Step By Step

"It was good, it was super hard, I think courses like that suit me more. Plus it was wet, and that really adds another aspect to the race, especially going downhill."

Indeed, the conditions of this years K1 seemed to play to 20-year old Grace Anderson’s strengths, finishing a creditable 3rd after a long season; I’m probably more of a climber, I’m not really built for a sprinter but I can do the odd good sprint. I think I like a tough course - hilly but not too long but really full on, the more windy and tough the better.”

Graduating through the “EGGS” (Epsom Girls Grammar School) cycling team after cutting her teeth on the tough schools racing schedule, Anderson was picked up by the Mike Greer Homes Women’s squad, with the focus on the Calder Stewart Women’s Elite Series with occasional forays into the National Capital Tour NRS rounds in Australia. I joined them in my first year out of school, their second year. I quite like the support rider role I was in for the Calder Stewarts, it can take the pressure off you and it’s really satisfying if you know the person you are working for can perform.”

“In the first year I rode for them I went over three times for NRS races. It was cool, more challenging but I guess a bit more on our level. Often we weren’t strong enough to execute team tactics but we’d all hang in. I think it was the last race I did that year we did a criterium around Canberra and I was in a breakaway for over 30 minutes out of the 40-minute race.”

grace_anderson4.jpg

Anderson also raced over in Australia when selected to join the Cycling New Zealand squad for the Santos Women’s Tour, something she’d like to repeat; “You get to wear the full black kit, which was pretty cool, and there are not many opportunities you are going to wear it, especially as a road rider. It makes everything more exciting and puts more pressure on you, something I’d definitely like to do again.”

Perhaps Anderson’s breakthrough race was her victory in the U23 Club Road Nationals in 2016, getting into the winning break with good company, something Grace makes sound all too easy. We raced with the Elites and I was away with Georgia Williams and the triathlete Amelia Watkinson for at least half of the race. It finished up a hill so all I had to do was stay with them until the end and hopefully not get caught by the others.”

Contacts through the Mike Greer team enabled Anderson to head to the States this past year, to compete in the Tour of America’s Dairyland races, a series of crits held over eleven days in Wisconsin in June, predominately town centre carnival races. There’s an Overall Leader but you don’t have to do all of the races, you can pick and choose as it’s based on your best seven. Coryn Rivera (Ronde van Vlaanderen Winner) did a few of them, she just showed up out of the blue and everyone was like Oh geez!’ There was one with a 100m pinch in it and by the end it was pouring with rain that day and the downhill was quite technical too. So it was so fast every time we went over it people were just dropping off. I was hanging on for dear life the entire time, got dropped a few times but somehow managed to get back on and realised that there weren’t that many there, only about 15 of us.”

grace_anderson2.jpg

It was performances like this that enabled Grace to stay on in the States for longer, joining two other New Zealanders, Georgia Catterick and Mikayla Harvey, in Team Illuminate, a UCI Women’s Team, somewhere she intends to return next season. Last year was the first time they’d ran a Women’s team - so they were looking for new riders. Before I joined they did the Tour of California, which would be good to do next year.”

But it’s not just the racing that Anderson is coming to grips with, it’s also the living overseas while continuing her education. I moved my Uni studies to the Massey distance programme this year which I found worked well with the travel I did this year. Team Illuminate are based in San Francisco, which was so cool. We stayed over in Mill Valley so the riding was really good, super hard. But it’s funny, it’s the little things, like no one knows what a capsicum is in America, they have no idea. We had quite a lot of Mexican food which I really enjoyed, I think tacos is probably my favourite now. Also, I’d never really drunk coffee before I went over there but I kind of really just got into after all the crits I was doing during Dairylands, they were just so late at night.”

grace_anderson3.jpg

Although enjoying the States, Anderson sees it as a stepping stone, eventually heading over to the real hub of racing. “Heading to Europe is definitely one of my goals, it’s where all the best cyclists are. But I’d rather go to Europe once I’ve experienced racing in America, I feel like if I went over there this year I wouldn’t be prepared. From what I’ve heard a lot of people go over there thinking they can handle it but burn out as they don’t realise how hard it is, especially being away so far from home as well.”