Over the 2014-15 season, American phenom Elle Anderson will be contributing to Cyclocross Magazine as she travels throughout Europe to race some of the arduous courses that the world has to offer. Want to know the weekly schedule for a pro while overseas? Anderson laid out her week from Superprestige Gieten to BPost Bank at Ronse, both which she was able to place top five in. Bonus: You get to learn the names for the days of the week in Dutch.
by Elle Anderson
I woke up late, my brain hazy with cobwebs from yesterday’s race in Gieten, my first race of the season in Europe. My eyes were tired-looking, and I stumbled down the two flights of stairs to the breakfast table. Vic, my Belgian host, had set the table and I ate the usual muesli and yogurt, and cheese and meat with some bread. Definitely some coffee. After breakfast, I drove with Vic to the market in downtown Heist op den Berg, the small town I live near. The main cobbled street was closed and filled with different vendors. I sampled some delicious cheese at one stand, and picked out some Belgian greeting cards at another. We chose some fish for dinner at the fish stand. It was all very friendly and I met many people who already knew of my arrival in town and my plans for the cyclocross season in Europe. Following the market was a snack and some tea at den Hosp, the local pub. I refrained from drinking some Belgian beer because it was only noon!
I crammed in a few hours of work in the morning after breakfast. Before I knew it, I was rushing to eat a small lunch and get ready for the 1pm group ride. Emiel met me at the house to show me the way to the start of the ride. An easy day for me, so I elected to go with the “slow bunch”. There is both a fast bunch and a slow bunch that leave promptly at 1pm from the church. The church bells striking the hour is the signal to roll out. This group ride has a speed limit of strictly 35 kph, or about 22 mph. The group promptly organized two-by-two fashion, and every few minutes the person on the front left moved to the right one spot. At the front it’s tempo paced, but at the back of the bunch it’s an easy spin. Under 3 hours and a perfect 85 kilometers. I think the jet lag is finally banished from my legs.
Today was secret training in the bos, which is the flemish word for forest. Well, it’s not so secret but it’s the forest of a famous Belgian cyclocross racer. The weather was a steady drizzle, but in the forest it was cozy in a Belgian way.
The practice course was the perfect kind of tacky with pine needles and leaves, and there was a bit of mist drifting between the trees. I followed a skinny junior racer around the course, and it took three laps before I memorized the route through the maze of cyclocross single track. The junior racer proudly told me that he knew every tree in this forest and had been training here for six years already.
With the race on Sunday in Ronse, the practice course was customized to match the upcoming race with many steep climbs and descents. After four hard laps in the forest, I was dead tired. But, we still had to do some technical drills and short sprints after that…
Another treat on the training schedule today – I rode with the “fast bunch” for the first time. This time 95 kilometers with a speed limit of 40 kph. Serious business, and there were even a few continental pros who jumped in. As the only girl on these rides, word had quickly gotten around about the “Amerikaanse” in town which let to some good conversation during the ride. The sky looked a bit ominous even from the start, and sure enough after about an hour the skies opened up into a downpour.
The strict two-by-two formation became scattered as we tried to avoid the streams of rain kicked up by our tires. When we were thoroughly soaked, the rain stopped, and low and behold the sun came out!
A day of rest after some hard training. I headed out solo for an easy recovery ride on my new favorite loop, hopping from one narrow country road to another between farms with cows, horses, and sheep. There is barely enough room on the road for a car to pass me on my bike, and I don’t know what would happen if two cars had to pass on these roads! The countryside is classically charming around here which comes as a welcome break from the bustling streets of San Francisco.
In the afternoon, I joined Vic and seven of his family members around the table for lunch at the weekly family meal. Belgium has truly opened its doors for me, and I feel so welcomed in my new home for the cyclocross season.
Now on to the next week of training and racing and the first World Cup in Valkenburg. I’m still adjusting to my new routine in Belgium, but I am enjoying my time here so far. It’s sometimes like a dream to be here in the heartland of cyclocross and I’m soaking up every minute!
Thanks for reading, and be sure to stay tuned to Cyclocross Magazine for the next installment!