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Euro 'cross camp V

Jeremy Ferguson

Lessons in Diegem

By:
Cycling News
Published:
January 04, 2008, 0:00 GMT,
Updated:
April 22, 2009, 20:01 BST

The eight o'clock wake up call came on time as usual from Geoff today, as has become the tradition...

Belgium, January 4, 2008

The eight o'clock wake up call came on time as usual from Geoff today, as has become the tradition to wake us up with his early morning anecdotes and note for the day, some being more serious then others, but all seem to just pass over me in a haze as I barely come out of my sleep. Today being a race day the schedule was all business and called for a ten o'clock departure time for our junior race at one thirty. This departure time is not to be ignored as once the vans are ready, it's time to move. Putting any sort of road block in this system would affect everyone as trying to handle a sixteen man team all at one race is no easy effort and takes complete cooperation from everyone to keep it running smoothly and that includes the little things like having your race bags ready and packed by a certain time.

We arrived in Diegem today after about an hour and fifteen minute drive to a location that truly looks nothing at all like typical a 'cross race location, but rather just another urban town in Belgium. But on the contrary this race is truly historic and very prestigious here as it offers up a course unlike any other which mixes in aspects of every course I have ever raced on and throws it into this urban historic environment which truly makes this race a once a season event not to be missed.

After us juniors got our numbers, which seems to be an adventure at every race as the language barrier and lack of pre-registration once again threw us for a loop as some of us weren't signed up which seems to be a common theme as the lack of technology and organization always creates a huge cluster. Geoff has tried to talk to them at almost every race about getting us mixed into the groups, but because of the lack of modern technology we always seem to get lost in translation and somehow always become randomly assorted on the back row.

There's also this old school feel to the races as the race officials ask for our numbers back after the race which in Balegem includes us walking to the back of the building and washing the mud off with an old cloth which was a strange sight - seeing over fifty riders bent over washing off their dirty numbers. Afterwards we went out for a recon of the course. I was amazed by the variety on the course. First you would be on grass, then mud, then pavement, then cobbles, then gravel, then sand. All these surfaces bring up the topic of which tires to ride, which could really have been anything on this course but mainly was determined by which surface was more predominant. Today that was cement and hardpack dirt. Most of us concluded that typhoons or grifos would be ideal, but later that night as we watched the elites on TV under the lights we saw many top level guys including Wellens on semi slicks which is not only a sign to their superb handling skills but also to their experience to what they can and can't get away with.

The one thirty race time finally rolled around which saw around ninety starters in the juniors' race which is unheard of in the states as forty kids is considered huge, but here in Belgium is just another race. I ended up starting in the last row behind this huge field and had to fight my way the entire race for any positioning that I could get. That really saps unneeded energy as the leaders have a clear road and can just focus on the course.

I do enjoy watching the Belgian kids try to move their way up through the field as I do. Of course, you have to be aggressive in order to move up, but there is a certain limit. Some kids are just going absolutely insane, fighting for every wheel, but then they end up hitting a metal pole because they were a little too zesty going into the first corner. Then there are all of the kids trying to make the sketchy passes by the course tape before they end up hitting a post. Here they use small trees to make the course marking posts. Then they use regular course tape, but then they also use another strap just behind the course tape that doesn't stretch or break at all. The end of the race saw the top American in 29th which although decent could be a top ten with a better starting position for it would mean that much less effort to be put out giving short bursts to pass by slower riders.

After the race I met up with an English-speaking junior from the Polish national team whom I had been racing with, and we got talking about the race including the amount of aggression out there on the course. He got a slap to the face from a Belgium rider for cutting him off, which sounded odd as this Polish kid had to be at least 170 (pounds), but this sounded familiar to me. I got a rear wheel to the helmet on the run up during the race, which is uncommon to see in the US. Here in Belgium, it occurs ever lap because in order to stay up front, you must defend your space by any means. Being aggressive is just another tool.

Well, it's another race down and and yet another great learning experience.

Tristan Schouten (Planet Bike)

Camp's out for another year

By:
Cycling News
Published:
January 04, 2008, 0:00 GMT,
Updated:
April 22, 2009, 20:01 BST

Euro Cross Camp V is in the books. The bike room is empty, the mechanics are gone, the wash station...

Belgium, January 5, 2008

Euro Cross Camp V is in the books. The bike room is empty, the mechanics are gone, the wash station is finally drying out and other than a few of us that are staying the final few weeks until the world championships, the house feels quite empty. Some 16 riders with twice as many bikes and a race schedule to rival a two week stage race, I'm sure most will sleep the entire flight home with no problems at all, while I'll be laying here listening to Ryan Trebon snore for a few more weeks.

This was my first 'Euro Cross Camp' experience and what I have learned in these two weeks of racing, riding, and living in Belgium will be carried through the rest of my career. I have been to Europe for other races, Elite CX Worlds in 2006 and U23 MTB Worlds in 2004, but neither time did I feel comfortable in my situation and for the most part, I felt thrown in to a tank filled with fish way bigger than I.

What this camp allows is for the riders to grow comfortable in a new country where the racing is different, the travel is different, the language is different, the food is different and the list goes on. For me, this camp allowed me to grow comfortable lining up behind the big stars, signing in on the stage with television cameras and 15,000 people watching, figuring out staging and registration protocol in another language, all while racing my heart out for a top 40 result and hoping to finish on the lead lap. This is all valuable experience for the future as each time it just gets more comfortable, until I'm sure there is a time when it's just standard and nothing is knew anymore.

I remember when I first started racing elite class in the United States of America and it was the very same thing. Star struck at the start line, scared of screwing up while racing with them, and riding to my limit while in over my head. Over time I became comfortable with the riders, racing, and speed of the higher class and that is when the confidence grew and the results started to come mostly without notice.

Coming here and experiencing the amount of racing and level of competition that we faced race after race is exactly the motivation and reminder we all need to constantly push the limits and not just let ourselves get comfortable in our own little race environment that we get used to week after week in the US. Racing your heart out for a top 40 is a humbling experience when a top 10 is normal and will quickly put things into an overall perspective of where you are truly at.

Other than racing, I think the juniors come away with some of the best stories of camp as they seem to have way more energy during the day for extracurricular activities, than say, Ryan and I. For instance, one day a few of the guys decided to play a pretty good joke on the people inside a restaurant by ghost riding a bike past the windows a few times for some good laughs as the puzzled customers came to the windows wondering where the riderless bikes were coming from. If I ventured outside the house, it was usually for a walk to the post office where the line was usually out to the door, amazingly, just like in the US.

Noel (USA Cycling National team director) has no patience for riders not dressing warm and staying on schedule, so when the van was full with two guys missing he went looking. It wasn't pretty when he found them standing in line at the frituur stand after a race, in sweatshirts with no coat or hat, waiting in line for the mayo.

Every time I travel to Europe there is always one thing that sticks out in my mind as 'totally Euro'. Last year it was seeing my first SmartCar and this year's might top that - outdoor urinals at all the races. Coming from America, we can go to the bathroom in nothing less than a cement building with individual stalls (although cyclists usually do exclude themselves from such inconveniences). So, imagine a race venue with 15,000 people milling around with handfuls of beer and frites in hand. Then imagine a line of port-a-potties lined up with two rather odd shaped ones at the end. Imagine the odd shaped one is a normal port-a-pottie with the center of each of the four walls pushed in to the middle until it meets the other four walls in the middle, forming four inward facing semi-circular stalls with walls only about chest hight with a toilet in the middle.

Luckily, I was standing in line for the real port-a-potties (in an all-women line, as I soon realized) for other reasons, (no mobile camper with private bathroom at 'cross camp) when it finally dawned on me what they were for. A few live demonstrations confirmed what I first thought improbable -another 'totally Euro' moment.

I think the highlight for many of us was after the last race in Sint Niklaas, Sven Nys stopped by the vans to say hello and give a little encouragement and praise to all for coming over and racing in Belgium, a nice gesture from the cannibal himself and a great way to finish the camp off.

Many of the riders will be back for worlds in few weeks and by then the experience will have settled in and each of us will have grown that much more. The hard racing and previous experiences at Euro Cross Camp V will no doubt help many to a better result in Treviso, Italy and Geoff Proctor, sponsors, and supporters should know that all his hard work putting the camp together is paying off, now and in the future.

Thanks for reading,

Tristan Schouten
Planet Bike

Tristan Schouten (Planet Bike)

Camp's out for another year

By:
Cycling News
Published:
January 04, 2008, 0:00 GMT,
Updated:
April 22, 2009, 20:01 BST

Euro Cross Camp V is in the books. The bike room is empty, the mechanics are gone, the wash station...

Belgium, January 5, 2008

Euro Cross Camp V is in the books. The bike room is empty, the mechanics are gone, the wash station is finally drying out and other than a few of us that are staying the final few weeks until the world championships, the house feels quite empty. Some 16 riders with twice as many bikes and a race schedule to rival a two week stage race, I'm sure most will sleep the entire flight home with no problems at all, while I'll be laying here listening to Ryan Trebon snore for a few more weeks.

This was my first 'Euro Cross Camp' experience and what I have learned in these two weeks of racing, riding, and living in Belgium will be carried through the rest of my career. I have been to Europe for other races, Elite CX Worlds in 2006 and U23 MTB Worlds in 2004, but neither time did I feel comfortable in my situation and for the most part, I felt thrown in to a tank filled with fish way bigger than I.

What this camp allows is for the riders to grow comfortable in a new country where the racing is different, the travel is different, the language is different, the food is different and the list goes on. For me, this camp allowed me to grow comfortable lining up behind the big stars, signing in on the stage with television cameras and 15,000 people watching, figuring out staging and registration protocol in another language, all while racing my heart out for a top 40 result and hoping to finish on the lead lap. This is all valuable experience for the future as each time it just gets more comfortable, until I'm sure there is a time when it's just standard and nothing is knew anymore.

I remember when I first started racing elite class in the United States of America and it was the very same thing. Star struck at the start line, scared of screwing up while racing with them, and riding to my limit while in over my head. Over time I became comfortable with the riders, racing, and speed of the higher class and that is when the confidence grew and the results started to come mostly without notice.

Coming here and experiencing the amount of racing and level of competition that we faced race after race is exactly the motivation and reminder we all need to constantly push the limits and not just let ourselves get comfortable in our own little race environment that we get used to week after week in the US. Racing your heart out for a top 40 is a humbling experience when a top 10 is normal and will quickly put things into an overall perspective of where you are truly at.

Other than racing, I think the juniors come away with some of the best stories of camp as they seem to have way more energy during the day for extracurricular activities, than say, Ryan and I. For instance, one day a few of the guys decided to play a pretty good joke on the people inside a restaurant by ghost riding a bike past the windows a few times for some good laughs as the puzzled customers came to the windows wondering where the riderless bikes were coming from. If I ventured outside the house, it was usually for a walk to the post office where the line was usually out to the door, amazingly, just like in the US.

Noel (USA Cycling National team director) has no patience for riders not dressing warm and staying on schedule, so when the van was full with two guys missing he went looking. It wasn't pretty when he found them standing in line at the frituur stand after a race, in sweatshirts with no coat or hat, waiting in line for the mayo.

Every time I travel to Europe there is always one thing that sticks out in my mind as 'totally Euro'. Last year it was seeing my first SmartCar and this year's might top that - outdoor urinals at all the races. Coming from America, we can go to the bathroom in nothing less than a cement building with individual stalls (although cyclists usually do exclude themselves from such inconveniences). So, imagine a race venue with 15,000 people milling around with handfuls of beer and frites in hand. Then imagine a line of port-a-potties lined up with two rather odd shaped ones at the end. Imagine the odd shaped one is a normal port-a-pottie with the center of each of the four walls pushed in to the middle until it meets the other four walls in the middle, forming four inward facing semi-circular stalls with walls only about chest hight with a toilet in the middle.

Luckily, I was standing in line for the real port-a-potties (in an all-women line, as I soon realized) for other reasons, (no mobile camper with private bathroom at 'cross camp) when it finally dawned on me what they were for. A few live demonstrations confirmed what I first thought improbable -another 'totally Euro' moment.

I think the highlight for many of us was after the last race in Sint Niklaas, Sven Nys stopped by the vans to say hello and give a little encouragement and praise to all for coming over and racing in Belgium, a nice gesture from the cannibal himself and a great way to finish the camp off.

Many of the riders will be back for worlds in few weeks and by then the experience will have settled in and each of us will have grown that much more. The hard racing and previous experiences at Euro Cross Camp V will no doubt help many to a better result in Treviso, Italy and Geoff Proctor, sponsors, and supporters should know that all his hard work putting the camp together is paying off, now and in the future.

Thanks for reading,

Tristan Schouten
Planet Bike

Zach McDonald (Oh Boy Oberto/Redline)

The Mall and Baal

By:
Cycling News
Published:
January 02, 2008, 0:00 GMT,
Updated:
April 22, 2009, 20:01 BST

By Zach McDonald Monday, Mitch, Nick, and I decided to go to the mall in Kortrijk for a change. We...

Belgium, January 2, 2008

By Zach McDonald

Monday, Mitch, Nick, and I decided to go to the mall in Kortrijk for a change. We left the house with no real plan on how to get there other than to take the train and then walk from the Kortrijk station. We hopped on the cruisers and headed down to the Izegem train station and when we got there we went inside and were looking around for a schedule but couldn't really figure out the times. Luckily, a little old lady offered us some help. The only issue was she didn't speak English so it took some effort to convey our destination to her but she was able to tell us that the train left in 5 minutes.

We then headed to the counter and proceeded to purchase out tickets. The guy behind the counter claimed to only speak a little English but we were able to have a completely coherent conversation with him. We each paid for our round-trip ticket and headed under the tracks to the other side of the platform to wait for the train.

The train came and we sat ourselves in the second car and were on our way to Kortrijk. Once on the train we realized we didn't know how to get to the mall from the station so we asked a group of girls a few seats over where it was. At first they didn't know what we were talking about but after a few tries "shopping center" came out from someone and we had some common understanding. They informed us that we would have to take the bus there because it was too far to walk. Our adventure was getting more complicated.

After sitting back down we realized how American we must have sounded when we were asking where the mall was so we could do some covered shopping. When the train pulled up to the Kortrijk station we could see the busses right outside so we walked off of the train and straight to the bus that said shopping center. We stepped on the bus and asked how much it was to go to the shopping center. The driver told us it was cheaper to pay inside so we stepped of the bus and started to head inside. The driver immediately shut the bus door and drove off. We now had to wait 15 minutes for the next one to come.

Our bus came and we got on and rode it for maybe 10 minutes before we reached the shopping center. Finally we were there. We went inside and started to walk around. After about 15 minutes of being there the stores started to close. We forgot that it was New Years Eve and the shops were all closing at 5. Mitch managed to slip into a store just before they closed and try on some shoes while Nick and I browsed the magazine shop that was the only store still open. Our mall experience ended a little after 5 and we went back to the bus stop to wait for it to take us back to the train station.

Once again it took us a while to decipher the times for the buses but figured out it was going to come at half past 5. That is when we remembered Els was making a special New Years Eve dinner and she would not be happy if we missed it. As we continued to wait for the bus we couldn't remember if the guy who sold us the tickets said the train left 10 minutes before or after the hour. All we did know is that it only came once an hour. Our bus came and we got on and sat in the back. It was now up to the bus driver if we made it back for dinner or not.

When the bus pulled in we rushed to the train platform looking for the train to Izegem. We kept hearing Izegem and Inglemunster over the intercom, the train we needed to be on, but the rest was in Flemish so we didn't know what was going on. We then found a ticket collector and asked him where our train was. He looked at the monitor and told us that our train had been cancelled and we would have to wait for the 7 o'clock one.

We immediately thought of what Els' reaction would be if we missed all of the dinner. We started to turn when the guy told us to wait. He poked at his handheld a few times and then told us that the train was delayed not cancelled and was on platform 8. We walked over to the platform and boarded the train thankful that it was not cancelled. The ride home on the train was not quite as interesting as the ride out to Kortrijk since it was dark out. The train arrived in Izegem at quarter after 6, dinner started at 6. We rushed to our bikes and sprinted back to the house. We put the cruisers away, entered the house, and casually walked into the dining room and quietly sat at the table to eat gathering stares from almost everyone.

The next day the juniors, minus Steve since he was having some stomach problems, and Tristan headed to Baal to race on Sven Nys' home course. The course was epic. It started on a false flat road that then went in to some grass and up the side of a hill. It then turned downhill and twisted through the slick mud until traversing across a field and heading back up hill toward the top of the hill where there was a flyover/run up that crossed over the course. The entire course was slick and riders were down everywhere from the start. One rider even managed to ride into the barricades on the road section when he was only around 4 other riders. It was quite an impressive show from the Americans with Gavin, Eric and I all in the top 15. Eric finished 13th, Gavin 9th, and I finished 8th..

Zach McDonald

Carson Miller enjoys a frosty walk

Snow and ice - A common 'cross theme

By:
Cycling News
Published:
January 01, 2008, 0:00 GMT,
Updated:
April 22, 2009, 20:01 BST

After the culmination of an epic four days of racing in Kansas City at this year's US national...

Belgium, December 22, 2007

After the culmination of an epic four days of racing in Kansas City at this year's US national cyclo-cross championships, a select and hardy few of us have made the trip over to Belgium for the fifth edition of Euro 'Cross Camp. Snow and freezing temperatures were commonplace in Kansas City throughout the four days of racing with the last event, the elite men's race, turning out to be one of the best battles in recent years for the much coveted stars and stripes jersey.

I opted to stay in Kansas for an additional couple of days before flying across the pond. After getting settled in with my relatives, I was ready for a couple days of good riding before catching my plane to Europe. With the power and water just restored to a small city of roughly one thousand people, I suppose that I should have been prepared for snowy roads and icy temperatures; however, I had in my head, visions of riding on beautiful two-lane country roads that would wind along the rivers and through hay fields. To my surprise, I was riding in conditions just like Kansas City nationals, the cold and snow were everywhere and I was not going to escape.

But the day I so desperately wanted to arrive finally did. As I did one last check through my luggage, I was ready to go - ready to get on a plane to Europe, leaving behind my family and friends for the holidays. It is not that I wanted to be away from them for one of the most magical times of the year, but that I knew in order to improve as a 'cross racer, I needed to be riding with the best in the world. And they were all in Belgium. So I boarded the plane.

My arrival into Brussels was free of incident, and I had many great memories of training and racing out of the "USA House" based in Izegem, Belgium, from last year's worlds. My memories included mild temperatures and scenic rides along rural farming roads. The first two days and rides lived up to my memories with only slightly cooler temperatures, but something completely different would await me on the third day.

I awoke to temperatures hovering around -4 [degrees Celsius], and some frost and ice on the roads. As I ventured out into the country, the snow began to pile up. As I rode down single lane farming roads, many men were coming out of their houses to begin working the fields, or to drive into town. The quick quizzical glance I received several times revealed their thoughts: "Another American who is staying at Noel's house," must have been passing through their heads as I passed by the entrance to their farms.

While barges pushed up the smooth glassy waters of the canal, I pedaled on. The trees, devoid of leaves, with only a dusting of snow covering their white bark lined the snow covered path. Nor was I the only one riding along the path this morning. Many commonplace people pedaled along on run-down mountain bikes wearing jeans, a sweater, and a scarf. As I rode toward two young men who I would guess to be about my age (19), one must have suffered an untimely mechanical on his way into town. He abandoned his bike in the middle of the path and continued to walk alongside his friend who continued riding. And with all these events unfolding around me, I was in the midst of it all.

While I thought my plane from Kansas City was taking me out of the sub-zero temperatures and snow, perhaps I have found my way into more snow and freezing temperatures. But this is where the best 'cross racers in the world are living, training, and racing, and I can think of no better place to spend the holidays this year - riding amongst the snow and ice.

Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas.

Carson Miller

Below is a complete roster and racing schedule for this year's camp.

Elite Men

Ryan Trebon, 27, Kona-YourKey.com, Bend, Oregon
Tristan Schouten, 26, Planet Bike, Sheboygen, Wisconsin

Espoir Men

Jaimey Driscoll, 22, FiordiFrutta Elite, Jericho, Vermont
Danny Summerhill, 19, Clif Bar Development, Englewood, Colorado
Nicholas Weighall, 21, Rad Racing NW, Mill Creek, Washington
Mitchell Peterson, 21, Devo, Sandy, Utah
Carson Miller, 19, Fred Meyer, Bend, Oregon
Brady Kappius, 21, Clif Bar Development, Littleton, Colorado

Junior Men

Steve Fisher, 18, Rad Racing NW, Lynnwood, Washington
Gavin Mannion, 17, Hot Tubes, Dedham, Massachusetts
Eric Emsky, 17, Rad Racing NW, Fall City, Washington
Andrew Llewelyn, 18, Papa Johns, Louisville, Kentucky
Clayton Omer, 18, Papa Johns, Louisville, Kentucky
Jeremy Ferguson, 18, Team Spine, Rocklin, California
Zach McDonald, 17, Oberto/Redline, Bainbridge Island, Washington
Ian Terry 17, Rad Racing NW, Seattle, Washington

Racing schedule

December 22: Huijbergen, Holland (C1)
December 23: Balegem, Belgium (NE)
December 26: Hofstade World Cup, Belgium (CDM)
December 28: Loenhout Gazet Van Antwerpen Cup Series Race, Belgium (C1)
December 30: Diegem Superprestige, Belgium (C1)
January 1: Baal Gazet Van Antwerpen Cup Series Race, Belgium (C1)
January 2: St. Niklaas, Belgium (C2)

For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Tristan Schouten

Steeds, ready for action

The joy of travel

By:
Cycling News
Published:
January 01, 2008, 0:00 GMT,
Updated:
April 22, 2009, 20:01 BST

My adventure to Euro Cross Camp VI started out in Denver on the 19th. My initial route had me going...

Belgium, December 24, 2007

My adventure to Euro Cross Camp VI started out in Denver on the 19th. My initial route had me going from Denver, to Chicago then to London and finally to Brussels. That plan didn't last long. My flight out of Denver was delayed because a de-icing part needed to be replaced. I missed the connection in Chicago because of this. So, I'm not too worried, there has got to be some other flights out of Chicago that I can get on. Nope.

I get there and go over to the customer service desk. They are closing, so I get sent to the one on the other concourse. Sure enough, they are closing too. I try the self-service kiosk to no avail. I call the 800 number for United. They can't do anything but put me on some flight for tomorrow. I try to get on a Lufthansa flight to London that's was supposed to leave in 5 min. That was too big of a hassle for them to do at the gate. Well, I guess I'm staying in Chicago. I got a room for the night and tried again in the morning. I got on a flight to Washington DC, then to Brussels.

I finally made it to Belgium, the cyclo-cross capital of the world. Which really means nothing when your bikes and bag don't show up. I finally got my bag on the 21st and my bikes showed up today. I raced (or tried to) on Ryan Trebon's training bike in Zeddam today. I made it around three laps before my back couldn't handle it anymore. A 61cm top tube plus a 120mm stem was just too much for me.

The course was really fun though. It was slick in the corners but fast everywhere else. There was a nice big fly-over as well. The most interesting feature was the 100-stair run-up. The first lap through was totally crazy with guys yelling in all different languages as we came to a complete halt at the bottom. It was pure euro racing fun. Hopefully I will feel better after a couple days of training on my own bike then Wednesday is a big World Cup in Hofstade. Wish me luck.

Brady Kappius

Author
Euro 'cross camp V

For its fifth consecutive year, the Euro 'Cross Camp will travel to Izegem, Belgium for two weeks from December 20, 2007 to January 3, 2008, with some of America's most promising cyclo-cross talent. Euro 'Cross Camp Director and US National Team Coach Geoff Proctor selected 16 male riders to take on some of the toughest courses and strongest riders abroad and to prepare for the world championships in late January. This year's camp is taking on a more youthful feel with just two elite riders, Ryan Trebon and Tristan Shouten, joined by eight juniors and six espoirs. The riders were selected based on their performances throughout the USGP Series. Coach Proctor and his riders will take turns contributing diary entries.