Dawn Anderson is a legend. There is simply no ignoring it. She has more wins, second places and podiums than any man, woman or child that has ever competed at Cross on the Rock (COTR). She has finished top ten in every COTR race she has entered, and never DNF’d. She’s had successes on the bigger stages too: A fourth at Starcrossed, a second at Centennial Park (then a UCI C1 race) and a killer fourth place at the National Championships in 2008. Most impressive is that she has accomplished all this while at the same time being a teacher, mother and spouse. Simply amazing. Dawn generously carved time out of her busy schedule to answer a few Wheeler questions…
Q: Cycling competes with a lot of other things for your time. On any given day you’re juggling riding your bike with being a mother, a teacher, a wife and a sister. Where does cycling rank on your list of priorities?
Dawn: Oh jeesh, riding a bike and being fit is part of the big life balance challenge but I try to make it #2/ #3 right after family and along side work.
Q: Can you go through your goal setting process for a cross, or cycling season? How do you try and coordinate your cycling goals with goals you have for other aspects of your life – say, career advancement for example.
Dawn: Hmm, I am not very good at goal setting. I think I take more of a day- to- day approach to fitness and racing. I like to make a workout schedule (times that I can get out and have mixed workouts) and then try hard while I am there especially pre-season. As for fitting in the career, it tends to be in the calendar first. I do feel competitive with myself within my career. I like to be successful in my place of work and I do a lot of reflecting and planning to keep myself on a positive path. It’s a full calendar and I try to be successful, as do most people, in all aspects of my life.
Q: In cycling as in everything, many people expect to have immediate or at least early success. How long did it take before you felt like you were competing in the expert category at Cross on the Rock? What kind of advice would you give to riders looking to get to that level?
Dawn: Hmm, 2 or 3 years I think, it was a long time ago . Advice, do not over train, quality over quantity. Pre-season I would run hills or stairs twice a week, do weights twice a week, and then a hard but fun ride twice a week. Power was what I needed to get faster.
Q: I heard through the grapevine that a couple of years back you incorporated a lot of gym work into your training regime for cyclocross. What was the rationale behind that? What specifically were you working on?
Dawn: The rationale was that Erinne Willock told me to so I followed her orders. Once I started going it made a very big difference come race season. I had way more power and because I had more power and had kept up with my cardio I was faster.
Q: An observation, followed by two questions. Whatever the reason, it’s rarer for women to become involved and continue to be involved in competitive sport. Firstly, how did you first get involved in cycling? And secondly, what do you think it is about your personality or your approach to cycling that got and kept you racing?
Dawn: I became interested in cycling in 2001 because Ryan Clark and his buddy Mike Grace rode bikes and it looked fun so my roommates and I went out and bought bikes. Once I got a taste of the speed involved I was hooked. I loved motorbikes growing up and the speed of the road bike provided me with the same rush. The endorphins at the end of a race felt amazing too. I wandered between sports for a while at University and found my way back to biking because of my friends. It was a social thing and I enjoyed traveling with them to races on the weekends. Overall, it was social and fun.
Q: At least on the Island, it seems that cyclocross is the most participated-in form of bike racing for women. What qualities do you think cyclocross has that makes it attractive to women riders? How do we bring those qualities to other forms of bike racing?
Dawn: I “think” it’s the relaxed race environment. It’s inviting and not intimidating to new racers. As well, the time it takes to get fit for the event is less than that of other bike disciplines. You can train/ ride a few times a week for 1.5hrs and be fit enough to take part. Road racing and mtn biking races tend to be longer in duration and require more of a time commitment. As well, cross is just more fun.
Q: Do you have a race or a performance you are most proud of? Why?
Dawn: Starcrossed was a big race for me. It was my first UCI race and I was the last called to the start line, way in the back and I didn’t expect much from myself racing with the big girls but near the end of the race I saw Norm and he was screaming (loved it) that I was in 5th place and still gaining. I didn’t expect to place 4th and podium, it was an exciting evening for me.
Q: You are entering a team for the BC Bike Race, do you pick your sister or your husband as your teammate?
Dawn: Ohhh, good question. Hmm, my husband. I would love to experience that race with him, although, the race would be harder for me. I would like the challenge pre-race of trying to get more fit than I ever had been to keep up with Russell. I think he would want me to do that, although, he says he’s not competitive but I don’t believe that.