Krista Houghton
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Born to Ride

Anneke Beerten talks about her TBI, retirement and riding bikes

Anneke Beerten has lived her life for the love of riding and her accomplishments are a testimony to the level of commitment and stoke she has for the sport. At the age of 39, she has spent her life competing and bestowing inspiration to all she meets. She had no intention of slowing down.

Growing up in a small town in the Netherlands, Beerten started competing on two wheels in BMX at the ripe young age of four. By the age of 14, she had won the 1996 World Championship BMX. Later, she started racing 4 Cross —  a style of racing where four mountain bikers race downhill on a BMX-like track and the first one down wins. By 2015 she had secured her third 4 Cross World Champion title (2011, 2012 & 2015) and she decided to move to Big Bear, California to be close to the mountain she loves to ride. 

In 2019, Beerten had 12 podium finishes and was given the 2019 Crankworx World Tour Spirit Award — an award given to an athlete who epitomized the love for all things mountain bike related. 2020 was off to a great start, she took second place at the Crankworx Summer Series in New Zealand, followed by a first place win at the opening Enduro World Series at Big Bear, California. “I was feeling great. Yeah, I had the youngsters nippin’ at my heels, but I was making the podium and was even considering another shot at the World Title.”  
Photo of Anneke Beerten mountain biking

The day that changed her future

It was a warm July evening in 2020, and Beerten had just finished a ride at Big Bear. She loaded her bike in the back of her truck to head home. As she sat at one of the intersections on her drive home, she was feeling happy and content; when the light turned green she pushed on the gas and in an instant everything changed. The driver on her left was distracted by a cellular device, missed the red light, and crashed into the driver’s side of Beerten’s truck. The impact caused both of Beerten’s airbags to deploy and sent her truck skidding across all six lanes. 

“I stayed conscious the entire time. I knew I had been in a crash and the athlete in me kinda felt like I could just shrug it off. I have had plenty of bike crashes, but this was different.” 

Her truck had been totaled and after a quick assessment it appeared she sustained no immediate injuries. That evening after the adrenaline of the crash wore off, she suffered the first of many severe headaches. The next day she was examined and diagnosed with a concussion and whiplash. The weeks following her accident, Beerten went through a series of immobilizing episodes of pain. She was later diagnosed with TBI (traumatic brain injury). 

“People would look at me and see a healthy person, I didn’t have anything broken or in a cast. But it was my brain that was hurt. It took me a while to truly acknowledge that.” 

What followed has been a long and painful journey of rehab, recovery and learning to change and adapt. In addition to brain rehab, Beerten also is using vision therapy to create new neural pathways between the eyes, brain and vestibular system that were damaged in the crash. “I’ve been very determined to overcome this brain injury these past 10 months. Luckily I have more good days than bad now.” 

Anneke Beerten 2.0

Beerten officially announced her retirement from competitive racing in October. It was not an easy decision, and something she came to with the help and guidance of her many doctors and therapists. Even though she isn’t racing, riding is an important part of Beerten’s life and mental health.

“I kept wanting to get back to my old self and ride like I was before the accident. What I learned is that I needed to think differently about my recovery. I call it Beerten 2.0, the newer version of myself — I am the same but different. Since I have adopted this approach, I am just grateful to be able to ride again.”

We asked Beerten about riding, and if it feels different now that she isn’t racing. She was quick to reply, “Riding has been more enjoyable now that I am not racing. I tend to stop more and take pictures. I enjoy seeing the nature around me, and stopping to chat with my riding buddies. I don’t feel stressed or rushed now. For me, being able to ride is a critical part of my recovery and happiness.” 

Loyal partners keeping Beerten on the trail

Beerten counts her blessings and is not only grateful for the support of her friends and family, but that of her sponsors who have stayed committed to Beerten and her recovery.  

One of those partners is Specialized, whom Beerten will continue to partner with in 2022 and beyond. Instead of racing for Specialized, she will be giving clinics, supporting dealer events and leading workshops.

Lucky for Beerten, Specialized is one of the leaders in the electric mountain bike category. She now rides a Specialized Turbo Levo and says “The Levo has really helped in my recovery, it allows me to ride longer and it’s just fun.”

Photo of Anneke Berten rubbing Arnicare Gel on her calf

Another long time committed partner of Beerten is Arnicare by Boiron. Her first meeting with Boiron was by coincidence at Interbike in Reno, where Boiron, the world leader in homeopathic medicines, was participating as a new vendor.

“I immediately recognized their logo, as I grew up using their products in the Netherlands. Natural remedies have always been popular in Europe and I was so excited to see them at Interbike.”

Boiron was founded in France in 1932, by twin brothers Jean and Henri Boiron. They are still family owned and operated and have a long line of products that treat a wide array of common health conditions that are safe for use in athletes and others.

Boiron is passionate about supporting athletes like Beerten who have integrated homeopathic medicines like Arnicare into their daily life and training. “We have great admiration for Anneke and are committed to supporting her recovery,” says Deborah Kelly, director of Public Relations for Boiron.

Boiron’s Arnicare® Gel has been invaluable to Beerten during her racing career, as this plant-powered medicine helps relieve muscle pain, stiffness and swelling. “I can’t imagine riding without it.”

See Boiron in ASJ’s 2021 Gift Giving Guide here.