Belgium's school of hard knocks

Ethan Reynolds's first Euro race not as planned

Cyclo-cross… The most outrageous, yet spectacular, sport in European culture. Never knowing what might happen, or what could happen. Crowds of thousands show up just to support and cheer on their favorite rider. Racers crashing here and there, running half way around the course, taking a pit, going 110% the whole entire race - all this work for just the top step on the podium? No, it's way more than that.

I've been at Euro 'Cross Camp for almost a full week now and it's definitely had a huge impact on my European experience. This is my third time across the pond over in "Euroland" and one of my favorites for sure. All my fellow teammates who are at this camp I've known for quite a while or have raced them in past years. We all appreciate this amazing opportunity to represent our country in the place where this sport is most successful and most difficult.

My first cyclo-cross race was this past Sunday in a small town known as Waremme. Very fun, very muddy, and raining on and off. After getting there nearly three hours before our race, we all had a good pre-ride on the course and a great discussion about lines. Later, after getting warm in the big van with a heater, we started our warm-up about an hour from our start.

My teammates and I got to the start line 15 minutes early so we could hopefully get a good starting position. Unfortunately, that didn't happen… The Belgians were very fierce and angry about their positions and they weren't afraid to push you around if they had to. With much nerves, I heard the whistle blow. It was a full-out sprint, bumping and barging all throughout the pack. This is where it all went downhill for me… A Belgian kid bumped my handlebars with his hips. Next thing I knew, my bars hooked up on the metal fencing and I went down. My head hit the fence and I was down on the ground while getting assistance from French-speaking paramedics. It was very difficult communicating with them but I was lucky enough to have Tom, our director for the race, helping me through everything.

Traveling to the hospital in an ambulance is never very fun, especially in another country with people who can't speak your own language, but everyone was incredibly sincere and supportive in helping me out. I got my diagnosis from the doctor and nothing that hurt was broken. After a CAT scan and a couple of X-rays, we received word that I had a mild concussion and was told to take it easy for a few days.

Coming back home was a huge relief. I had all my friends and elders really helping out and taking care of me. Knowing my limits and having had previous concussions, I now know what I have to do if I want to be back on racing form for the next four upcoming races over here.

Having the privilege to come over here again to race cyclo-cross was a big goal of mine this year. Especially the spectacular support from my parents. They seem to make everything I dream of doing fit into their own schedules and never have a doubt in what I do. Also, I'd like to thank Toby Stanton, my team director for Hot Tubes, with all the support he has given me throughout my past year on the team. And, my coach, Douglas Tobin, who always knows what's best for me and makes sure I'm at the top of my ability to succeed. Finally, I am indebted to USACDF for scholarship support for this trip. Thank you to everyone who has gotten me to where I am today, I couldn't have done it without any of you.

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