BN: Anna, thank you for sitting with us. You are perhaps the Queen of cycling right now being the reigning Olympic champion and reigning Road World Champion. In fact your list of road race wins is quite astounding and includes the European Championship, Amstel Gold, Ronde van Vlaanderen, Tour of California, Giro Rosa, Strada, Omloop and more. So, I have to ask, why mountain biking and why the brutal Cape Epic, are you mad?
Anna: Haha! Good question! It’s more something that came on my path, I started doing mountain biking because I liked it. I did some stage races before and then yea it makes sense because Specialized and Annika Langvad needed a partner for the Cape Epic. They asked me to do it this year. It is of course, a totally different level of mountain bike race than what I have done. I think the Epic is an opportunity for me. I mean to ride with Annika Langvad is not for everybody and I am honored she asked me.
I had to think about it because I know if you do the Epic, it’s a serious stage race and it needs to fit into my road schedule. Annika is doing some road races in our road team, so in a
BN: So it’s about shaking things up then, an adventure of some sorts?
Anna: I always love new adventures. You know sometimes I go to a race for say the 5th time and I know the hotel, I know the roads, I don’t have to do route recons anymore. That can be nice sometimes. Then, new adventures which put me out of my comfort zone are also nice. The Epic is quite a big adventure so I had to think about it because it’s hard.
BN: When did you make the decision to do it?
Anna: I think around November maybe.
BN: Did you immediately chat with your coach and change your preparation or did you just do what you usually do for the road season?
Anna: Well, we had planned the preparation factoring in that I might do the Epic. My doing the Epic is a result of a collaboration with my road team and Specialized themselves.
BN: Is there a ‘deep well’ of information within the Specialized camp that you are able to tap into with regards to the Epic?
Anna: Absolutely. I mean they are one of the biggest mountain bike teams so that felt kind of strange in the beginning. Like I am only starting this whole adventure and I have the whole Specialized team backing me up. The support is amazing, everything is organized for me, only have to ride and to prepare as best as I can.
BN: What are you worried about with regards to the Epic, have you focused on anything specific, you know, like any weakspots?
Anna: Ja, of
BN: We saw you were out in Jonkershoek riding the trails earlier this week, how did that go?
Anna: Yea I am starting to like it more and more and also Annika, I trust her, when I follow her she shows me how to do it. She has given me a lot of advice and my confidence is building. My skills are good enough now to do this Cape Epic. If I didn’t have that feeling, for sure I would say no.
BN: So is that your strategy then, have Annika lead into the technical sections and you will follow her?
Anna: Absolutely yeah. She knows what I am capable of and we did a lot of rides together. She knows me as a rider and her line choice is excellent so I will fully commit to the lines she chooses. It’s been working really well till now.
BN: Tokyo 2020. – So if the Epic goes well this year, will you look at returning next year even though it’s Olympic year?
Anna: Hmm. I have no idea. It’s all a story and we will see how it rolls out. I really didn’t think I would do the Cape Epic. I don’t know
IMAGES Coutesy: Boels Dolmans Cycling Team