Along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Eddie Anderson ‘17, Virginia’s top professional cyclist, trains over a single ribbon of blacktop. As the road snakes upward, climbing from the valley floor, Anderson stands on the pedals. His body flexes forward, but not bobbing; beneath him, the bike sways sharply from side to side with each powerful downstroke of his legs.
The bicycle passes farmsteads with bleating goats and meandering cows as he ascends higher and higher. Anderson’s heart works in half notes, filling two beats per measure to the average male’s four.
Anderson’s competitiveness is hard-wired into his genes. His father, Edward Anderson ‘77, stood out for his prowess on the soccer field as well as the punter on the Saint’s football team; his mother Mary Hoge (St. Catherine’s ’78), an avid runner to this day, broke records of her own as a track star in distance racing.
The 2019 Belgian Waffle Ride in Ashville, North Carolina turbocharged Anderson’s budding pro cycling career. However, an early race flat tire threatened to end it on the spot. Within moments, a teammate rode up, unhitched his own wheel, and gave it to Anderson.
An hour later, Anderson made it to the front group and then it became a war of attrition. Dehydrated and plastered with white salt stains, Anderson stunned the crowd by snaring second place.
Anderson’s performance in the race caught the eye of Alpecin-Fenix, the World Class Pro Cycling Team based in Belgium. As the sole American, his spot on the Dutch squad capitalized on his expertise in the sport’s newest sensation: gravel racing.
Gravel grinding is the Goldilocks of cycling, filling that sweet spot between the long-distance endurance of road racing and the technical skill and sheer grit of marathon mountain biking. Thanks to better bikes, adventurous routes, and frantic starts, racers pedal road bikes with trail-ready tires through a course that often includes pavement, dirt, mud, and grass.
Per year, Anderson bikes 25,000 miles, enough to circle the globe, and he calls Charlottesville, VA home base. “The roads here are amazing. I think they’re world-class, literally the best in the world.” The hellacious undulations and ascents offer ideal training for his daily mega-mileage excursions. His favorite training route, aptly named the Keckasaur after a maniacal local biking legend - Keck Baker - covers 105 miles with 13,000 feet of intense climbing, and a true test of fitness.
Not bad for a guy who never really thought of himself as an athlete.