Cyclocross Superstar Katie Compton

Nov 9, 2009
Outside Magazine


Katie Compton, who currently rides for Planet Bike, crushed at the first round of the Cyclocross World Cup in Treviso, Italy, catapulting her to the commanding lead position in the latest UCI Cyclocross rankings, with 420 points, followed by Daphny van den Brand (280 points) and Chistel Ferrier-Bruneau (240 points). Compton padded her lead with six other wins this season for a perfect seven wins from seven starts. This number-one status is a first for any U.S. male or female cyclocross athlete. To top it off, Compton just won the Boulder Cup and Blue Sky Velo Cross. I caught up with her during her down time at home in Colorado Springs, before she heads off to Europe.

--Heidi Volpe

Photo courtesy of Mark Legg

What new bikes are you running this season, and why the switch?
Stevens bikes. They are a German company and make all types of bikes, including high-end race bikes for mtb and road. We switched because we were looking for a bike sponsor that could offer more support and also makes a great product. We’re really happy with the bikes, with how light and stiff they are, and they ride great. The company is also super easy to work with, and we’re really happy to be racing for them.

How much does the bike weigh?
Just over 15 pounds.

Trick items?
It’s all trick. Everything we choose to put on the bike is light and strong and will hold up in tough conditions. This year, we’re running the new Zipp 303 wheels, bars, and Vumaquad compact cranks. We also had some custom chainrings made by Wickworks to go with the compact cranks that have better shifting ramps, so I can shift up and down under pressure. We also added SRAM Red this year for the shifters.

You're one of two athletes sponsored by Dugast. How did that come about, and who is the other athlete?
Dugast offered sponsorship to me after last season. They sponsor me and Sven Nys. I was super excited when we got that offer and am honored to be sponsored along with Nys.

You're giving back by being a tandem pilot racing in the Paralympics. What drew you to do that? What’s the most inspirational thing about racing there?
I was asked to try the tandem by the coach of the Paralympic cycling team--I still work with him--to work with Karissa Whitsell. We rode once together and decided we would give it a shot and see how it goes. We immediately had success and won a couple world championships that year and kept going from there. I don’t really look at it as 'giving back' since I got as much out of it as Karissa did. I really enjoy racing on a tandem. Karissa and I made a great team and enjoyed some great results. Winning four medals in Athens and setting a world record in the three-kilometer pursuit that we still have today is very special to me, and it’s still one of my favorite rides of my career. Pursuing takes so much skill and effort, and to have great legs and do everything right at a Paralympic Games is an amazing feeling of accomplishment. Tandem racing is some of the most fun racing I have done. It’s just fast and a different challenge than riding on a single bike. I love the speed and how smooth the ride is when two people mesh so well together.

Track days BMW M3: Does it help with cornering?
It’s a fast car that handles amazingly well and is super fun to drive. We have a ‘99 E36 model. Taking that to the race track is the most fun I have had in a long time. It does help my cornering and helps me think about entry and exit speed on the bike. Driving fast is different than riding fast, but the concepts are the same--I love it. It’s so fun.

How long have you been coaching?
I’ve been coaching since 2002. I worked in the office at Carmichael Training Systems for a year or so, then left the office and worked as a contract coach for CTS. I quit CTS last year to focus more energy on racing but continue to do some coaching as well. I really enjoy coaching and it keeps me busy. I have about 12-15 athletes I currently work with--some like to take the winter months off of structured training. I coach all levels, ages, and disciplines. I’m not advertising my coaching yet because it’s hard to do everything well with a busy travel schedule, and I want to make sure I give people the attention they need. Right now, any new athletes I get are through referrals or when people contact me because they are shopping around for the right coach best suited to their needs.

How does your husband, Mark Legg, factor into your racing/training?
Mark pretty much does everything except race my bike for me. He does all the bike work, sets up sponsorship, does all the PR work, takes photos and video, writes race reports, works the pit, plays team manager, and gives me mental and physical support. He also trains with me and does all my intervals with me, so I don’t ever get to slack in that department, and gives up his rides sometimes when I need him to motor pace me. He also coaches. So I guess all I do anymore is ride my bike, coach, and do most of the cooking and house cleaning.

Do you self coach, or does Mark coach you?
Mark doesn't coach me. I work with Craig Griffin, he’s the current U.S. Paralympic Cycling coach, and I worked with him when I raced the tandem. I still talk to him about my training, what I need to work on, and how to set it up, but I’ve started writing the day-to-day workouts for myself. Craig looks it over and gives me feedback. Mark and I try to think of new interval work to do that will make me ride faster, but the main thing I have to avoid is doing too much. I need more recovery than most pro- riders, so knowing when to back off and do less is my main problem. Mark helps me with this since he rides with me every day and can tell me when I’m too tired to go hard.

How much running do you do for cross-training, and what's a typical training week for you?
I don’t do any running for cross-training; it’s such a small part of cx-racing, and I can generally ride most of the hard mud or sand where running would be needed, so I don’t include running in my plan. My legs don’t do well with running, either--my legs cramp--so I avoid it as much as possible. I do add stair sprints to my plan since there are always stair run-ups or steep run-ups that I need to get up quickly. I ride about 12 to 19 hours a week, depending on where I am in my training period or when my races are. I also need to take lots of recovery before and after I travel, so that puts a damper on good training and is also why I can’t do as many races as I’d like. I include longer aerobic intervals into my training and also cross specific high-intensity intervals.

What's your diet like, and how do you recover?
I eat a healthy diet, lots of fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, and lean protein. I eat a variety of foods and believe a balanced diet is the healthiest one to have. I do have a sweet tooth, so I need to keep that in check, and I also love drinking wine and having some beers after a race, so I need to make sure I don’t indulge too much. For recovery after hard rides or races, I drink Surge Recovery drink from Biotest. It has the best ingredients for recovery and also tastes super good, which you can’t say about a lot of recovery products.

What mountain-bike races do you have slated for 2010?
Not sure. I want to add some more mtb WC's earlier in the season, so I can get a better start spot in the races. I have to see the mtb schedule before I know what I will do. I’ll try to do some U.S. Cup races if it fits into the plan. I won’t do the Breck Epic race, but I may guest ride a stage or two, like I did this year. Again, it depends on what my training and race plan look like. I plan to race the track again over the summer to work on my speed.

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