Off The Front

Katie Compton Talks Tactics

Katie Compton
Katie Compton [Photo: Tom Compton]

Cyclocross Superstar Katie Compton talks about success and what it takes to be a 14 time National Cyclo-Cross Champion and Michi Mathias shares her passion as a graphic designer, novelist and cycling and camping aficianado

Off the Front is presented by Elizabeth Emery

Podcast length: 49’44”

Elizabeth Emery is joined by graphic novelist/illustrator Michi Mathias and superstar cyclocross racer Katie Compton.

Michi Mathias

Michi Mathias

Michi Mathis grew up in the States but has been living in the UK for years. She is now in Sussex where she teaches 5 string banjo, plays in bands, translates Japanese, makes jewelry in addition to all her drawing projects. One of Elizabeth’s favorites is her graphic vegan recipes cards, which she started as a gift to her son as he headed off to college. Michi is currently working on a graphic novel about the one guy, T.H. Holding, who came up with combining cycling & camping. They talk about his first trip, her research process, and the importance of the bicycle for women.

LISTEN to MORE episode of Off the Front HERE

Elizabeth first met Katie Compton over 20 years ago and was as impressed with her then as she is now.  At that time, in the late 90s they were both racing on the road and her leg problems had just starting. In 2016 she figured that out (her body doesn’t digest folic acid). Meanwhile, she continued racing and just a few weeks ago she won her 14th U.S. National Cyclocross Championship followed up by a win at World Cup Nommay. Katie has twenty-three World Cup wins, four medals at the World Cyclo- cross Championships, and has her eyes set on a gold medal at the 2018 World Championships, which take place in Valkenberg, The Netherlands February 3-4.  In this episode Katie offers her take on day-of prep for cyclocross with rollers, dry clothes, and a few tips for pre-riding the course. She also talks about politically correct equity, focusing on her own good racing while making time for her fans, and the difference between men and women on the course (think apples and grapes).


Katie on Twitter & Instagram

Elizabeth on Twitter & Instagram

2018 UCI Cyclocross World Championships Feb 3-4
Graphic novel 
Recipe cards 
Michi Mathias on Facebook
Michi on Instagram
Camping & Caravanning Club of UK 


[00:00:00] This is Off The Front. The podcast about women’s cycling. And I’m Elizabeth Emery your host coming to you from WiSP Sports Radio. My two guests today are illustrator Michi Mathias and superstar cyclocross racer Katie Compton who compares men and women to apples and grapes. First up is a short conversation with Mathias. She grew up in the States and now lives in Sussex where she teaches five string banjo plays in bands translates Japanese makes jewelry. In addition to all her drawing projects one of my favorites is her graphic vegan recipe cards which she started as a gift to her son as he headed off to college. Find the link to those cards. Her other work and many of the things we discussed in episode notes on right now Michi is working on a graphic novel about the one guy who came up with combining cycling and camping. We talk about his first trip her research and creative process and the importance of the bicycle for women. So let’s get started. Well welcome to Michi Matthias it’s great to have you here. And I’m really excited to talk about your new projects. You want to tell me a little bit about it. OK

[00:01:05] Well thank you Elizabeth it’s great to be here. Well what I’m doing is making a graphic novel based on an 18 97 book called cycle encamp which is written by a London tailor and he was also an expert cyclist and a camper and a sailor and all sorts of other things. He’s the first one to put cycling uncapping together. He invented a really lightweight tent and he set off on a short trial expedition in Ireland with three friends all sleeping in a space about six by six. But it proved that it worked and he saw it as a way that your average or even poorer person could actually get out and enjoy a holiday in their own country. So it was a completely new thing at the time and it led to what we have in the UK the camping and caravanning club and he started that.

[00:02:01] So was he the first person who ever camped and combined biking and camping in the whole world.

[00:02:07] As far as I know there were a lot of people going off on round the world bicycle to as soon as bicycles invented which I find absolutely amazing. I keep coming across other books from the 1890 site and I can’t help buying them when I find the money Bay and people are going around the world on penny farthings. But from what I can tell you know they weren’t carrying things like tents they were barely carrying you know change of socks and staying in whatever local accommodation they could find around the world. So no th holding is the first one that I know of that I’ve ever found that actually came up with the idea of making a tent and combining camping with cycling Yeah. Do you have the copy of his book. I do. It took me oh what was it. I think 12 years to get my hands on a copy from when I first heard of it because it’s it’s very rare. And how have you heard of it. I was lying in bed with a bat back listening to the radio. I’m so glad I hurt my back that day because I probably wouldn’t have come across it but I just heard a probably half hour program about it and I realize now that it was the 100 anniversary of the the organization I mentioned the camping caravanning club.

[00:03:20] So talking about the history and how they started and they read excerpts from this book and it just sounded really quite funny and adventurous and inventive and I guess I have to say the reason probably why I was drawn to it in particular is that I had done quite a long cycle coming to it myself earlier. You know I went across the States and Canada in a previous life. So I was probably predisposed to liking this kind of thing.

[00:03:50] And have you discovered much about the idea of you know like with the bicycle was like back then and what that meant to head off on such an adventure.

[00:03:58] Absolutely. I mean bicycles then were they had barely invented pneumatic tires about five or six years before they only had single gears and out of the four of them two of them had bicycles that we wouldn’t even recognise today as as bicycles they were a sort of a hybrid cross between the old ordinary or what we now call the penny farthing and the modern safety bicycle they had a large front wheel which was geared up. So they didn’t have to be as large as on a Penny Farthing but it was a little bit. If you look at pictures of them it looks a little bit like an adult riding a bicycle and they were just about that useful. They were very slow and they were having to be waited for the whole time on this journey. You don’t see them anymore. I think they only made them for a brief period in the 90s and they just didn’t work out.

[00:04:50] They don’t they don’t look very good.

[00:04:52] I went on a mad research trip to the middle of Wales a couple of months ago just so I could see some with my own eyes and get some voters because they really do feature a line in this book. So so how far were these guys going. Oh gosh I should know this but I don’t they were they were out for three days and two nights okay I forget what the total mileage is but it was considerable. It was a good couple hundred if I remember rightly that is considerable especially considering the bike. Yeah considering yes those those sort of bikes you know a single gear and they’re going over a mountainous part of Ireland and everything. I mean they didn’t have paved roads either. So the roads were turned to deep mud lines with sharp bits of pointed flinty rock content. It. It’s all very difficult.

[00:05:47] Yeah I’m curious about you know how they spent the evenings and how did they wash up and cook and stuff like that.

[00:05:55] Yeah. Well they would find a farmer’s fields pitch a tent. According to th holdings extremely strict list of criteria for where you should pitch a tent it had to be sheltered had to be near water you know to be out if the wind, had to be away from the road, also to things then they would cook and he had a tiny camp stove and he goes into great detail about how he would cook for four people on this one little stove you know in a very efficient ordered manner. And then they would get in there what he did. They didn’t have sleeping bags they had blankets and things and they would often hire a wool blanket from the farmer if if offered. You know just for an extra warmth but they slept four across and then the next night they tried three across and one at the feet of the other. It is like sardines. There are some great pictures in the book illustrations of the two different ways they tried. You know people just would not put up with that kind of thing today.

[00:06:52] Right. That’s for sure. Yeah. And you know like I also picked for you know there’s no power bars.

[00:06:59] Exactly exactly what they would do. They would buy things like loaves of bread. In the last town you know before they before they camped they carry tiny little tins of things you know they would have like specially made tins with their condiments in and they seemed to have had things like tinned fruit shipped to head. First of all you know when they went off to Ireland they weren’t just going on the side friendship they were going for a whole boating expedition because that’s what they did all the time so they left one large camp where they had all this stuff and then they loaded some of it into their little bags and set off.

[00:07:40] But you know they also did buy things at local shops and in particular when it came to lunchtime it seems that you could simply go up to a cottage and ask for hot potatoes. Sometimes they would see them on baskets sitting outside on a bench in front of a cottage door and you would just knock on the door and asked to buy some hot potatoes. And that seemed common thing. So quite a different way from how we camp these days.

[00:08:06] Yeah. So when you were riding across the country were you camping.

[00:08:10] Yes you were. I went with two friends. We had just you know I had a very cheap horrible simple little lightweight tents and panniers with all my stuff and yeah it was it was proper camping in either campgrounds or occasionally sort of what what would you say like a baseball pitch. You don’t say pitch what you say it field yeah yeah yeah so weak we camped right the way across we didn’t do anything else except anciently you would go to the general store and a little town and say you know where can we camp and they’d say Oh you want to come home with me and you know once or twice we we did then slept in a bed which is kind of nice yeah but the real shower Yeah indeed.

[00:08:54] So given that you have camped and cycled for a pretty long time I mean going across the country is no small feat. So how did you relate to holding in his companions and sort of the beginnings of that.

[00:09:07] Well I just think it’s fascinating to see how it all started you know in the days when not only were bicycles you know not what we call bicycles but you know they didn’t have batteries they didn’t have nylon they didn’t have zippers you know so much of it is just totally different and yet so much of it is also the same. You know how you how you deal with other people. He goes into a great couple of pages about just the need to get on with people in a group don’t let little differences on any kind of expedition you know blow up into into harsh words disagreements wise words you know things that are as true today as ever really interesting.

[00:09:47] I’m sort of fascinated that as soon as the bicycle was created that this became a thing to do. It’s certainly a testament to how I mean like what a great invention the bicycle was.

[00:09:57] Oh absolutely and especially for women. The bicycle was just a huge factor I think in in becoming you know being able to get about Kresley and being able to wear sensible clothes which had to be done.

[00:10:16] Yeah yeah I always think too about how it must have been such a great way to sort of get some privacy for women. Yes you know you’re on your own machine and going Yeah absolutely.

[00:10:31] And the struggle to be allowed to wear rational dress. And I think before that happens you know I mean you couldn’t write an ordinary bicycle you had to write some kind of side saddle machine which invented bicycle but Ukraine had a bicycle in massive clothing. Interestingly th holding does come across a few women on his trip. And at one point he doesn’t quite see them because they’ve gone on ahead. But he hears about them from the male coats. And at this point everyone is fighting a tremendous winds that is really hard to to push against and he’s wondering how in the world are they managing. You know in their voluminous skirts.

[00:11:15] It’s like oh my gosh it’s just terrible to imagine.

[00:11:20] So how do women take part in your graphic novel set to say there aren’t really lots of them. There is he you know he comes across a few of them and that’s about it. One point they are passed by a male car. And when I say car I mean a coach drawn by horses right. And he says riding on the top of it were a woman with a bicycle and a man with a fishing rod and they were sort of let off the top of the hill ahead. And then off she went and I think he possibly comes across one or two others but I’m afraid there aren’t many women in this book. That’s reflective of the time. Certainly it is. It is. And so when can we get a copy of this book in about five years. I hope less than that. I don’t know I know sometimes people do take quite a few years. I started last year to just lay out do a very very rough what we call thumbnail sketches just to figure out how many pages it’s going to be and I’m afraid it’s come out to be 140 pages and there’s not much I can do about that. I can’t make it any less. It would like to go longer really but I think that’s enough. And so far I’ve drafted the first 28 and that’s taken a few months so I’m going to have to really up my speed because otherwise I’m not going to live long enough to finish it.

[00:12:47] Also we want to get to it.

[00:12:49] I know. I really wanted to get an idea. It’s quite it’s quite exciting. I mean but the whole process is fraught with difficulty. I mean every single thing I draw has to be accurate to 1897. And just today I went and spoke to a vintage clothing expert about colors because I’ve got lots and lots of pictures of the suits the people wore. And of course people wear suits in those days they wore wool suits to ride bicycles. There was nothing else not full length trousers. You know the ones that stop at the just below the knee. But on top they’re wearing suit jackets you know woollen tweed and ties and waistcoats and of course a cap. So I’ve got loads and loads of photos of these from the wonderful google images and old bicycle magazines and things but they’re all black and white. So I’m really trying to guess and figure out what colors would be acceptable to differentiate my four main characters and I just come back with four lovely samples of all you know tweet from those sort of days you know recreated vintage Tweed so I know I can use that kind of Tweed Tweetie green sort of light brown dark brown grey black that sort of thing but it didn’t even extend to blue. You know these are just very muted natural colours. So the clothing is one thing. And every time something comes up like someone checking the time you know you don’t have a wristwatch. I’ve got to draw a pocket watches.

[00:14:24] I’ve got to show the scenery of you know the actual bits of Ireland are going through and luckily street view on Google you know gives you a wonderful way to do that without headings leave your own desk although I hope to go to Ireland as well and have a look around. And I think there’s plenty of hundred year old cottages still around because you can just tell from the photos what what was there and what lessons so you know the research has just been enormous you know really really time consuming and quite a rabbit hole to fall down I have to say quite a fun one.

[00:14:56] Yeah sounds like it I had no idea you were putting that much into the historic accuracy. That’s awesome.

[00:15:01] All I really want it to look right and I really do want it to look right. So you know bicycle pumps and you know just everything that you can imagine drinking glasses. I’m not even sure if they would have had drinking glasses and rule you know poor colleges but they have it would they have had Ehrsson where all this kind of thing. I’m still trying to trying to work out some of this interesting. So you’re drawing and then you get to the point where they’re drinking and you think oh shoot I don’t know what they’re using Yeah yeah well often as I’m going through it I think was this really right and then I have to go back on google and do a bit more research.

[00:15:38] That’s fascinating. We can follow you though on your website you have a lot of good images of what you’re working on.

[00:15:44] Oh yes please do it just W WW dot meechie. Mathias dotcom great.

[00:15:50] And we’ll have a link to that on our episode notes.

[00:15:53] I’m really excited that I’m on Instagram as well. I put some photos. So you want to find me their same name.

[00:16:00] Great. OK well wonderful thanks for for joining me on the podcast. I really appreciate it. Great to talk to you and to find out about your project. OK thank you so much Elizabeth.

[00:16:11] Next up is Katie Compton who certainly needs no introduction for anyone who follows cyclocross. She just won her 14th U.S. national Cyclocross Championship followed up by a win at World Cup nomei last week. Katie has 23 World Cup wins for medals at World Cyclocross Championships and has her eyes set on a gold medal at worlds in a couple of weeks here. Katie offers her take on day of prep for cyclocross with Roller’s dry clothes and a few tips for freeriding the course. We also talk about politically correct equity focusing on her own good racing while being nice and the difference between men and women on the course. During our conversation I mentioned the new Cyclists Alliance. If you want more info about that a link can be found in episode notes on with So here’s Katie.

[00:16:58] Katie welcome and also a big thank you for taking this time as you’re preparing for nationals to talk to me.

[00:17:04] Oh no problem it will be good. I like podcasts so for me it’s a good thing.

[00:17:09] Full disclosure you and I raced together a long time ago on a team and I tried to calculate when that would have been. And you know I don’t remember the circumstances but I do remember that we talked about your leg pain so it must have been in 99.

[00:17:22] I’m thinking I think so. Honestly now you say that at all. Yeah I think I remember that but I just was it on on a routine or yeah it was on a road team and it was a pretty young team.

[00:17:35] I don’t think it was of like a full year of racing but yeah I don’t remember the circumstances.

[00:17:41] I don’t know I don’t either. Honestly it all boils down to me and I think it’s over. That’s almost 20 years ago probably. Oh yeah definitely yeah.

[00:17:52] Well let’s get to some of the racing. One of the questions I have about cyclists cross is you know the start is so important so what kind of warm up are you doing. And also do you miss sort of the Bello’s start of road racing.

[00:18:05] I don’t mind the Fast Start just because it’s such a.

[00:18:09] You’re kind of on the line with all that adrenaline and like that excitement. So it’s fun to start quick because you have actually someplace to like an outlet for that adrenaline whereas a road race or a crit. It’s like you start a little bit slower and so that adrenaline outlet it’s kind of a little bit more delayed I guess. So I don’t mind the fast start. But I think for the the warm up is definitely different for cross and would be for road or cret because you have an hour and a crit to warm up and then you also have plenty of time and Rotary’s to warm up so you don’t really do much of warm up for those races. But for cross I do a specific price spend 30 to 45 minutes for like a warm up and a free ride a few hours before the race and then prior to the race I’ll do a 45 minute warm up with some intensity some tempo some intensity some fast pedals. I work on the rollers so I can so I don’t load my legs like if you do if you’re a trainer I don’t like the way I like. I like the way you move on rollers like the balance aspect of it helps you focus a little bit more. Whereas a trainer like being stagnant like that it just cracks me so and I feel like it loads my legs a little bit not as well as rollers do I feel like it’s got a better of with roller.

[00:19:26] So 40 minutes on that and they get off about 20-25 minutes before the start of the race and change into dry clothing pretty much put my warm warm race stuff on and go to the start line and then do a couple of you know the races ride back and forth before they do call outs and so I’ll do a couple starts and just keep the body warm before the actual start.

[00:19:47] Right, I bet keeping warm is a big deal.

[00:19:50] It is and that’s why I change clothes because if you’re doing a proper warrant you’re going to create a sweat. And so after I get all sweaty I’ll put it layers of dry clothes on and then go to the start and then your body is warm but you’re also dry and so you just stay warm you don’t get that shell. And for me I need to stay I need to stay warm for the start because when you’re going full gas off the line your body needs to perform straight away instead of waiting 20 minutes to find your legs.

[00:20:16] And when you’re doing the you know the ride what are you looking for and you know like are you strategizing that point or have you already come up with your strategy

[00:20:28] I’m pretty much looking at the lines and I’m also looking at the ruts to see how deep they are as well as if they’re ruts you want to ride or you want to avoid looking at the best lines it take. I’m thinking of working too hard I’m writing a pitch to see what the optimum pit boxes. So my husband can be in the right spot for you know to switch bikes. Think about tire pressure what tires are you going to run. What side of the smart grid I want to start on how long this starts start stretches and if it’s a right hand turn left and turn at the at the beginning it’s I know kind of where I want to be at the start. So it’s kind of and I’m also thinking about hearing what you want to be in for certain features of the course. So there’s kind of a lot of stuff going on that you have to figure out real quickly because I might have two laps maximum to pre-record so you have to figure out a lot. There’s two laps and sometimes I just do one lap. That’s all I have time for. Or if it’s a really heavy heavy muddy course one laps enough because your bike’s just so filthy dirty after one lap you almost need a bike change and you can break it rallier or you know have issues you can get through the courses that muddy. So depending on the course one or two laps but I just try to learn as much about the course in that one lap as I possibly can.

[00:21:45] Do you think tactically of Where’s sort of the crucial moments are going to be ideal.

[00:21:50] Yeah yeah. Expression Europe Europe is since the racing is a little closer and it comes down to maybe the last lap or the last half lap for the race to be won usually. So I will think about OK here’s a good spot to attack. Here’s a good power I want to be at the front or sometimes I just think like oh this is where the winning move is going to be hopefully I’m there for it.

[00:22:12] So yeah you never know. Are there some courses that you prefer to others or some sort of obstacles and that kind of stuff that you prefer.

[00:22:20] I generally like more technical races like sandpit sand that’s like my general I think the faster courses I don’t like as much as maybe a a more powerful kind technical course.

[00:22:32] I think that’s because I’m a big rider and at a fast course people that aren’t as fast can easily sit on my wheel and I have to figure out a way to drop them or make a gap we can’t just drop and sit on. So for me I would say more of a technical power course you better than just superfast where people can draft right.

[00:22:51] That makes sense yeah. So watching the race I’ve been watching a lot of the World Cup races that are on TV here I’m paying for it but it is available and you know the men are tackling the course very differently than the women. So I guess one question is you know like as an observer should I be critical of the women you know like why is that. And do you have any thoughts about how the men are tackling the obstacles versus the women and not just the bunny hopping. I know Ellen Noble has been Yeah yeah a bunny up upping Yeah.

[00:23:21] So the damage to the men and women is pure horsepower thing. Everything is easier to ride when you’ve got three to five or more watts for like at the top end and then just general. So usually watching the men do it. They make it look so much easier because they just have so much more horsepower than we do. So the women are going to attack the horse differently than the men just because we have to use more finesse and we have to. We don’t have a horse powered to bunny hop ditches and to maybe ride up all those short steep hills because you just need a ton of horsepower and need a powered weight and you know women we’re just not we’re not built like men so we don’t have that pure brute strength. Most of the time. So for us we’ll look at more.

[00:24:04] I would say just more finesse based and more maybe being slightly less aggressive because we’re going to be carrying or speed and carry momentum and just not coming into things with as much speed and horsepower as the men as men are.

[00:24:17] So they make it like riding ops and riding sand and riding mud look a lot easier just because they’ve got horsepower a male body is going to have a higher via to stronger bone density more muscle mass. It just it’s just the way men are built compared to women. Women obviously were just different. So it’s every physiology. So you’re going to see the men do everything faster than the women even though the women it’s super fast exciting competitive. It’s just it’s different. Like you’ll see if even if you look just kind of across the board it takes a professional woman in order to keep up with a Cat 2 guy. You know it’s it’s different because like you women you have to train and do a ton of effort just to kind of keep up with the prose honestly.

[00:25:06] So is height an issue as I say it’s an issue.

[00:25:12] I would say it’s more of an issue where your center of gravity is. I think some of the better cross racers have a lower center of gravity so you can get around turns quicker whereas a taller rider your center of gravity is going to be lower but higher and you’re on a higher taller bike. So that might make a technical bits a little bit more challenging I’ll say. But usually if the taller you have better power to weight ratio because you’re a little bit lighter so it’s kind of it depends. I think it depends on the rider depends on what your strengths are.

[00:25:43] Yeah I was just wondering if bunny hopping you know for men was just easier just because they were taller.

[00:25:48] No it’s easier because they’re stronger. They’ve got that yeah. They’ve got that explosive power and it takes quite a bit of effort and trying to bunny hop.

[00:25:56] It’s awesome to see Alan Noble do it because I know it’s a really hard thing to do. So the fact that she doing it she did it well it’s it’s good to see. But yeah it’s usually just a technique and horsepower thing right and you need to be coming into those those barriers with enough energy to do it without messing up and you notice some of the men that as the race goes on they get more tired and they start making a bunch of mistakes and that’s simply because they’re tired.

[00:26:21] Right. Right. So as you know is as observers are the audience how would you suggest that we look at the two races because I mean now that the women are racing right before the men it’s unlikely that you’re going to watch one and not the other. So right. Like how do you how should we approach it.

[00:26:38] I wouldn’t approach it as comparing and contrasting I would approach just two exciting races. Who are doing it differently.

[00:26:48] I’ll say the women are race is going to be a little bit different. It’s it’s pretty dynamic and it’s I think is way more exciting in the men’s right now. We’re going to be riding things differently and picking different lines maybe than the men will be. But the racing is just exciting because you’re still looking at a head to head battle between racers whether that you know one two three four or five racers off the front or compared to the men’s race where there’s you know Vanderpoel or wout off the front and there’s 30 seconds in between them and two minutes to the next guy.

[00:27:18] So yeah it just depends. Like I wouldn’t.

[00:27:22] You may want to kind of look at the different lines the two the men’s and women’s races are taking their taking. But I wouldn’t compare it as apples to apples because it’s not. It’s like yeah we’re two fruits but we’re not the same thing. So look it is like oh there’s an apple tree let’s watch these apples fall off the ground compared to Oh there’s some great finds like how these grapes going to fall off the vine.

[00:27:48] It’s different if that was a horrible. I loved it. Oh my goodness. It’s different. Yeah. That’s great.

[00:27:57] And you know I do get asked that question a lot so I’m happy to now have an answer. Yeah. Yeah. So I want to move to equity and you’ve talked a lot about equity in the sport and particularly about pay equity.

[00:28:12] So where we’re at right now where improving. It’s a slow process.

[00:28:21] It’s just the way the bite culture has been for many many years and things have to change. I think in the culture of bike racing it’s getting there but it’s just a slow process so I think we need obviously the more media attention the more TV coverage and more respect for racing in general as has helped a bunch. And I think where we’re moving that direction but it’s going to take some time and I still think it’s going to be having men step up to and say you know what’s going on here we need to make sure we’re doing everything equal to the men and the women especially the women are putting on a show better than the men right are right now too.

[00:29:02] We should be paid for putting on a show just like the men get paid for putting on a show. Do you have support from the men. I think the younger generation for sure. I think the younger the men are the more equality they want and see just because that’s the way they’ve been raised whereas I think older generation of men they have a different perspective on things. And you know there are 50 60 70 years old there just like when you know it’s a different perspective.

[00:29:30] They don’t expect women to be equal in anything like it. You see it in. I mean you say it especially in U.S. politics right now too.

[00:29:39] So it’s yeah it’s annoying but I feel like it takes the men’s generation to say something and to push for it as well as women to continue to push for it. But the thing is with us we have to do it within like a politically correct way like we push too hard then we get so much pushback that it kind of does a disservice. So it’s like we have to push. We also have to do it in a way that is going to piss everybody off which is annoying because men don’t have to do it that way. But I’ve learned over the years that there’s a certain way you can kind of push what you want but you have to do it within a certain way that just doesn’t make people angry and want to say no just to say no right.

[00:30:20] I’m really excited about the Cyclists Alliance on the roads because now people who are not you know who used to be writers but are no longer writers are in charge. And so I think that’s going to be give them a really good advantage because they can be less politically correct.

[00:30:35] I think that is and I think that’s something that women have needed and I know the woman who put that together worked really hard to do so. And I think it’s really going to help quite a few of the women especially on the roads and because the roads is not the mountain bike or the cross scene and I feel like the road scene needs it the most. They need that help they need that support and they need to come together to really promote women bike racing and kind of equality as a whole.

[00:31:02] They also have a tougher TV request on the runway.

[00:31:06] They do. And honestly the TV there’s so much of the TV rights and who owns things and the play time for it. It’s kind of beyond the scope of what I can actually understand. But there’s a lot of TV rights and people owning a whole pie not want to give anything of it up. And so that’s kind of the issue with the coach women’s racing is. And also for out sponsors making money and profit sharing because there isn’t any. So if one company owns a whole piece of the pie and they’re making money why are they going to get any of it up just to give it up. Right. So I mean there’s a lot of things that need to change.

[00:31:47] Just to help libraries in general make money on the men’s and women’s side. I just don’t see it happening anytime soon. I don’t think I don’t see anything drastically changed just because it’s so hard to change. I kind of like compared to like or US healthcare like it’s so bad that there’s so much things that need to change where it’s like where do you start. And that’s kind of similar with the TV rights in Europe too. It’s like where do you start to somehow make everybody money instead of just one company.

[00:32:20] Well that was one reason I was so happy that Trex stepped up and made equal prize money for the race in Waterloo because it was like somebody just made a decision to do it and did it.

[00:32:29] And I love that yeah and that was the CEO Chad Chad Brown just decided I’m sure he got the go ahead from maybe Dernburg but yeah he decided this is the right thing to do. Aren’t we paying equal anyways. And I think the big issue with other World Cups not paying equal is because it’s so much money. And they’ve got to raise twice as much which is a whole thing is like yeah you should be like Well maybe instead of having to race twice as much why don’t we just take the money that they have now that every World Cup has put together and instead of paying the men 40 places is twice as much and women 20 places and half as much. Why don’t we just take that whole pool of what 80000 euros and split it 40 40 and pay twenty places each. LIKE HOW COOL. Why don’t we. Why aren’t we doing that. And that’s not hard to prove Anderson have to keep create more money. We just you know take 80 grand say forward to the men for the women and pay 20 places. And that fixes it. That’s not a hard problem to solve either but the way it is now is the UCI doesn’t want to change it for the men. They don’t we can’t pay the men any less it’s like no you could we could just split it equal like they do in the mound by the amount by men and women make the same money they got the same prize less and they just split it 50/50 and we should exact same thing for cyclocross workups. Why they don’t.

[00:33:53] I don’t know but I feel like that’s a super easy way to change and promoters will have to find an extra or forty thousand dollars to pay women parça.

[00:34:04] I totally agree with you when people look at me with like big big dear eyes when I say that. But yeah definitely. But you know you’re going to piss somebody off that’s a problem.

[00:34:13] Yeah yeah.

[00:34:15] What I say. I think what you’re going to pick some of them off right. But it’s like you know I don’t feel like a man who’s finishing 30 should get any money in a World Cup. Like who cares you’re finishing 30th. Nobody pays attention to that. Like I figured unless you’re in the top 20 of World Cup why are you making any money. Like you should do better and Finjan plays to make money. That’s the whole point of raising that high level high worldclass level of an event is you get paid to perform. So if you’re performed for 30th it really matter. Why don’t you just pay top heavy in the top 10 and then pay 10 through 20 in the same Mountlake. You’re finishing 12th or 17th. Honestly it’s. Who cares. Like you do. Maybe your parents care but like nobody else nobody else pays attention to that result. Right. I mean honestly like it does anybody know where I finish in the Iowa World Cup after I crashed. Probably not. I finished 90. I only know that because somebody told me after the race but I don’t care to look it up because it’s too far back to matter. So that’s my perspective on it.

[00:35:19] Again I agree with you I was like if I’m not tough to get to know I’ll tell my mom you’re right.

[00:35:26] I mean I figure if you have to look at the results sheet to see where you finish to see if you got prize money or you do any prize money like really that’s a small spec.

[00:35:41] So what do you see the the consequences of both short term and long term consequences of equal pay.

[00:35:49] I like things could be better in the long run. Like if women can make more money in a sport they’re going to have to work full time jobs or have a partner to help support them and they can actually train and get faster. And prepare for races properly. And it just makes the women’s field more competitive and more fun to watch. So I mean there’s no reason why it can’t be equal. And I think we just have to keep pushing for that and will owes the good. What percentage of the field have jobs I would say the majority of the field. It’s hard to tell but I would say the majority of the field maybe 80 percent probably have jobs well maybe 70 percent. It’s a lot I would say like for women not to have a job as a pro bike racer. You’re really good at what you do.

[00:36:41] And it’s also a little bit lucky too because you’ve been able to work out the sponsorship dollars to support you to be able to race and train full time and travel and it’s a hard it’s very hard to do. I’ve been in this situation to be able to professional since 2007 and I say professional because I’ve actually gotten paid to raise my bike. I don’t consider professional. If you have a professional license but yet you don’t get paid to raise your buck because that’s like yeah you got a pressure license but you’re still not getting paid for your job. So that’s hard to put in the present category. But yes I’ve been lucky enough for 2007 but I’ve had sponsors that have stepped up and supported me I’ve gotten good results. I’ve really worked hard. My husband and I really worked hard to find the sponsorship dollars to make it happen. And it’s not an easy world. It’s not easy to find find dollars and you know like me that when I talk cyclocross racing in the world and still have to work hard to find that money like what does a woman do if they’re finishing 10th like they’re good but they’re not winning races and on the podium every weekend. So it adds a hard market and somebody have to you have to work for and you’ve got to put yourself out there and pretty much ask for money and be OK and people say no and just move on to the next one.

[00:37:58] Right. I was really struck by something that I read that you wrote about you know being one of the top cyclocross racers in the world and still having to struggle to make ends meet. And I think that that’s you know that’s what’s not discussed like sort of the individual person who is winning all the time.

[00:38:15] Yeah. And it is hard. And it kills me to see I’m one of the top cross races in the world and compared to maybe one of my male equals all say that is making six figures and it may seem like you know the amount of money that like Metropol Polzin or like Welte pulls in and how much money and Usana can’t Polzin.

[00:38:39] It’s just like there’s a huge difference there. And why is that. Like you know they’re going to be set for life and we’re just making enough to get through a racing career and then to figure out what’s next. Hence why most women have college degrees because we have to. We have to plan for our future post bike race because we need to pay job or find jobs pay the bills. Right. Whereas the men a lot of top men and they’re set for life. They want. They invest it properly and live within their means. They don’t have to work again. So it’s different.

[00:39:11] Wow yeah. I mean I think it’s interesting too that one of the consequences of the low pay for women cyclists is that not many of them come back to the sport once they retire because the finances are so bad.

[00:39:24] And why would you. I mean if you’ve been trying to struggle to make ends meet just raise your bike because you want to raise your bike to retire from bike race seem to continue to be poor does make any sense especially when you’re smart. Like most women bike rates are pretty darn smart.

[00:39:39] Look at our field a lot of them have Deason MT’s and master’s degrees and they’re smart women. So why would they continue to be poor when they’ve got an education and make money doing something else. A lot of women do it because they love they love teaching their bike. So once they’re done it’s hard to continue to stay in the sport when you know how hard it is and you’re kind of over the racing bug anyone do something else your wife.

[00:40:04] Right. But you know what that leaves is you know fewer women in management fewer women in coaching and that’s a rough go it is really rough.

[00:40:12] Yeah and that’s the sad part of cycling and it is going to take I think some women to just make a decision where they’re going to try to fight and continue in it regardless of how much money there is just so they can set up the next generation to have more experience or more opportunity than we had. I mean I like to see like now I’ve been racing since 2000 seven I started racing cross like two thousand four for like actually legit elite cross and I’ve seen the progress for women’s bike race in general. And it’s also parties might want to continue racing is because I’ve seen were restarted and I’m seeing where we are and I’m seeing like the younger riders get support early. I didn’t have that support and it’s like it’s awesome to see that women in their early 20s will actually get sponsorship support we’ll be able to get to races we’ll start earning a paycheck. Like that’s awesome to see because my generation didn’t have it. So I think it’s important to kind of see the progress and see the change as slow as it is is that it’s moving the right direction. We just have to keep keep pushing at it.

[00:41:23] Do you imagine staying in cycling when you retire. Oh yeah yeah.

[00:41:26] I mean I do love raced my bike and I love cycling. I love cyclocross.

[00:41:32] I want to keep helping it grow and seeing like a younger generation come up and race and I’ve just really enjoyed it. I’ve been in my entire life. I don’t see myself stepping back and not doing it again. I’ll probably race masters I’ll probably do something just to like keep it interesting I’ll do it to be fit and then hopefully I’ll be able to work in the bike world to a point where I can just stay stay in it and stay relevant I guess and I’ll probably continue to coach and stay in it that way too. I enjoy I enjoy coaching. I’ve read a couple of articles recently that you talk about ageing are you feeling old.

[00:42:16] You know some days older than others. And it depends on honestly. Some Mondays after a double cross weekend, especially and in Belgium on the cross-races are really hard with like mighty hard races that are quite a bit of running or if I if I crash you know make mistakes whatever my body’s kind of sore I do wake up Monday, Tuesday and I’m like oh yeah I’m not 25 anymore. Like I remember that when I was learning to mountain bike as a teenager I would crash and tumble and roll and I would crash a lot and get back up. I was never sure the next day like I didn’t remember like ever being sore and then I think every year you get older you’re just like how does my neck hurt. And like I feel like I bruise something but I don’t remember hitting anything why. Why does that hurt to so I think. I mean it’s normal that human body ages and hormones change and we get older. It’s just the way it goes. You just have to adapt and you know try to stay as fit as possible and take more fish oil.

[00:43:19] Yeah. So you have nationals coming up. You have a lot of followers and a lot of fans. What’s it like. You know having all that pressure particularly since you’ve won nationals for so long.

[00:43:31] Honestly I don’t feel any that pressure. I’m doing it for so so long. I think you just learn to kind of push that out and not focus on it I just focus on what I can do and how I’m feeling and kind of the race I want to have. And don’t worry about any other outside pressures honestly because it doesn’t do anything like it doesn’t help you at all.

[00:43:52] You can only do what you can really get what you have on that day and it’s either enough or it’s not and whether you put pressure on yourself to perform it just doesn’t get you anywhere. So I try not to focus on that just focus on you know what my body can do and being smooth and racing well and not making mistakes and I feel like focusing on that process makes it kind of takes your anxiety away from thinking about what happens if I don’t win or what happens if I let people down or what happens or a bad race because that may be dwelling on those negative thoughts.

[00:44:28] It just makes things worse so I try not to.

[00:44:31] How do you balance that attitude with you know being nice and kind to the people who are interested in your racing.

[00:44:39] Oh I always tried immunizing kind in general. But I feel like we need more people like this. So I I’m always I try to be generous with my time and chatty at races and talk to people mainly because you know if you’re a fan you’re out here coming to meet me or watch me race or come out to watch cyclocross. I think it’s awesome that you’re insured and you like sports and I want to kind of help nurture that.

[00:45:10] So I if I can I always Matanda to chat to people and sign autographs and just to be available as much as I can. There comes a point where I’m like no actually I to the start line. I got to work. I’ve got to focus on what I’m doing.

[00:45:23] But I definitely try to go out of my way to make sure if people want a little bit of my time that I’m gracious enough to give that to them just because you know part of me. Yeah. As a bike race or needing a result. But also as a bike racer you need to promote the sport you need to promote your sponsors and be available and be personable and talk to people. I think that’s part of it.

[00:45:46] Yeah. Well you have the Nationals this weekend and then you head back to Belgium.

[00:45:51] Yeah we had that had backed Belgium on Wednesday. And are you ready for World Championships. I think so.

[00:45:59] I mean it’s it’s always it’s always a tough time here for me because I’m pretty tired with the travel and the jetlag back and forth but this year sense of based out of Belgium like I feel good like I’m feeling strong mentally I’m not even tired yet. Like I’m kind of bombed the season is going to be over soon. I think I’ve got four more or five more races left including Nationals. So I think that’s that I feel kind of sad about that I’d like to kind of continue racing so that’s a really good sign. Years pass and a pretty tired at this point. And now I just feel like I only have four weeks left and I’m kind of sad that is almost over.

[00:46:35] That’s a great choice. It is a good place yeah. I just I’m feeling fit and I’m like my legs feel strong so I’m yeah hoping the rest of season is good strong finish for me.

[00:46:48] The racing has been really exciting over in Belgium and you know the field looks like it’s just getting stronger and stronger.

[00:46:54] It is I would say you look at the start line start grid anyone from the front two rows can be on the podium.

[00:47:01] And even if some of the good riders starting in the back don’t have points they can be on the podium. So it’s awesome to see I think the women’s racing has really thrown this last couple of years especially this season the amount of talent at the front the amount of them strong runners at the front in racing heart every weekend and having different people on the podium every week is also pretty fun to see. So it I think it it brings a little bit more excitement to the spectators because they want to watch the race because they like I don’t know who’s going to win.

[00:47:31] We’re gonna see and I just find that more entertaining than having the second person win every weekend right.

[00:47:39] Well thank you Katie I really appreciate you taking the time as I said. Is there anything that we didn’t get to that you’d like to say before we sign off.

[00:47:46] I think you cover a lot of love stuff I’m just happy to be and cross Dillon racing when it’s been a long career and yeah I enjoyed it Im happy I can continue to do it Yeah well we’ve been rooting for you.

[00:48:00] Thank you for your feedback. Have a good race on Sunday and look for you.

[00:48:07] All right, awesome, thank you.

[00:48:09] A big thank you to both of my guests Katy Compton and Michi Mathias for spending time with me off the front can be found at and on WiSP Sports Radio, which is available on iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify and Google Play for download to your podcast player. With over 700 episodes across 30 unique shows and a global audience of one point five million WiSP Sports Radio is the world’s largest network of podcasts for women in sport. We are also on all the social media channels @wispsports and if you would like to drop us a line with suggestions comments or questions email us at For more of me, Elizabeth Emery, listen to my other podcast Hear Her Sports available on Apple podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify and anywhere you listen to podcasts and of course Find me also on social media @hearhersports. Thank you for listening and I’ll be back next month with another episode of Off The Front.



Photo: Katie Compton [Tom Compton]
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