Belgian Mud, Bread and Bikes
American CX Pro Elle Anderson Making Most of Her Time in Europe
Elle Anderson embraces the Belgian experience, all of it. The racing. The living. The food. The damp days. The great results. The setbacks. It’s all part of being an American racer in Belgium.
A year ago, Anderson raced her way to the top of the U.S. cyclocross scene with victories in six UCI cyclocross races in the United States and a second place in the elite women’s national championships. For Anderson, the next step was to test herself in the place where cyclocross matters most. She moved to Heist op den Berg, north of Leuven, and joined the Kalas-NNOF Cycling Team to focus on European CX racing.
“My time in Belgium so far seems like a really great adventure. I say adventure because it’s been kind of the ups and downs, the pros and cons, the goods and the bads, all mixed into to one crazy experience that’s continuing,” Anderson said. “It’s just been a crazy journey, but the takeaway for me of it all is that I love being in Belgium and I love how intense the racing is and it’s this weird love hate relationship where I’m so miserable at times yet love that aspect of it in that weird sense because it’s just so much more demanding, so much more challenging and so much more frustrating at times but the rewards at the end of the day are so much more exhilarating.”
She’s had some great results including fifth places at the first World Cup, in Valkenburg (the Netherlands), Bpost Bank Trofee Ronse (Belgium) and Superprestige Gieten (the Netherlands). But along with those came setbacks. “I caught the ‘Belgian plague,’ as its known," Anderson said. "It was really just a really bad cold that turned into an infection in my lungs. I was on antibiotics for about a week and had to miss a lot of races.” She bruised her tailbone in a crash. At the Namur World Cup, she’d cut her knee and require five stiches.
Those peaks and valleys of racing are balanced with interests and duties outside competition. Anderson, who lives in San Francisco while in the United States, balances her training with her work four to five hours a day as a tech support specialist for Strava. She often logs on after dinner to hit the busy time 9 time zones for her California company. She also loves exploring Belgium… seeing local shops and last month the Christmas fairs hosted in the Belgium towns that dot the landscape where she trains.
She discovered what she calls “bread meals” – basically bread with butter and perhaps some deli slices. “It’s just this kind of Belgian part of nutrition where you eat a lot of bread for one meal and that’s all you eat,” Anderson said.
“I didn’t want to try to hold on to all the American comforts. I just wanted to be open minded and just say, ‘what do people do here that works.”
ELLE ANDERSON'S TAKE ON:
Cyclocross Courses in Europe
“There’s been a couple of courses this year that had these elements where I’m actually apprehensive about these sections, like ‘OK, don’t front flip.’ These descents that can be so demanding or challenging, these courses that are really pushing the edge. These are professionals that are competing on these courses and they’re trying to push the professionals. So, really to prepare differently for these races you just have to focus so much of the time, every single moment on the course. You have to know where you want to be, where you have to be and what you have to do.”
Spectators in Europe
“If you’re having a great day a lot of people start to learn my name and who I am and are cheering for me, and I really feel this great support from the crowd. But on the flip side of that, if you’re having a bad day and you’re struggling in 30th place or whatever, you just get this feeling where everyone is staring at you…. Whether you’re riding good or riding bad, it’s like you have those 10,000 or 20,000 people where all eyes are on you.”
Racing SRAM Force CX1 in Europe
“What I like the most about CX1 is that it is a simple system. When I get on the most demanding courses with the most amount of mud that is just sticking to every part of your bike it’s really that simplicity that at the end of the day that allows my bike to work best for the longest. … It’s made my life a lot easier and it’s been a really reliable drivetrain.”
Riding SRAM HydroR in Europe
“The coolest thing about being on the hydro discs is I’m pretty much the only one at the races. There are just not a lot of other people who are riding disc brakes in Europe. I just see that as a huge advantage in a sense because I know and believe that I have superior braking power and no matter how muddy or wet it is my brakes are always reliable and always do what I want them to do.”
ELLE ANDERSON'S BIKE
Frameset: Guerciotti Lembeek Disc
Crankset: Quarq Elsa R 170mm
Chainring: SRAM X-SYNC 1x chainring 40 tooth
Cassette: SRAM PowerGlide 1170 WiFLi 11-32
Wheelset: Zipp 303 Firecrest Tubular Disc-brake
Handlebar: Zipp Service Course SL-70 Ergo
Stem: Zipp Service Course SL
Race action photos © Balint Hamvas, Cyclephotos
Seatpost: Zipp Service Course SL