EA: I do not regret my decision to go race over there last year. I do wish it wasn’t as difficult and trying, I do wish that there were some things that had gone differently, but I stand by my decision to race over there. The lessons and the perspective that I learned from not only being on the ground there for five months straight, and not going back and forth to the U.S., the lessons I learned from that were deeper than those an American typically learns from being over there for just a week.
And for better or for worse, I don’t regret my decision to sign with a Belgian program. I say better or worse because there were definitely pros and cons, but the pros are that it’s a Belgian scene, they dominate everything that happens in that space, and when you’re affiliated with them, you get a unique perspective that a lot of things are so much easier.
Take parking for example, when you drive in with a camper with all your logos on it, the parking attendants who get really territorial, they see this is somebody, and your Belgian person driving your van can talk their way into the pro village and the best parking spot. I didn’t have to worry about any of that. And when you show up in a USA Cycling van, it’s a different experience.
CXM: If we were sitting here a year ago, what would you have said a successful European campaign looked like?
EA: Success looked like an experience I would never forget.
CXM: It seems like you achieved that!
EA: I did achieve that, but I just wanted it to be in a better way. A year ago I was a little bit apprehensive, but in my mind I was focused on that thrill, the good thrill [of unknown], when you get to the bottom of the roller coaster ride and you’re like, “That was scary, but that was amazing!” Instead it was more like a haunted house.
CXM: Besides the housing situation challenges, you had good race results, but were you happy with how you were going besides getting sick?
EA: I came into the season undertrained because I was trying to wrap up my life in San Francisco. For all intents and purposes, I arrived in Belgium giving myself complete carte blanche.
So to come in, arrive on the scene, and to get three fifth places off the bat, one in a World Cup which was an automatic qualifier for Worlds, it was so surprising. And in a couple ways, it could have been one of the challenges because it was all downhill after that. Getting sick and trying to come back, getting stitches and trying to come back, and knowing I was far performance-wise from where I was, and then there were so many other things going on, that my worrying about my race results were at the bottom of my list.
CXM: You had all these challenges, but at Nationals and Worlds you seemed to be at a low point.