Photos by Tom Prenen
As we strive to support the incredible athletes we serve every day, we also look for ways to help our own employees. Elle Anderson, a key member of our support team, has not only thrived in her career at Strava but also as a professional racer on the bike.
The cyclocross champ has been with Strava since 2010, at the infancy of the company, when the team was only eight people strong. Last year when the opportunity surfaced to pursue her dream of racing in Europe, Strava figured out a way to help and accommodate her schedule. She is now living in Belgium for the duration of the 5-month season, working part time for Strava and traveling around Europe to compete in the top cyclocross races on the world.
The great thing about my work at Strava, and the support I’ve received from the company, is that in Belgium I can fit my work around my training — not the other way around. With the flexibility in my schedule this season, I have tools to be competitive at the toughest cyclocross races and still succeed with my work.
Some of you may have encountered Elle in Strava’s community forums, where she currently focuses her attention, and others may have caught her at a race or through live-streaming and television coverage from Europe. We want to give you an inside look at her role within our team and her experience so far in Belgium.
Elle Anderson, on getting started at Strava and being part of the team:
I was fortunate to join the Strava team early on, when Strava was serving only a few thousand athletes. At the beginning of this year, I transitioned from Strava email support to work in the community forums hosted through our Help Center. I really enjoy moderating discussions among Strava athletes, answering questions, and receiving amazing product feedback. I think the most satisfying part of my job at Strava is relaying this information to our team, and seeing the changes and improvements that result. As a fellow passionate Strava user, it’s easy for me to understand the perspectives shared by our community and to get behind the most popular feature requests.
At heart, I’ll always be a Strava athlete first, and Strava employee second.
I love using Strava daily to share my training and racing and soak up all the social features. There is something so satisfying to me when I upload my activities and share a part of my life as a professional athlete with the Strava community. Strava definitely gives me a great lens to look through to stay motivated about my training no matter how dark, cold or miserable the process is.
On her decision to move to Belgium:
I first came to Europe to race cyclocross in December 2013, and that trip made a huge impression on me. It was the toughest cyclocross racing I’d ever experienced and it was exhilarating and humbling to compete with the top racers at the heart of the cyclocross world. After that trip, and after I returned to Europe to compete in my first World Championships (Hoogerheide, 2014) I decided that spending more time racing at this level would help me develop as a rider.
Most of all, I wanted to be immersed in the European cyclocross experience and follow my dream of being a professional racer.
On living and racing in Belgium:
I’m fortunate to have found a great team and home-away-from-home in Belgium. I race for the Kalas-NNOF cycling team, and I have wonderful sponsors and support at the races. I live with a host family that has welcomed me into their home and helped me navigate the challenges of living in a different country with a different language. For my first year living and racing in Europe, I hope to focus on the process and gain as much experience as possible. I have so much to learn about the different courses, race venues, terrain, culture, and competition and there is no better place to learn than here.
My race schedule is pretty jam-packed with races, mostly in Belgium, which is often considered the epicenter of the sport cyclocross. Within a two-hour drive I can reach the majority of World Cups, national series races, and European cyclocross classics. Thousands of spectators line the courses and have to buy tickets to enter the venues. Along with the live TV coverage, fan clubs, and plentiful beer and frites, the atmosphere is pretty unparalleled. Each professional rider has a camper at the races to stay warm, dry and safe from the spectators who love to ask for signatures and collect rider cards. There are at a minimum two staff per racer who are constantly busy cleaning muddy equipment and prepping bikes.
This time of year, cyclocross becomes a national obsession and I find myself living and breathing cyclocross constantly in my daily life here. In many ways, my daily work for Strava is a welcome distraction from the constant talk of cyclocross, and I enjoy plugging into the Strava community and supporting so many passionate athletes.
On how this environment has impacted you as an athlete:
It’s nearly impossible for me not to take my racing more seriously when in Belgium, and to be inspired by the level of competition and more dedicated and diligent than ever before. Cyclocross is an incredibly demanding sport, tough on the body, mind and equipment but I have a really great team around me to help make my season possible.
On what’s next:
For the last three weeks in December and through New Year’s Day is a block of racing referred to as ‘Kerstperiode’, or Christmas period. Since most of Europe has vacation this time of year, the crowds of spectators at the cyclocross races are enormous and there are races mid-week as well as on the weekends. It’s the most intense yet most exciting time of the cyclocross season, and I’m really looking forward to it.
Follow Elle’s season in Belgium:
Follow her training and racing on Strava. You can also catch news and photos in her club discussion section, and find upcoming races listed as club events (and tips for watching live streams) here. Elle also posts photos on Instagram and Twitter.