America’s most successful cyclocross athlete is raving about Queenstown on her first visit to the resort.
Katie Compton – the highest-ranked cyclocross rider to ever compete in New Zealand – is the guest star of the first national series race at Frankton’s Remarkables Park on Sunday.
Compton – who’s amassed 12 World Cup wins and three medals at world championships – has arrived with her husband and manager, expat Kiwi Mark Legg-Compton.
Her trip here has been sponsored by Cookie Time Ltd’s One Square Meal.
Compton, 33, says she’s fallen in love with Queenstown and is even talking of moving here.
“It’s my favourite place in the world right now.
“It’s a cute little town, it’s got the skiing, it’s got the mountain biking, everybody’s really nice and friendly.
“It’s got a great vibe to it, great food and coffee, I can’t wait to spend more days here.”
Compton was invited here by race organiser, Queenstowner Carey Vivian.
Cyclocross is a form of bike racing that was developed as a way for road racers to squeeze in off-season training.
Courses – usually three-kilometre circuits – comprise mud, sand, grass, snow and even creeks, and riders often have to carry their specially-adapted bikes over obstacles.
Cyclocross is the fastest-growing two-wheeled sport in the United States and the sport draws huge crowds in Europe – this year’s world champs in Belgium attracted 60,000 spectators.
Cookie Time co-owner, Queenstowner Michael Mayell, says he’d never heard of cyclocross till Vivian contacted him a few months ago.
“Carey said, ‘What do you think of this?’
“I went, ‘I can’t believe I haven’t heard of it’, it’s so big in Europe, you would not believe it.
“Carey suggested, ‘Why don’t we bring a guru out?”
“I thought, ‘What a great idea, to just add some weight to the whole thing’.”
Compton says the season in the US and Europe runs from September to February.
“You need kind of bad weather to do it, it’s more of a winter sport.
“It’s growing really fast and there’s this huge interest in it, it’s a great spectator sport.
“It’s a family event because mum can race, dad can race, as well as the kids.”
Compton says the sport requires a lot of strength but also technical skills.
Though she’s been racing professionally since 2006, she also races mountain bikes, does track cycling and trains on roads.
“I try to ride all sorts of bikes just ’cos it’s fun and it keeps you fit.”
Aside from Sunday’s race, which starts at 2pm and is part of the Queenstown Winter Festival, Compton will also take a cyclocross clinic at the course on Saturday.