• Nathan

Katie Compton: Dirt or road, she’s a racer

Racing criteriums in the rain - Photo by Mitch Teich (VeloRambling)

It seems like Katie Compton excels at anything she tries; she’s the ultimate all-rounder. Humble and kind in-person, but if you get her on a bike (or a racecar, apparently) her competitive fires ignite, and you’re guaranteed to see a stellar performance. The 14-time National Cyclocross Champion is known for stealing headlines every fall and winter as she takes on the world’s best cyclocross racers, but when it comes to the summer months, most of us assume that she’d take it easy. Instead, you’ll find her guest riding at some of the biggest races in North America: the Tour of California, Colorado Classic, and Tour of America’s Dairyland (ToAD). And she isn’t just showing for a free vacation.

At ToAD this year, Katie raced so hard that she ended up being a dark-horse favorite with a shot at the overall omnium up until the final turn of the final race. Although she ultimately ended up third overall in the omnium, she put all the roadies on notice; dirt or road, Katie Compton trains hard and shows up ready to race.

A Cyclist In A Strange Land had a chance to catch up with Katie during the end of her week racing ToAD to talk to her about her “summer vacation” racing criteriums (crits) and road races, the start of her cyclocross season this Fall, and her hobby racing cars when there aren’t any bike races to go to.

Nathan (N): Congratulations on a great week racing criteriums at the Tour of America’s Dairyland. How’d you feel racing for 11 days with all those roadies?

Katie Compton (KC): I was feeling okay. I was definitely getting a little tired as the week went on. I think that the stage at Port Washington with all the hill sprints hit everyone hard. We probably went up it 30 or 35 times. Last year, I was tired at day 6 and this year, I was tired at day 8 so I think that’s progress. But I’m happy. Getting some good results. Working on my sprints.

N: Were you expecting to do that well in the omnium?

KC: No, not at all. Actually, I’m really surprised. I scored points every day which I thought that was pretty cool. You try to be consistent and do as well as you can.

Katie Compton ready to race - Photo by Mitch Teich (VeloRambling)

N: I knew you were great at cyclocross, but who knew you’re great at crits too?

KC: (Laughs) Yeah, so I’ve ridden road bikes for a long time. I actually have a crit and track background. I raced crits as a junior and was junior national champion a bunch of times. I love riding my bike. I love cyclocross, I love mountain biking, I love the road and track. I like all of it. It makes me a well-rounded rider. And it’s fun and keeps me young. I’m going to do it as long as I can.

N: What’s it like getting invited to guest ride with ISCorp for the second year in a row?

KC: I’m really happy to be riding for ISCorp, I did the Colorado Classic with them last year too. It’s a great group of girls with a solid management structure. Plus, they’re a Trek-sponsored team which makes it easier. I want to stay on Treks all the time and Trek wants me on Treks all the time. That’s one thing that can make guest riding hard since I have my own sponsors and I want to support them every chance I get. Road racing is very valuable training for my cyclocross program so it’s great to work with a team that makes it possible to be a guest rider. I find that I can do a little bit of road racing and I’m not as tired as when I do mountain biking. Thinking about my ‘cross program, I think that I can do a little more volume with road cycling and recover a little quicker than I can on the mountain bike. I’m also not that great of a climber so road is a little better there too. It’s a little easier than climbing mountain bikes uphill!

N: You also road for the US National Team at the Tour of California this year. Was this you’re first Tour of California?

KC: Yeah, it was my first time racing the Tour of California. It was a really good experience. I haven’t done that kind of climbing in a while, so I think that climbing day was definitely a shock. 10 kilometers in, I came off the back. I was by myself and it was painful. But I got it done and I helped Megan Guarnier as much as I could.

N: Will we see you on the road anymore this summer? KC: I’ll probably do a couple more events to work on my speed and my sprint. Probably another criterium or two, and probably the Colorado Classic too. I’m not sure yet. It’s kind of up in the air at the moment.

Wearing the stars and stripes is Katie's day job

N: When does your cyclocross season start up this year? KC: It’ll be the first UCI World Cup race; I think it’s the third week in September. I might do a training race in Boulder, Colorado before but it depends if there’s actually a training race in Boulder. Like I said earlier, I’m going to get on the track and the road to work on the technical bits so hopefully I’ll come into Iowa strong and ready for the season.

N: I heard that you drove ToAD’s BMW pace car for a couple of the pro men’s races and some of the race staff were telling me that you’re a sportscar racer too?

KC: (Laughs) Yeah, I do race cars.

N: What are you racing? Something with SCCA?

KC: Right. My husband and I have a BMW 1M that we autocross and we just got a Mazda MX-5 Miata that we’ll be using for autocross and time attacks. I haven’t been able to race the Mazda as much as I’d like to because bike races overlap with the SCCA time attack races, but when I can, I love to get to the track. Racing autocross and driving between cones in a parking lot actually transfers to cycling a lot better than you’d expect. For example, it’s helped me pick lines on the road and the ‘cross bike. Since you don’t necessarily pre-drive autocross courses, you have to walk the course to think about each turn and what lines to take. That helps me in ‘cross because I can look at a course and I can remember it and quickly figure out the right lines. Now a car line and a bike line are different, but it’s still similar. For both, you still brake, turn in, and shift.

N: Down the road are we going to see you racing in the Global MX-5 Cup?

KC: No, I don’t get into that, not right now at least. There’s a certain amount of money that you need for car racing and as a woman bike racer I don’t have consumable income for tires, brakes, and parts. We do what we can and try to make it fun. Of course, if there’s a tire sponsor that wants to give me tires...

N: There you go! Kumho, Pirelli, Continental; get Katie in a racecar!

KC: Yeah, if there’s a way to get more tires, I might do more of it!

N: Well Katie, you’re living the dream. You’re racing some of the coolest cyclocross races, some of the coolest road races, and then you get to race cars too. Good luck as you head into the Cyclocross World Cup. Can’t wait for you to get the first win of the season!


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