After winning the Roubaix World Cup, American cyclo-cross champion Katie Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective) took over the top of the elite women UCI Standings as well as solidified her lead overall in the World Cup series. Compton is more than an accomplished racer, she also is a coach to a handful of athletes including up and comer Kaitie Antonneau (Cannondale-cyclocrossworld.com) the reigning under23 American champion.
In this episode of Road to Worlds With Katie Compton, we talk coaching including advice that she provides to 20-year old Antonneau and some words of wisdom that she has received in her career.
With her top 10 finish at the first Wold Cup in Tabor, Antonneau has met one of the automatic qualifier as set by USA Cycling to make Team USA for the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships, in Louisville. Though Antonneau has raced at previous Worlds, the pressure will be higher with the race held for the first time in the United States. What is Compton's advice to Antonneau to get ready - both physically and mentally - for the race?
“The preparation is the same for any major event so I'll make sure she has the right amount of intensity and rest coming into the race. She is strong mentally and rides well under pressure so it's mainly me just talking her through some of her nerves and making a plan for the race, taking about different outcomes and how to race the course and other riders. Dealing with nerves is probably the hardest part of bike racing but once you figure out how to relax and do your thing (and everyone is different) it gets easier to perform. She learns super fast and races well following her instincts so I just need to make sure she has good legs on the day. I'm happy she met the automatic qualification so now she can focus on racing worlds and the proper preparations for that.”
It is always fascinating to watch Compton and Antonneau pre-ride a course together, seeing where they stop and discuss lines. So much so, that they often have other riders stopping behind them hoping to hear some of the words and advice exchanged.
She admits that pre-riding the course with Antonneau also helps her. “It makes me think about all the details as well, where to brake, shift, when to recover and think about the fastest lines. It's also good to discuss tire choice and pressures.”
A full schedule has forced Compton to limit the number of athletes she can currently coach. “I actually don't coach that may athletes anymore, I just don't have time with the training, racing, travel and rest to keep up with them as much as I would like to. I coach a handful of athletes of all levels. I mainly have CX riders now who race other disciplines as well but I also coach one IM triathlete to keep things interesting.”
So who coaches the coach? “I used to work with Craig Griffin when I was on the US Paralympic team but not anymore. He was my favorite coach and knows so much, so it's hard for me to work with anyone else after him. I remember everything he's taught me over the years and ask myself, 'what would Craig say?' when I'm having doubts about anything and that helps. So between what Mark and I have learned over the years through our own experience and what Craig's taught me, we have a good foundation for training. So Mark and I do the coaching together since I'm delicate and need to change the training up daily depending on how I feel. I know my body really well to know what I need to work on and Mark can be objective and see what I'm missing, so between the both of us, it works out well. Mark is pretty busy coaching his own athletes and taking care of all my needs too. I don't think people realize how much he has on his plate all the time.”
What is the best advice that a coach has given Compton in her career?
“These aren't the most appropriate sayings but the ones that stick with me.... " she replied.
"Less is more"
"No sense beating a dead horse"
"Same as we always do. Don't f*ck it up"
"Well, you can't turn chicken sh*t into chicken salad"
"A good coach takes a great athlete and doesn't f*ck'em up"
Lastly, Compton thinks that parents and having fun are essential to get kids into cyclo-cross and more generally cycling. “I think their parents play a huge roll into whether kids get into CX and bike racing for that matter. Having the support from parents (but not pushing them) is what keeps them going since bike racing is expensive and you have to get to races. And also a group of kids to ride with is key to keeping them interested and having fun. No kid wants to hang out with their parents and old people all the time so having a good group of friends to pal around with and ride bikes for enjoyment will keep them coming back.”
“I think CX, BMX and track cycling is best since it it's done in a safe place, parents can watch after their kids but kids can also ride with people their own age. Those disciplines are also short and fast and perfect for a young person's attention span. And they develop the best bike handling skills for later which is great when bike racing is really an ageless sport. There is plenty of time for kids to get serious about bike racing as they get older and see what they're naturally good at.”
Read previous installments of Road to Worlds with Katie Compton: