me come January. Had I not had bad allergies, I would have been good at worlds. I’m approaching this season similar to last year, and I think that will help me come January. To put myself in that pain cave for 40 to 50 minutes, it takes mental strength to put yourself there, to turn yourself inside out, every weekend, for four months. I think coming in slower will help me, and especially in that heavy period of racing in late December, which is intense and hard. It’s an important time to be riding well.”

It’s not that Compton can’t beat Vos. She can, and has, including last year at the Rome World Cup. But she never seems to have the golden day when she needs it. Still, she maintains a healthy perspective. If she never won a rainbow jersey, it would still be an immense career.

“Of course I want to win a world championship. Everyone wants to,” she said. “Especially having been so close. But if it never happens, it doesn’t happen. I have had tons of success, I have overcome a lot of physical issues, and I have been able to win, and do well, and I am pretty proud of that.”