When Ben Berden started racing full-time in the US two seasons ago, interviewing him was difficult with the slight language barrier. Now that he’s been adopted into the US cyclocross community, he’s a lot easier to understand when we talk. He’s also a lot happier now that he and fellow racer Nicole Duke are together, so much so that he was willing to trust her to lead their tandem mountain bike in a race the morning after he won the Sea Otter cyclocross race on his new Raleigh RXC Pro Disc bike with the new TRP HyRd brakes.
In the cyclocross race, “We were going fast.” He laughs, and seems surprised by that. Because it’s the off-season, or the start of the MTB season, for most of the cyclocross pros assembled, the speed of the race surprised most of the top racers.
But if the pace was so fast, how did Berden easily take the win? He tells me that he used the element of surprise and some seriously tactical choices. “It was in the sandpit. I was the only one who could drive through it. They didn’t know it. So last lap, I did it and they were a little surprised, and I gained five seconds.”
He smirks just a bit. “I was doing it before but I was hiding it.”
Still, the race wasn’t easy for the Belgian-turned-American. “It’s really fast. There’s not much time to recover.”
However, while racers like Jonathan Page and Nicole Duke had problems at the barriers, Berden was nonplussed despite the fact that it’s the off-season. “If you’re doing it for 20 years, it’s in your system.” [Ed note: Of course it's worth noting Page has been racing cyclocross just as long]
What does a cyclocrosser do during the off-season? Berden will race some short track, and do some gravel events, but in the short term, he’s got a more fun agenda. “I have to ask my girlfriend. Paddle-boarding or something like that. Weird things.”
He continues, “We’re going to do the tandem MTB race tomorrow morning. It’s early, like 7:30. So we’ll go directly from the bar to there.”
And as if that wasn’t already a perfect quote to end on, he smiles again and adds, “She told me I can’t scream like a girl tomorrow.”
The two didn’t get to do the race, as Duke’s rib was more hurt than she realized after the cyclocross race and her crash.