After eight seasons with the team spread across a 13-year career, Ryan Anderson is stepping away from road racing. The likable Canadian was there when Scott Zwizanski won the Vuelta Ciclista al Uruguay in 2009 as Kelly Benefit Strategies / Medifast, he soared to the podium at the USA Pro Challenge and the Tour of Alberta under the Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies banner, and was a vital cog in the team’s European expansion as Rally Cycling. In his final “Things With” interview, we roll back the tape on his storied career.
When I started racing, I had no idea what a grand tour or the Classics were. Looking back on it, it blows my mind that I had the opportunity to race the Vuelta in 2016. I began on the MTB in Alberta, Canada at age 10. My parents would drive me around to all the Alberta cup races. By the end of my junior year, I was already racing on the road banging bars in Alberta and BC. I’m sure I did all sorts of crazy reckless moves in the races. I really had no idea what I was doing but I had a decent sprint finish which served me well transferring to the road.
I will really miss my time with the team around the dinner table and the bus. All the banter between everyone, I missed that already this year. I have a lot of good friends and relationships in this team and we work so closely with the staff as well. I think José Sousa is the big heart of the team and he’s inspired me to give my best. I will miss being around his energy as well. We first worked together at TTT worlds in 2013 and since then he has seen a lot of my road rash. I think everyone has someone in the team they talk with and share the ups and downs on the bike – José was often my guy and I will miss that.
I loved racing in Belgium. I got my first real taste of Belgium in 2011. The level of racing was very eye-opening but with the energy of the fans and the rich culture of cycling there, I really grew to love it. My first monument was Flanders in 2016 and then I did my first Roubaix a week later. I will never forget this part of my career and I don’t think I had ever been that nervous for two races since I was a junior.
I have always focused on what is directly in front of me which has been racing for a long time. I believe new doors will open now that I’m not racing on the road anymore and will search for what gets my motor going next. I have some endurance MTB and gravel events I have wanted to do for a long time, they just never worked timing-wise when I was racing on the road. So I will start to tick some of those boxes. So really what’s next I’m not sure but bikes are always going to play a big part in my life.
Gravel racing is really appealing. I may also try some bike touring with Svein Tuft. He will fight off the bears and I will ride behind. I want to keep this dream going of seeing the world with a bike in hand but no longer bash into people at high speeds.
Breaking my leg last year changed things for me. I have not really talked about it much, but it was scary. I was on the mountain bike trails by my house and got hung up on some roots and ejected from my bike. This has happened many times before but in a freak accident, my leg got caught and snapped like a twig. I was very lucky that someone was riding nearby and heard my yelling; and on top of that he was a doctor – talk about winning the lottery. I spent the night in the ER and had surgery to put my leg back together. I now have a titanium rod down my tibia with screws to keep it in and my ankle in place. The road to recovery didn’t come without setbacks – I ended up with a blood clot that made its way to my lung a month after surgery. Things changed for me that day but like everything in life, it made me stronger in a lot of ways.
I expect a lot out of myself and I know I don’t want to take the risks necessary anymore. I think I was telling myself I could keep doing it and it would be ok, but I fear having a big crash again. Before I would just go full gas at a brick wall and just hope the tires held. So it’s time to step away from road racing. It really is a crazy sport and I have a lot of respect for everyone doing it. I don’t think the cameras do justice to just how nuts it is when everyone is bumping around at those speeds.
My last road race was GP Montreal in 2019. That happened to be the first-ever WorldTour race I did in 2010, so it makes me happy to think that it was the first and last WorldTour race of my career. I happened to be in the day-long break which was really nice; it’s kind of like it was meant to be. I will always have fond memories of GP Quebec and Montreal.
I’ve ridden for the team on three separate occasions, it must mean I’m a good guy. The team really helped me get my start in racing. I think each time I came and went was good for both of us, we kind of went on our own paths a few times but each time I was in the team I think I benefited from the team and the team from me. This last time when I came back into the team in 2018, I always knew this would be the final stop. I was very comfortable in the team, I pretty much knew everyone and how things worked – that’s what worked for me.
I have so many good memories, really some from each of my years on the team. From a racing standpoint, the Arctic Race of Norway in 2018. The first day we missed a big move and we had to ride all day. Somehow it all came back together and that saved our race, a few days later Colin Joyce won a stage and finished third overall. He was flying and we raced really well as a group that week. It’s a hard race, often cold and wet but a beautiful place.
The first training camp of the year was always special – especially when Brad Huff was on the team. I hope he’s reading this – I loved to turn on the heat to hear him cry about the pace. Anyone that was teammates with Huffy knows what I’m talking about. It was always fun turning the screws on him and then he would have me in a headlock later that night so neither one of us learned.
Will Routley and I co-founded the Global Relay Bridge the Gap Fund in 2012 to help young cyclists, both men, and women, navigate road cycling in Canada. We help to try and give in areas where we think are lacking, as you can imagine this has changed many times since we started, and now we are looking at what impacts Covid is having on the racing scene. Global Relay is a Technology data storage company that started out of Vancouver, BC and they really believe in our vision and the gap we were trying to fill. I’m really proud of the work we have done and will continue on the board.
Cycling taught me the meaning of grit and self-motivation. In cycling, you have to push yourself hard and no one can do it for you. You can have the best training plan and support around you, but if you don’t want to put in the work it’s not going to last long. That being said, you do need a good team around you so aligning yourself with good, motivated people, is important too. I think seeing and understanding this is going to serve me well going forward.
If you’re young and want to make it as a bike racer, I think it’s important to keep your head down and work hard. If cycling is really what you want to try and pursue, it’s not going to be easy but things will work out – you just need to keep looking ahead. You’ll hit different roadblocks on your way just as I did, but keeping the end goal in mind and working towards that with open eyes will help immensely. Be professional and respectful to everyone along the way and who knows, maybe you’ll be fortunate enough to race for Rally Cycling three different times. Tell them Randy sent you.