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There’s still red, white, and blue on the KFC Racing kit, but no stars and stripes for 15-time US national cyclo-cross champion Katie Compton (KFC Racing p/b TREK/Knight Composites) when she takes the start line at the elite women’s Superprestige in Merksplas this Sunday.
Compton, bronze medalist at US nationals in January and fourth at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in February, will begin her 2020-21 international campaign in Belgium and told Cyclingnews that she plans to race all five World Cup events in the coronavirus-abbreviated season, which will begin in Tabor, Czech Republic, on November 29.
World Cup competitions were reduced from 14 to five because of the continued coronavirus outbreak, with three of those being held in Belgium: Namur, Dendermonde, and Overijse. Compton arrived in Belgium earlier this week and plans to use it as her home base to take part in UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships at the end of January.
"Doing the paperwork to get in to Belgium is a lot of work. You’ve got to really want it and also have a need to go there," Compton said. "So proof of race contracts, a letter from USA Cycling, a letter from your employer, filling out your whereabouts information, proof of a return ticket, and travel medical insurance. Mainly you need to be able to prove you need to be there to do your job, which you can’t do remotely.
"Even with the proper paperwork and permission, it’s still a risk we decided to take and will do everything in our control to stay healthy and distance ourselves from people along the way. We want to be smart. I don’t want to get sick. My husband doesn’t want to get sick. We don’t want to get other people sick. This is a very contagious virus, so we’re going to take all the safety precautions we can.
"But it seems that the actual bike racing part has been fairly safe. There haven’t been that many confirmed COVID cases within the bike racing world after the races started up again. It seems like people are being smart and doing the right thing."
The 42-year-old American’s schedule will include four rounds of the Telenet Superprestige series, starting Sunday, and three rounds of the X2O Trophy, beginning with Urban Cross in Kortrijk on November 28, then Scheldecross in Antwerpen on December 12, and GP Sven Nys in Baal on January 1.
There is no need to travel home for US nationals this year, as the event, originally set for December 8-13, was cancelled in September. With most, if not all, live racing cancelled this summer and fall in the US for the pros, Compton found a few local cyclo-cross events near her home in Colorado to reintroduce her body and bike to the game-day experience.
"I decided to just do some local races and have fun with it, work on my race fitness, work on some skills, and make sure the bikes are dialed in. I’ll at least have some racing in my legs. It’s not World Cup racing, but it’s about the race effort and going hard, and being technically smooth," said Compton, who won four of the four races in Colorado in which she competed in October and early November.
This weekend’s C2 races will be held for elite men and women only. Organisers recently moved the event from Saturday to Sunday and are not permitting spectators, due to the coronavirus safety measures, stating on their website: "Stay in your room, enjoy on TV and keep it all healthy." Broadcasts will be made available in Belgium on Telenet Play Sports and Proximus TV, and in the Netherlands on EurosportNL.
Among the top 12 riders on the start list alongside Compton will be fellow Americans Rebecca Fahringer (Kona Maxxis Shimano) and reigning national champion Clara Honsinger (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld Pro Team), as well as the three Dutchwomen who kept Compton from a Worlds podium in February: Lucinda Brand (Telenet-Baloise Lions), Annemarie Worst (777) and current world champion Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (Alpecin-Fenix).
"It was so close. I was just really happy to be the first person to break the Dutch run of first through fifth," Compton told Cyclingnews about her performance at the last Worlds.
"It was just hard. It was a tough race, a hard course. I got caught behind two crashes at the start, actually, so I started in the back part. And then I was really happy to bring it back, feel strong and ride well. If Ceylin [who is 22 years old] had raced in her category I would’ve been third, so there’s that. These young riders are getting super fast."
Compton’s set-up for racing continues the same as in past years, with major support from Trek and Knight Composites, and with Champion Systems as a new sponsor for 2020-21.
Compton remains cautious about completing a full schedule, but is ready to roll.
"I’m leaning on being a bit more realistic with racing and traveling right now since it is difficult to travel between countries based on current COVID restrictions," she said. "If you feel any symptoms, you have to be smart enough to stay home and not see anybody."
Katie Compton's 2020-21 Cyclo-cross Calendar
November 22: 21 SP Merksplas (Telenet Superprestige)
November 28: Urban CX (X2O badkamers Trofee)
November 29: Tabor, Czech Republic WC
December 6: SP Boom (Telenet Superprestige)
December 12: Antwerpen (X2O badkamers Trofee-Scheldecross)
December 13: SP Gavere (Telenet Superprestige)
December 20: Namur, Belgium WC
December 22: Robotland Cyclocross Essen
December 26: SP Zolder (Telenet Superprestige)
December 27: Dendermonde, Belgium WC
December 29: Azencross, Loenhout, Belgium
January 1: GP Baal (X2O badkamers Trofee – GP Sven Nys)
January 3: Hulst, Netherlands WC
January 11: Cyclocross Otegem
January 24: Overijse, Belgium WC
January 30: UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships, Ostende, Belgium