Elle Anderson has had a phenomenal start in Europe, with plenty of top five victories, including one at the World Cup in Valkenburg which qualifies her to represent the United States in the Cyclocross World Championships in 2015. If you were hunting for her last weekend at the Superprestige in Ruddervoorde, you looked to no avail. After battling a cold for the last while, she opted to play it smart and return stronger another day.
These are her thoughts from the weekend, watching the races play out from home:
It seems like just yesterday I was racing the World Cup in Valkenburg and feeling like a million bucks. 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. It’s still sinking in that I’ve been sick for almost 3 weeks now.
It started with a sore throat that I tried to ignore. I was too cocky and just pushed forward with my training and racing. The hard lesson I’ve learned after-the-fact is that I should have listened to the warning signs and rested immediately. I just kept waking up each day believing that I would surely feel better, when I didn’t.
Which brings me to this moment when I’m sitting on my bed, trying to decide whether I’ll race tomorrow at the Superprestige in Ruddervoorde. In reality, the decision not to race was already made ages ago, but it’s taking me a long time to truly let it go. I know for a fact that I’m too sick, but I can see my camper parked outside my window, and I want so badly to get inside and go to the race. I want to arrive, and step out of my camper into the amazing world of European cyclocross. I want to take in the waves of spectators, to feel the curious eyes of the passing fans, and go through my routine of preparing for the race and all the excitement it brings. I think that maybe I can just start the race, I won’t have to finish…but the mountain of used tissues next to me is saying otherwise.
Eventually, I wave the white flag. I probably should take a nap. It’s only been a few days since I started antibiotics for what the doctor thinks is a bacterial infection in my sinuses and lungs, and its already zapping my energy.
I’d always been told that when in Belgium, cyclocross is everything and it bleeds into every pore of life. At this point, it feels true. I can find little escape from the frustration of being benched, unable to do what I came here to do. However, I know that it is just part of the experience, to weather the highs and the lows.
In an attempt to distract myself, I turn to other things that Belgium does well – chocolate, waffles, sweets. Ironically, my sense of taste and smell has completely left me for over a week now, due to the sinus congestion. So in moments of darkness when I try and comfort my mind with binge-eating honey waffles and drinking hot chocolate, I might as well be holding hot water and pieces of cardboard in my hands. Last week I received a care package from America with precious Justin’s peanut butter. But alas, it brings me no comfort and no taste of home. Even the pizza that my hosts cook me for dinner fails to lift my sensory spirits! Oh, to be in Belgium with no taste is torture indeed…
Another product of my poor condition is that my mind has started to learn bad English instead of Dutch, as hard as I try. So now I “go drive with the bike one hour easy”, and when I say goodbye, I “hear you later”. I fully understand that I “no must go outside in the cold” without a scarf. I wish my Dutch was progressing better…
During a teary-eye and grumpy Skype call to my dad, he reminded me of one of my grandfather’s favorite sayings: Don’t look over your shoulder – they might be gaining on you… Looking straight ahead, I can’t wait to get back to the training and racing and it’s hard to stay patient until I am well. I’m still so glad I came to Belgium this season, and I love it here. I’ll get to rediscover my favorite Belgian goodies as if for the first time as soon as I can smell and taste again. And I better learn some Dutch, quick. So without a backwards glance, I will fight onward to the great adventures ahead!