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Euro 'Cross Camp IX

Jake Wells pushing past the pits. Jake had a good race while finishing on the same lap as the leaders

Belgium: the land of enlightenment?

By:
Jake Wells
Published:
January 03, 2012, 17:39 GMT,
Updated:
January 03, 2012, 17:45 GMT

It certainly teaches you toughness, says Jake Wells

I came into this trip not knowing what to expect. I wanted to take away as much as possible from this experience. I am in my early thirties and and have a family, so it is safe to say that I am not the typical demographic for Euro Cross Camp. However, this camp is not only beneficial to someone that wants to experience cyclocross at the highest level but it is also helpful in learning life lessons. Cycling is a tough sport, and it is as much about perseverance as personal fitness. If you are looking for an excuse, you can always find a reason for not doing well in a race. It takes mental fortitude to overcome this and keep lifting yourself back up. Racing in Belgium requires this kind of fortitude over and over again. Being a foreigner in Belgium teaches you that everything isn’t always going to be perfect on race day. You are always rushed for time. Getting parked, setup for warmup and finding the registration can be like embarking on a scavenger hunt. Things may not be perfect, but if you learn how to deal with it, and make it into a positive. The stress level is high and your race day preparation may not be ideal, but the race is still going to happen, and you can either make the most of it and put on your battle gear or watch from the sidelines.

So, is there something magical about Belgium? Are you automatically going to be transformed into some kind of cyclocross powerhouse based on the fact that you make the trip over and race on legendary courses? Absolutely not. It’s about broadening you perspective. It’s about the experience and the knowledge that you gain. You get to catch a glimpse first hand at what it takes to be the best in the world. Not only do you race against the most talented fields on difficult courses, but you see the sacrifice needed to make it at this level. These guys are machines. They eat, breath and sleep cyclocross. Yes, it is about passion and the love of the sport, but it is also about livelihood. Either you choose to learn a skill or work in a factory or become a farmer and work in the fields. In Belgium, racing bikes is a skill. It is a way out of the factory or the field. The kids race against each other every weekend and they take it very serious. The bash each other’s head in because it is serious, as if it’s their job. Even as a junior its a job, and you can make a good living here. When 25,000 people are willing to pay 10 euro each to come watch the race you can see how promoters can afford to get the top talent to show up.

As for the future of cyclocross in the US, the list of selected riders for EuroCross Camp IX was exceptional. Not only due to the talent level of some of the selected riders but also to the sheer number, 20 riders total and 14 being juniors. A handful of these guys have come to the camp in previous years, but for some like myself, this was their first introduction to european racing. For these young riders to be exposed to this lifestyle at this stage in the game is going to be huge for their development. I am grateful to have had this opportunity and to gain this experience. As an ambassador, I hope to pass a long as much of this knowledge as possible. A special thanks to Stan’s No Tubes, Dogma Athletica and all of my sponsors for helping make this trip possible.
 

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Finding my feet in the Belgian 'Cross scene

By:
Sam O'Keefe
Published:
January 03, 2012, 3:29 GMT,
Updated:
January 03, 2012, 4:25 GMT

Taking in as much as possible from an unforgettable two weeks

My European start position was a metaphor for my European racing experience. At the beginning of camp, I would wait around disoriented before the start, until I was called up with a few others lacking UCI points or Belgian citizenship to the very back of the pack.

When the gun went off, I would chase as hard as I could for forty minutes. I’m looking forward to seeing the front row at nationals.

Even outside of racing, it took me a while to get used to things. The level of support confused me (in Belgium, I never had to work on my own bikes, pin my numbers, mix bottles), and asking for things I needed was difficult. But like in racing, after a few days I settled into the rhythm of things and didn’t feel guilty about lying on the couch for recovery or asking for a bottle of water from the trainer. I saw a steady improvement in my results as well as I adjusted to European racing by sharpening my elbows. I got more comfortable with the battle that was the first ten minutes of a cross race in Belgium.

Not surprisingly, the way I spent my time and energy off the bike at Euro Cross Camp helped the way I raced. With such incredible support from mechanics and other staff, I focused intently on my eating and resting, rather than college applications, bike work, or hurrying to class.
I was never rushed or distracted in warm-up, and the groups of interested fans gave me energy. What made the camp powerful for me was that everything pointed to the races. This smoothed the transition to ruthless European competition, and made me faster.

Geoff Proctor outlined success in racing at the camp as being satisfied with at least two race efforts. I felt the best at the Zolder World Cup and a local race in Bredene, but I learned from the entire two weeks of camp, inspired by the Belgian way of cyclo-cross.

Zane Godby racing at Diegem

A look back

By:
Zane Godby
Published:
January 02, 2012, 17:56 GMT,
Updated:
January 02, 2012, 17:56 GMT

Zane Godby reflects on his Belgian experience

As the Euro 'Cross Camp comes to an end, I am able to look back and see all of the good memories and experiences. As an alumnus of the camp I could go into it and know what was going on. Also from last year I knew where everything was, like the grocery store, registration, and I also knew the routine of the house. But I don’t think you can go to Europe and not experience anything new. I knew I still had some learning experiences to come.

One of those things I learned was that the kids over in Belgium don’t go home and play video games, after school they go to the bowling alley or the movies. I learned that because some of the riders after their ride went to the bowling alley, and there were a lot of kids that went there straight from school. And for the movies, some other riders went to the movie theater in the next town over and the line to get a ticket was out the door. And I might add that it was only a Thursday.

As for the riding in Europe, it is exactly how you would imagine it: narrow roads, cars buzzing close to you, and how you just ride through these little towns with farmland in between them. I didn’t really experience the riding outside last year because it was really snowy and cold, and I rode on the rollers a lot. So riding outside was interesting for me this year. Sometimes it is very hard to find your way back to the USA Cycling house. Therefore an hour ride consists of riding out of Izegem for 30 minutes and then another 45 to 60 minutes trying to find the house again.

The racing was a lot different, too, this year. That is because I knew most of the race courses, and for me whenever I have seen a course before it usually keeps me calm. Also I had a front row start in most of the races because I had UCI points this year. The start is not make or break in our race, but it sure helps to have that little bit of edge on the other racers.

So as all of the riders start to leave for the US and Nationals in a week, the camp is coming to its last days. Geoff Proctor is amazing! He works with all the riders one-on-one, coordinates all the schedules, and makes the camp possible. Also, I would like to thank everybody in my life that made it possible for me to race over in Europe and bring back all the experiences I had.

Jordan Cullen on the line in Loenhout

Goodbye Belgium!

By:
Cycling News
Published:
December 31, 2011, 16:36 GMT,
Updated:
December 31, 2011, 16:40 GMT

Jordan Cullen reflects on his first European adventure

A busy week of racing is coming to a close in Izegem as we all get ready to head home and get ready for nationals. This trip has been a great experience for everyone with some amazing memories and excellent racing.

This trip was my first time ever racing in Europe and I really enjoyed it! I loved how much harder and more aggressive the racing was compared to the United States.

I did five races while I was over here, Namur, Diegem, Zolder, Loenhout, and Bredene. My favorite one was definitely Loenhout because the race was pretty muddy, had a pump track section, and a long road stretch.

I had a third row call up for this race. How the starts work here is that instead of a whistle or starting gun, they use a series of lights that go from red to green. I lost a few spots at the start because I was not being aggressive enough but I quickly made up lost time on the running section. I continued making up time and with one lap to go I was in a two person group going for 28th place. I sat behind the other rider until the muddy running section I booked it and then kept the pressure on for the rest of the lap.

I was super happy with my result here and all of the other US juniors did great too! This race was also super crazy in the pits. We had 14 riders all with a spare bikes. What made it even more hectic is, since we were spread out on the entire course you could have pitted, but the mechanic you were looking for was helping somebody on the opposite side of the pit. I only had to pit once early in the race due to a flat tire but the mechanics pulled it off flawlessly.

This trip has been a great experience and I have learned a ton from the racing and living in the house. I really hope to come back here and race some time soon!

Andrew Dillman awaits the start in Namur.

Belgian campaign comes to a close

By:
Andrew Dillman
Published:
December 30, 2011, 18:49 GMT,
Updated:
December 30, 2011, 18:58 GMT

Andrew Dillman draws on spiritual strength

Since last year, a lot of things have changed at the USA Cycling house in Izegem, Belgium. This year there are 14 juniors instead of only 8 and only 4 U23 instead of 8. I'm staying in a room I've never stayed in and the camp seems like it meshes a lot better this year with most of us being the same age. Some things have also remained the same: Els' FANTASTIC cooking every night, JIM music videos on every tv in the house and the awesome racing we get to experience while here.

The racing has been pretty good for me. I'm done racing now after four races, but they were big races so it was completely worth it. My favorite race was Diegem. It wasn't my best result of the camp but the course and the atmosphere is pretty awesome and doesn't compare to anything else I've done so far.

My best race was at Zolder where I fought my way up to 3rd place and about 15 seconds after I caught and passed 3rd place I flipped on a downhill section and had to pit twice. I chased the whole race and caught a group on the last lap but just died in the last few moments of the race, but I felt really good and was proud of the effort I gave.

One of the things that really changed on a personal level for me has been my spiritual life. I was a Christian last year as well, but I feel so much deeper in my faith this year due to the fact that I've found a church that I love (First Baptist Church Fairdale) and I was baptized there this summer. I've grown closer and closer to the pastor and youth pastor there. Nate, the youth pastor, is like a mentor and best friend to me and helps me fight the battles this life on earth has to offer for me which has also helped me on the bike.

I've realized that I wouldn't be racing if God hadn't blessed me with the ability and strength to do so and for that purpose I've changed my racing perspective so now I am not racing for the glory of Drew Dillman, but for the glory of God. Before every race I like to pray with my best friend Luke Haley who just so happens to be at the Euro 'Cross Camp with me.

Earlier this week we were riding and I was complaining about a result but he really helped by reminding me that I wouldn't be here if it weren't for God and that I should be praising God and being joyful for even having this opportunity. Before almost all the races we have prayed together and it really helps me to focus on God and not me.

I've been introduced to the movie "Chariots of Fire" and it's my favorite movie due the great message it has to offer. Eric Liddell doesn't even want to do his Olympic race because he won't race on Sunday because the Lord has commanded us not to. He is so in love with God that he won't even make an exception for the Olympic Games to take precedence over the Him. I want to be like Eric Liddell and race for God because "He made me fast and I feel His pleasure in me."

Nate Morse (cyclocrossworld.com) in action in Loenhout.

Adapting to European racing

By:
Nate Morse
Published:
December 29, 2011, 17:03 GMT,
Updated:
December 29, 2011, 17:03 GMT

Nate Morse learns the keys to survival

Now that the camp is nearly over and almost all of the races are done, I can definitely see how I have changed as a rider and where I can see I clearly need to make changes. The European races and experience have really shown to me what changes I need to make as both a rider and a racer to survive over here in the future.

The first few races did not at all go how I expected. I was definitely feeling the travel in my legs and my mental game for racing just wasn’t there. During the first race in Lichtervelde, I immediately saw the aggression and strength of these European riders. I had heard it many times before that these riders will chop you in a corner or put you into a wooden stake without thinking twice, but for some reason I just didn’t prepare to ride against that. This really freaked me out and put me outside of my comfort zone, leaving me frustrated yet motivated to do better.

The first race I really felt strong like I have during the season was the Diegem Superprestige. Despite the typical non-UCI point holding USA rider start position (the back) and the stuck brake under my rim in the first lap, I had good legs and really enjoyed the course. I was having fun hopping the barriers, riding the run-up, and moving up from the back throughout the race. I also did not leave the door open in corners like I had been doing in the previous races. Instead, I would be the one making the quick pass into the tight corner and fighting for my spot in the group. At the finish I was 52nd place. I was disappointed about the number, but I knew my strength was there and I was starting to learn how to race my bike.

The next race was in Balegem on Christmas day. It was a much smaller race than Diegem, but was bigger than the first two races. For any of my New England people, it was a lot like the size of the Shedd Park race. I knew this would be a perfect course for me with its steep and rutted drops, slippery corners, and short and muddy power sections. I just needed to have my mind in the right place for racing.

As usual, I took my place on the start line, well actually, quite a ways behind the start line, with my fellow countrymen. With a good start on the long uphill, I found myself near the top ten. I felt confidence not only in my personal riding as far as strength and bike handling, but also in riding in a group with these European riders. I no longer was intimidated by them and was racing like I need to in order to survive in these races.

On the last lap I was fighting for 11th place with two other riders, and in the final woods section I was able to attack into a set of three corners that I knew I was faster through than the other riders. Sure enough, I got the gap and rode in to 11th. I felt much better after this race and I now understand how I need to race to do well over here.

After Sunday’s race I definitely am a completely different racer. I may not be physically stronger than I was three days before, but mentally I am completely changed. The things I have learned in two weeks here are truly invaluable to my racing and I am very excited to come back and race in America with my newly acquired mindset.

Author
Euro 'Cross Camp IX

Euro 'Cross Camp is about to enter its 9th year and continues to go from strength to strength. Its vision is to offer European race experience to young, developing American cyclo-cross riders and to prepare them for the world championships in late January. Founded in 2003, it utilises the same infrastructure as the USA U23 road programme. This year there will be 20 riders involved and a staff of 12 will be on hand to cater for their every need at the base in Izegem, Belgium.

Throughout the Camp riders will be updating Cyclingnews users on a daily basis, offering them a fly-on-the-wall perspective on the ins and outs of life in a residential training camp and the progress that they are making. The riders will do between 6-10 races over the two-week camp under the watchful eye of Euro 'Cross Camp founder and director Geoff Proctor, who also serves as National U23/Junior Team Coach for the USA at the world championships and is a member of the UCI Cyclo-cross Commission.

Euro 'Cross Camp IX Roster 2011-2012

Juniors
Andrew Dillman (Bob’s Red Mill Cyclocross Team)
Zane Godby (Clif Bar Cyclocross Development Team)
Curtis White (Clif Bar Cyclocross Development Team)
Tobin Ortenblad (California Giant-Specialized)
Logan Owen (Redline Bicycles)
Jordan Cullen (Clif Bar Cyclocross Development Team)
Cypress Gorry (Whole Athlete-Specialized)
Lionel Rocheleau (Team Geargrinder)
Luke Haley (Red Zone Cycling Team)
John Francisco (Red Zone Cycling Team)
Sam O’Keefe (C3/Athletes Serving Athletes)
Nate Morse (cyclocrossworld.com)
Stephen Bassett (Bob’s Red Mill Cyclocross Team)
Spencer Downing (Clif Bar Cyclocross Development Team)

U23
Yannick Eckmann (Pearl Izumi/Shimano)
Zach McDonald (Rapha-Focus)
Dan Gerow (Wolverine/ACFSTORES.COM)
Kolben Preble (Clif Bar Cyclocross Development Team)

Elite
Ryan Trebon (LTS/Felt)
Jake Wells (Stan’s No Tubes Elite Cyclocross Team)