7 June 2014
Over the past couple of years, Elle Anderson made a bright, rising star appearance in Northern California. She reached another high point recently by signing with KDL to race cyclocross in Belgium for 2014-16. A transplant to San Francisco from points east, Anderson hails from Stowe, Vermont and appeared on the bicycle-racing scene at Dartmouth College. With a handful of ‘cross races in 2008 and again in 2010, Anderson’s focus on the sport only spans the past 3 years; for the last two Anderson has lived in San Francisco.
Anderson’s first dedicated ‘cross season, 2011-12, culminated with a finish half-way down the field at Nationals in Verona Wisconsin.
Northern California first saw Anderson in the region but on the road and racing for Touchstone Climbing. Opening her 2012-13 season with Ladies First Racing, Anderson exhibited her ‘cross prowess to the NorCal community by capturing two successive wins at Central Coast CX races. That season saw plenty of top ten results with exclamation point wins at Spooky Kross, Surf City, Baystate in Massachussetts, Chicago Cyclocross Cup New Year’s Resolution, and one from a back row call-up at BASP’s Sierra Point Night Race.
At Nationals in 2013, Anderson broke into the top twenty with a twelfth place finish.
More and more now described as her breakout season, racing 2013-14 for Cal Giant/Specialized, Anderson finished outside the top-ten only once in 23 races. Four straight wins, at the weekend events of Trek Cyclocross Collective Cup and Gran Prix of Gloucester, sent Anderson on her way to winning the USAC Pro Cyclo-cross Calendar. Modestly Anderson attributes her Pro CX success to simply competing throughout the entire calendar as well as racing consistently. Europeans were able to witness Anderson for themselves with her trip to Belgium and a top-twenty finish at Worlds, the third best finish for a US racer.
At Nationals in Boulder earlier this year, Anderson finished on the second step of the podium.
The progression is clear. Anderson has made her mark. She is a top cyclocrosser.
Fit and Filthy: Three years ago, did you plan to be this good, this soon?
Elle: Not at all. When I first decided to focus on a cyclocross season I didn’t know what to expect or how far it would take me. It was almost a temporary experiment. I think my whole cyclocross journey to date has been one of discovery and surprise. Every year I seem to surprise myself and surpass the goals or expectations I’ve had of myself. It’s definitely added a fun aspect to the whole journey.
Fit and Filthy: What was your reason for the focus on cyclocross?
Elle: In 2011 I got on a regional team, Ladies First, that focused on cyclocross. It was a weird summer season in New England because a couple of big regional teams folded and I found myself scrambling and without a team. I thought [Ladies First] was the best option not because of the cyclocross but because they were very well supported and very well organized development team. I thought what the heck it’s cyclocross-focused I’ll give it a try. Obviously it proved to be quite a blessing.
Fit and Filthy: Is there any one aspect you can attribute to your success in cyclocross?
Elle: My days as an alpine ski-racer and elite-level athlete in general have prepared me well for the transition to a different sport. I often think back to my days as a ski-racer and I was really competitive for about 8 years; I was a top junior competitor and I went to a high school boarding academy just for ski-racers. I spent so many years of my life, before the transition to cyclocross, as a year-round dedicated athlete that balanced studies and training. There’s this whole suite of skills that I developed during that time that have prepared me for cyclocross and allowed me to have such a fun time surprising myself. I learned how to balance life and training. I learned how to set and pursue goals.
Fit and Filthy: Was it more mental skills than the physical preparation?
Elle: Yes. It’s funny for me to think of all the training I did as a ski-racer because it was so different. I was on a year-round weight-lifting plan and it was all about bulky muscles. My body was more like a track sprinter, in a sense, for skiing. Now it’s like a lean endurance athlete. In the time I’ve been a cyclist I’ve seen all my muscles dramatically transform. The physical preparation [for skiing] as a direct translation has been very minimal but it’s all those routines of training and living the lifestyle as an athlete that has translated well to my life as a cyclist.
Fit and Filthy: For the most part, California has more of its share of fair weather. How do you prepare for colder, wetter, and muddier conditions?
Elle: I would say living in California doesn’t prepare me very well for the harshest conditions of cyclocross. Again, looking back at my days as a ski-racer, I spent so many years of my life training and racing in very extreme conditions. A cyclocross race is almost a mild equivalent. I think I draw more on [my ski-racing] than I do on my recent years in California. In a sense it’s an optimal balance to live and train in California because the weather is so good all year round. It was jus a few years ago I lived in New England and had to train through very long and cold winters. As much as that builds character, it does limit training opportunities for 6 months of the year. My training and fitness took a massive leap when I moved out here to NorCal.
Fit and Filthy: With your history of New England and skiing, do you find it’s not a shock traveling from Northern California to a harsher clime?
Elle: It’s always going to be a shock to my system but that memory of spending so much time in cold and miserable conditions definitely helps me when I race in a very different climate than we have here in California. One thing that is fun, San Francisco is a little bit of a weather bubble. Especially in the fall, its foggy, damp, misty rain, and it can be some tough training weather. That damp ocean air can really make for some chilling training. So, if you train in that San Francisco bubble there are times of the year where you have to get out there in the wind, the mist, and the fog and definitely push yourself through bad weather. For the most part, it can definitely be nice out here.
Fit and Filthy: So far, what is your favorite achievement in cyclocross?
Elle: There’s a lot to choose from but the most emotional achievement for me were the back-to-back wins in Gloucester last year. That was my first cyclocross race ever back in 2008. Since then it’s had a place in my mind as being the beginning for me but also as a special race I look forward to every year. Last year I came to the race with confidence but no real expectations and surprised myself with two wins. It was very emotional as my whole family was there and they were so ecstatic about those results. For me as well, it just meant so much to win at Gloucester because it was in New England, it was near where I grew up, and it just held so much significance for me.
Fit and Filthy: How did the KDL opportunity come about?
Elle: In a sense I have my Mom to thank. She took the initiative to write a letter to Victor Bruyndonx, the host for Amy Dumbroski when she was racing in Belgium last year. This was right after Amy passed away. I went to high school with Amy, we were both ski-racers together, and my Mom was dealing with the sadness of the event in her own way. She ran across an article about the host family and felt moved enough to pick up a pen and write the letter to Victor Bruyndonx, the man that had opened up his doors to Amy.
At the end of the letter [my Mother] mentioned I was also a racer, sort of following Amy’s footsteps, and they struck up a correspondence. When I went over to race in Europe for the first time I had a chance to meet Victor in person. It was a great connection. He decided way before I did that I should try to get a contract with a European team. He helped me along the way as my liaison to the whole world over there. It wasn’t something that I was necessarily proactive with at first but as time went on there seemed to be good opportunities for me in Europe and I became very interested.
The thought of taking that giant step across the Atlantic and into the European cyclocross scene made me so excited. At the end of the day I’m so grateful for Victor’s help and that I even have this opportunity. It’s going to be a dream come true.
Fit and Filthy: Now that you most definitely have made the grade, what are your goals for the future?
Elle: Most of my goals coming up have a lot to do with the European cyclocross calendar. What I learned last year, having to get on an airplane every time I wanted to race in Europe, there are so many factors that work against you when you don’t live in Europe. Everything from jet lag, to flying with all your equipment, to being out of your own element. I am so excited to station myself in Belgium and be on equal footing with all the other racers. I was close to the top fifteen, top ten in World Cup’s I did this past year but I would love to get on a World Cup podium. That definitely would be a dream for me. It would be exciting this year for me to see how close I come to that goal.
With the great national series they have in Belgium and Europe, [I’ll] learn about my competitors, learn from them, and learn to race and excel in the world’s muddiest conditions. It all gets me fired up. I am looking forward to the challenge of racing in Europe.
Fit and Filthy: One last item, do you have anything so say to your NorCal fans?
Elle: I’m going to miss being in NorCal for the cyclocross season this year. It’s going to be bittersweet getting on a plane in late September and heading to Europe. There’s a lot of racing and friends I’ll miss for the entire year. It’s such an honor to race on this European team but there will definitely be times I will feel very homesick for all my friends in NorCal and all the fun races I’ve done these past few years.
About KDL Cycling Team
Anderson will join Dutch rider Sophie de Boer to complete the women’s roster of the KDL Cycling Team. The team is in transition and will have a focus on Women, something relatively unique in European cyclocross. Settling on sponsorship is still underway with details to follow sometime in the future.