For the first two months of the 2019/20 cyclocross season, Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen – Bingoal) was the story of the Elite Men’s field.
Back in Europe, Iserbyt continued to roll, winning World Cup Bern, two Superprestiges and the annual Koppenbergcross classic on November 1.
The hot start was all according to plan for Iserbyt. With Wout van Aert (Jumbo -Visma) injured and Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon – Circus) starting his season in November, Iserbyt started his cyclocross training earlier than usual with the explicit goal of taking the lead in the World Cup overall. The plan worked, and he now sits atop the World Cup overall through five of nine races.
If Iserbyt was the story of September and October on the Men’s side, Van der Poel has been the story of November. Iserbyt gave the World Champ tough fights at the Euro Championships in Italy and World Cup Tabor in the Czech Republic, but the last two weekends, the Dutch star has returned to his dominant ways.
Recent results, however, do not take away from Iserbyt’s success thus far this season. Seven wins and 11 podiums in the first 3 months as an Elite are an impressive record to build on.
One of the sponsors of Iserbyt’s bike setup, Rotor, recently sat down to chat with the young Belgian about his season, training and his goals for this season and his career. The interview is a bit different than what we might normally do, but we thought it was still an interesting look at one of the sport’s rising stars.
The transcript is reposted below. See here for the original.
Interview: Eli Iserbyt, 2019/20 UCI World Cup Elite Men’s Leader
Question: First things first, do you have any pets? Are you a dog person or a cat person?
Eli Iserbyt: I have 2 dogs, Wolf and Moos. I’m a huge fan of dogs. They’re always very kind and give you a lot of love.
Q: How many languages do you speak? Any hobbies we should know about?
EI: I speak four languages. In Belgium, we are obligated to learn Dutch, French, German and English! I like to make coffee besides racing. With my Rocket Espresso machine, I’m well equipped!
Q: How (and at what age,) did you start riding and racing bikes? Were you always involved with cyclocross, or did you start with other disciplines?
EI: My first love is indeed cyclocross. At the age of 13, I started doing some races but always combined with playing football. At the age of 15, I stopped playing football and cyclocross became my number one hobby.
Q: Cyclocross racing is huge in Belgium. How did that affect your start in the sport?
EI: I always watched cyclocross on TV when winter arrived. It made me start riding my bike and it’s definitely the reason why I started cycling.
Q: Your family is a big part of your support team; how did they impact your racing?
EI: Without the help of a family, there wouldn’t be a good rider. They help you throughout the week and during races. My family are my mechanics and soigneurs, so everybody is well connected.
Q: Now some questions about your racing! Do you have a pre-race ritual? Any superstitions?
EI: Starting the warm-up on the rollers 35mins before every race is the only real ritual I have.
Q: What warm-up music do you listen to?
EI: Most of the time electronic dance. It really pumps up the feeling.
Q: How do you decide between gloves or no gloves for a race?
EI: Below 10° C I mostly decide to use gloves.
Q: You’ve had an amazing season so far, did you do anything different ramping up to your first season in the Elites?
EI: I started a little bit earlier with specific cyclocross training in July. Less endurance and more interval on a hilly training parcours. It helped a lot to increase my power.
Q: You train with ROTOR 2INpower but race with simple Aldhu cranks. Is seeing the power number less important when you’re racing or are there other considerations?
EI: While training it is very important to have the 2INpower. Without that I could not perform on a high level. You need to know the data to improve as cyclist. In the cyclocross races, it’s very hard to get info out of your power meter. We are always going full gas, so heart rate is also important.
Q: How do you use your 2INpower in training?
EI: My training is built through power charts. So without the 2INpower, I could not do the best training rides as possible. We use it for endurance, interval and VO2Max training.
Q: Do you have any tips for riders that are new to training with power?
EI: The first year you have to get used to what power is and how you can adjust your training on power charts. Left/Right balance is very important as well. In the beginning, it’s like you cannot ride a steady pace but after a while, you really use your muscles more efficiently
Q: Your wins in your first Elite fields in Waterloo, Jinglecross, then Bern showed everyone you are a serious contender for the UCI overall points win for the season. Was it part of your strategy to own the UCI standings from the start?
EI: The plan was indeed to be as good as possible from the beginning of the season. It was a bit unexpected to perform that well in my first year as Elite, so we were surprised as well.
Q: Waterloo had some really challenging conditions, with crazy mud. How do you decide what tire pressure to run for muddy races?
EI: It’s all about feeling the ground and having as much grip as possible. When I feel that it’s still too slippery, then I lower pressure. But considering stones and roots as well, it’s a bit like finding a balance between as low as possible for grip, but still not too low to avoid a flat.
Q: How do you keep your peak form fresh for months of racing during the cyclocross season? Any pro tips?
EI: Don’t overreach your body. Listen to it and plan a rest day if you need it. Doing too much is very easy in a hard season. The balance between resting a lot and training a lot is hard to find, but most of the time you body tells you what to do!
Q: You are known for being a clean, consistent rider, making few mistakes. How do you decide when to take risks to make a big move?
EI: I like to feel comfortable on track and risks are always calculated. When I attack, I mostly know on what part I can take a big risk and where not. So the pre-race course ride is very important.
Q: We’ve seen a lot of other CX racers getting involved in other disciplines, like road and mountain bike racing. Do you see yourself branching out at any point?
EI: I really like to ride uphill in road races. So maybe I want to try to start one day in the Tour de France!
Q: Last one: what are your big goals for this season, and how does that build into next year?
EI: My big goal this year is the overall UCI World Cup win. Besides that, the Belgian and World Championships are very important. Next year we have the same goal.