INTERVIEW: ANNEKE BEERTEN
is a true chameleon of the sport - riding and racing ever since she could walk, the majority of her life has been spent on two wheels. Born in the Netherlands, by the age of three she was riding, going on to compete in BMX a year later when a friend of the family suggested her dad should take her to a local BMX track.
Despite early success, it wasn't until she was 22 that she gave up her job to focus on racing full time. Thanks to the support of friends, family and sponsors, her love of bikes never diminished and she was able to live her dream, going on to achieve a number of podium finishes and attracting the attention of 'Be-one,' a Dutch mountain bike team who she raced for until 2003.
Multiple World Champ in both BMX and 4X, Anneke raced XC and DH before transitioning to Enduro in 2013. As someone who has been riding bikes her entire life, she has a pivotal role in women's mountain biking and has competed at the top level in multiple disciplines, displaying incredible skill and fitness. Never one to shy from a challenge, Anneke's move from 4x to enduro has since shown that her years of experience make her a strong competitor. Placing fourth overall in the 2014 Enduro World Series and fifth overall in her first year is proof that she is a consistent podium threat. Looking to 2015 she talks about where it all began, the highs and lows, switching to enduro and her career to date.
|My parents never pushed me. They've always supported me. I made sure my bike was clean, put it on the car before training, and did work around the house, so they would have time to drive me three times a week to the bmx track and go to races on Sunday|
You’ve been riding for a long time, but how did it all start?
I started riding at the age of three, just doing endless laps around the house from dusk to dawn. A friend of my dad's told him to take me to the local bmx track to see if I would like it. And that's where it all started. I did my first bmx race at the age of four and from that moment on, I was hooked on riding and racing. When did you realize that it was a potential career path for you?
It was not until I was 15 that I started riding international bmx races, I had won a bunch of national titles, but then I went to the World Champs BMX in England and I won my first World Title. A year later, I went to Canada and won the World Champs again. So, I knew I was doing pretty well at the time. At that point, I also got an offer from the Be One mountain bike team. They were looking for a girl with some skills and they thought I was a good candidate for that. And from that moment, I did my first DH race and I knew that is what I wanted to do and become pro in. How do you think the early support from family and sponsors helped develop you as a racer?
Without the support of them I would have been nowhere! My parents never pushed me. They've always supported me. I made sure my bike was clean, put it on the car before training, and did work around the house, so they would have time to drive me three times a week to the bmx track and go to races on Sunday. (I think my parents were pretty stoked when I turned 18 and got my driving license..haha) Sponsors believed in my talent, gave me their products and even paid for my travelling so I could chase my dreams and realize my goals. Who or what has inspired you throughout your career?
I've always been inspired by the people I've been around. I rode a lot with Joost Wichman when I was younger. Riding with boys definitely helped develop my skills and these days I'm trying to chase Curtis Keene and Mitch Ropelato down the hill, and they both inspire me to get faster. But, I'm also still inspired by Tracy Moseley and Anne Caro Chausson. It was pretty awesome to beat them both for the first time ever this year. This keeps me pushing hard to become faster. Ever since I was younger, I dreamed of winning the rainbow jersey. It did not matter if I saw somebody winning it in BMX, road cycling or track, that's what I wanted. It took me many years, but in 2011, I finally won the rainbow stripes! Looking back at your career, what stands out in your mind as the best and worst moments?
Worst... Uhm, I have two moments: leading the 4-cross finals in Livigno, Italy, until the last corner and then I got bummed out of the track by the girl behind me. I literally felt sick and had sleepless nights for weeks after for leaving the inside line open. And then my crash in Leogang at World Champs two years ago trying to hit the biggest double ever and coming short, big time! Blew up my wheel and luckily enough, I walked away a bit dizzy and with a bruised leg. Best moment: winning World Champs 4-cross in Champery, Switzerland. After many years of failing, I finally did it. When the UCI announced it was dropping 4x from the racing calendar in 2012, what impact did it have on the discipline, and how did you feel as the newly crowned World Champ?
I was really bummed because I knew 4-cross has its potential. But for myself, I was already looking for a new challenge and when one door closes, you have to make sure to open another one. You had a fantastic season, winning the Specialized-SRAM Enduro series, two podiums and a fourth overall at the Enduro World Series, a win at Sea Otter Downhill among other amazing results. How do you feel, looking back on 2014?
It was a blast and so much fun! If people only could see how much fun I have in the Specialized team. Riding with Curtis makes me faster. My mechanic Paddy is the most positive guy ever, and I have the best bikes and support in the world from Specialized, SRAM, and all my other sponsors. To me, it is very important to have fun while travelling and riding. This has shown in my results. Off course, I train my ass off and spend hours suffering in the gym and on the bike training, but in the end, it is my passion and something I just love doing. You travelled to some pretty incredible spots last year with the EWS and the Specialized-SRAM Enduro, what were the highs and lows from the season?
Highlight was definitely going to Chile, for the first EWS round of the season. It was so amazing to ride on that continent and meeting people there, and riding the trails. The whole trip was just a mission as well - lots of different flights, hanging out in airports and driving 'till three at night after the race to catch another flight back home. The low was definitely the weather in Europe. We had so much rain at the races. Mud everywhere - still picking it out of my hair now... ughh. If you could summarize racing the EWS, what was it like for you - from the discipline itself to the different tracks?
It's mentally and psychically very challenging, but that is one thing I like about it. I like to suffer and to find my limits. It is not a walk in the park, that's for sure. But, the vibe at the races is just amazing. All the girls get along and we all support each other on the hard epic days. The EWS races take me to the most beautiful places in the world and I get to shred there on my bike. Not one weekend, not one trail will be the same. You will need to be able to adapt to all of it. You’ve raced pretty much every discipline there is. Do you have a favourite?
No. I like and love all of them. As long as I am on wheels I'm good. Although, now I think of it, Cross-Country Eliminator was not a whole lot of fun. Will you continue to focus on enduro in 2015?
Yes. I have the feeling I can still improve quite a bit in Enduro. This was only my second season and I've been learning something every single race. Enduro definitely takes some experience. Having never raced enduro before 2013, what was the transition from 4x to Enduro like, and do you think your background in XC and DH was a contributing factor to your success?
A little bit, yes. Enduro is still a different piece of cake to be honest. I definitely learned a lot of stuff the hard way the first year. I was not consistent at all, I even had a DNF because I got lost on the trail in the middle of the Alps... haha! Or, I would sprint out of the start like I was racing a 4x race, but then my legs would blow up after a minute, when I still had like 15 minutes of trail ahead of me. But of course, the overall riding skills and experience helped me getting down the hill in one piece. As you’ve been riding and racing for a number of years, have you had the opportunity to get involved with projects or product development in the industry?
Yes, definitely. I work very closely with the people at Specialized in all departments. They take my feedback very seriously and we as racers are able to test products to the max. I'm also on the Sram BlackBox program and work closely with them. The most recent product I've developed is with Alpinestars; the Evolution jacket. How long have you been riding for Specialized and how have things changed as you’ve moved to different disciplines?
I rode for Specialized back in 2004 to 2006, in both Downhill and 4-cross. Then Specialized stopped that gravity program. I've always stayed in good contact with them and when I told them I wanted to make the move to Enduro, they took me back on board in 2013 for their Enduro team. The major changes are training and equipment. After many years of sprint training on a simple hardtail bike, I went to long five-hour rides and bikes that had a lot more suspension and technology to them. You’re featured in the 2015 Cyclepassion calendar. How did you get involved and what the experience like?
I got asked by Cyclepassion to be in their tenth anniversary calendar for 2015. I was already familiar with the calendar, but I first wanted to know what their ideas for the 2015 calendar were going to be. When doing something like that, I wanna be sure that I feel comfortable with it. We, as Mountain bike girls, always wear racing gear, helmets and you hardly see us in high heels. This calendar is a great opportunity to show we are well trained athletes and true females. Going back to your career, what do you see yourself doing in the next few years? Will you continue to race, or is there something else you’d like to do?
That's always a hard question to answer for me. I love riding, racing and traveling. At the moment, I want to continue racing for a couple more years. After that, I would love to stay involved in the biking or with one of my sponsors in the industry.... not a desk job though, I really can't sit still. Outside of racing and riding, what do you enjoy?
Eating and sleeping. What are your plans for the off season?
I'm in the middle of my off season now and I spent most of it training in California. Holland is still home for me, but in the winter time there is not much I can do when it comes to riding, training and getting faster. California is the perfect place for me. Specialized is based here, I can ride trails right outside my front door, race some local XC and DH races, ride the Oakley Pumptrack (which is next door),
and also ride MX. What do you have planned for 2015?
Winning and having fun.
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|Shout out to everyone that has been a part of my journey so far. There are too many people to name who have been a part of my success, and helping me realize my goals and dreams to name in this interview. But, most of them know who they are. Keep on riding and make sure to live life, dream big and keep chasing them! XO - Anneke|
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