Elle Anderson stormed onto the professional cyclocross scene two years ago, taking big back-to-back wins both days at Gloucester, securing a third place at the Superprestige in Diegem, and then finishing second to Katie Compton at Nationals in Boulder. And so it didn’t surprise many that the San Francisco-based racer and Strava employee found a home on a Belgian cyclocross team for the 2014/2015 cyclocross season. Despite a lackluster 15th place at the 2014 CrossVegas, when Anderson landed in Europe, hopped on a brand new bike and donned a new kit, she rode to three consecutive fifth places, including the World Cup in Valkenburg in a logical continuation of her meteoric rise to stardom.
…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!
–Anderson wrote in the first of her rider diaries for Cyclocross Magazine readers.
But the Belgian road turned bumpy, starting with a sore throat and three-week sinus infection that required antibiotics, then a gashed knee that required stitches, followed by problems with her housing situation that required two moves.
“But in bike racing, your luck and health can change in what seems like a split second, and the rug is pulled out from underneath you,”
-Anderson in her second and final rider diary last season.
The difficulties took their toll, and by the end of the season, Anderson was having disappointing results and a disappointing experience, while fans and followers were left wondering about Anderson’s physical and mental health.
Earlier this month, I caught up with Anderson over lunch across the street from Strava’s San Francisco office. The U.S. CrossVegas World Cup roster had already been announced, and Anderson had declined her automatic spot. And despite signing a two-year contract with Belgian cyclocross team Kalas-NNOF a year ago, Anderson wasn’t training and all signs pointed to her not returning to Belgium this season.
Heading to our lunch, I couldn’t help but wonder if we’d already seen the last of Anderson racing professional cyclocross, or if there was a plan to return to top-level racing again. Here’s a portion of our conversation.
Cyclocross Magazine: You were over in Belgium for five months, had some good results, but as you’ve shared, had some really challenging times. Do you have any advice for a racer who aspires to make a go of cyclocross racing in Europe?
Elle Anderson: The type of people you have helping you, and the type of environment and support network that you have over in Belgium is going to be really instrumental to your success over there.
But the racing over there is so amazing, a must-experience for a cyclocross racer, it doesn’t matter how you experience it, because anything is going to be the most incredible story that you’ve lived. The vibe and energy is so different at a European cyclocross race, the dynamic with the fans, the industry of that entire scene is at a scale that’s really hard for American fans to grasp. My goal was to take any experience I could get, knowing that I was going to learn a lot from it. Have the most immersed and genuine experience that I could have. A lot of lessons learned, some hard lessons, but a lot of lessons learned.
CXM: Sounds like you have no regrets?