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Euro 'cross camp VI

Zach McDonald

Cruisin'

By:
Cycling News
Published:
January 03, 2009, 0:00 GMT,
Updated:
April 22, 2009, 20:10 BST

Everyone has heard about the racing, the fans and the overall atmosphere of racing in Europe being...

Belgium, January 3, 2009

Everyone has heard about the racing, the fans and the overall atmosphere of racing in Europe being quite different from the USA. It is all a challenge to overcome and it takes some time to get used to. However, the biggest problem for me during the Euro Camp is not the racing or the change in environment; it is simply finding something to do during the day to entertain myself.

I wake up at eight and am usually off training soon after. I return to the house somewhere in the twelve to one o'clock hour. Lunch goes by fast and soon I find myself with nothing to do. After the first couple days of the camp, internet gets old and watching the same songs on Jim TV (Belgian MTV) gets unbearable. There are only so many times in a day that I need to hear Womaniser and If I Were a Boy before losing a little bit of sanity.

Last week presented this problem a little more than this week since we had four days without a race. Nick and I were convinced to find a way to help cure the boredom and perhaps reclaim some of our sanity – or at least some of mine. After lunch on the 24th, I grabbed my photo gear we boarded the cruisers and set out to find something to entertain us.

We spun around town for a while but found ourselves quickly loosing interest in most of the places that we went. We just couldn't find a place that we could ride. I was losing hope the longer we rode feeling that I was losing some of the creativity that I thought I had. Luckily, we stumbled upon a dirt bank near a park and swimming pool. There we quickly were able to start carving a berm and started to enjoy ourselves.

We ended up spending a couple hours there sessioning the berm and seeing how low we could lean the bike into it. We tried to get creative with different lines into the corner and different speeds. Nick found a pretty good rhythm in the corner and he got quite comfortable laying the cruiser into the corner. It was pretty impressive.

I set out to try something different. Like every rider who comes the camp, I wanted to come away from the camp with new skills and abilities. Since I had not raced yet I wanted to get an early jump on that train by learning how to foot-plant one of the cruiser bikes. After close to half an hour of work, I was getting some satisfactory results. We continued riding until it got dark and headed back to the house for dinner.

That adventure held me over to the World Cup. Due to the constant racing there seemed to be few opportunities for shenanigans on the cruisers and more motivation for rest. This year, we weren't able to find time for a trip to the mall and luckily we didn't arrive late to any dinners.

All in all, I am very happy with my cross camp experience and incredibly pleased with my results. I am glad that I was able to take away more from the camp than just cruiser tricks. It is always a pleasure to race over here since no matter how I finish I always take some sort of knowledge from the race.

Editor's note: McDonald had one of his best results to date in Europe on January 1. He finished second to Dutchman Corné Van Kessel in the GP Sven Nys.

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

Elite men
Brian Matter, 30
Matt Shriver, 28
Troy Wells, 24

U23 men
Will Dugan, 21
Jeremy Ferguson, 18
David Hackworthy, 19
Andrew Llewellyn, 18
Bjorn Selander, 20
Danny Summerhill, 19
Nick Weighall, 21

Junior men
Cody Cox, 17
Joe Dombrowski, 17
Eric Emsky, 17
Manny Goguen, 17
Cody Kaiser, 16
Gavin Mannion, 17
Zach McDonald, 17
Morgan Ryan, 18
Chris Wallace, 16

Racing schedule

December 21: Uitbergen
December 26: Heusden-Zolder World Cup (CDM)
December 28: Superprestige Diegem (C1)
December 30: Azencross / Cross des as, Loenhout / Wuustwezel (C1)
January 1: Grote Prijs Sven Nys, Baal (C1)
January 2: Grote Prijs De Ster, Sint-Niklaas (C1)

American Danny Summerhill (Clif Bar)

Last race

By:
Cycling News
Published:
January 03, 2009, 0:00 GMT,
Updated:
April 22, 2009, 20:10 BST

Today [Friday - ed.] we raced the GP de Ster Sint Niklaas pro and under 23 mixed race. Unlike the...

Belgium, January 4, 2009

Today [Friday - ed.] we raced the GP de Ster Sint Niklaas pro and under 23 mixed race. Unlike the rest of the camp, today was the first day in two weeks where the ground was able to thaw out a little bit. That created a very greasy, slippery course and caused just about every one to crash at least once.

I thought the race went so-so, but definitely could have been better. With the bar being raised so much higher racing over here, you tend to push your self to limits a lot more, and with that, people crash more easily.

That is what happened to me, today, and I am sure every other person at least once on this slippery course. With my crash, I bent my bars and probably broke a spoke, so by the time I got to the pit mentally, I had kind of checked out of the race. In reality, I had lost sight of the second placed under 23 rider ahead of me, so after that, I just kind of rode around pushing it hard on the straight-away sections and taking my sweet time on all of the slick, slippery sections until the finish. I rolled in with Jeremy Powers getting 21st and 22nd.

Other then that, yesterday was a happy and a sad day. We went out to the end of camp dinner and said our thank yous and goodbyes to all the mechanics and staff. If it wasn't for them, none of what we have accomplished in the past two weeks would have ever been possible.

I would also like to give a special thank you to Geoff Proctor because with out the passion and drive to help young, American riders grow and learn more in this sport, none of us would be here today, and for that we all owe a very big thanks to him.

From there we went home, finished packing and just hung out – making it, for some of us a very fun way to end our 2008-2009 Christmas camp!

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

Elite men
Brian Matter, 30
Matt Shriver, 28
Troy Wells, 24

U23 men
Will Dugan, 21
Jeremy Ferguson, 18
David Hackworthy, 19
Andrew Llewellyn, 18
Bjorn Selander, 20
Danny Summerhill, 19
Nick Weighall, 21

Junior men
Cody Cox, 17
Joe Dombrowski, 17
Eric Emsky, 17
Manny Goguen, 17
Cody Kaiser, 16
Gavin Mannion, 17
Zach McDonald, 17
Morgan Ryan, 18
Chris Wallace, 16

Racing schedule

December 21: Uitbergen
December 26: Heusden-Zolder World Cup (CDM)
December 28: Superprestige Diegem (C1)
December 30: Azencross / Cross des as, Loenhout / Wuustwezel (C1)
January 1: Grote Prijs Sven Nys, Baal (C1)
January 2: Grote Prijs De Ster, Sint-Niklaas (C1)

American Danny Summerhill (Clif Bar)

Last race

By:
Cycling News
Published:
January 03, 2009, 0:00 GMT,
Updated:
April 22, 2009, 20:10 BST

Today [Friday - ed.] we raced the GP de Ster Sint Niklaas pro and under 23 mixed race. Unlike the...

Belgium, January 4, 2009

Today [Friday - ed.] we raced the GP de Ster Sint Niklaas pro and under 23 mixed race. Unlike the rest of the camp, today was the first day in two weeks where the ground was able to thaw out a little bit. That created a very greasy, slippery course and caused just about every one to crash at least once.

I thought the race went so-so, but definitely could have been better. With the bar being raised so much higher racing over here, you tend to push your self to limits a lot more, and with that, people crash more easily.

That is what happened to me, today, and I am sure every other person at least once on this slippery course. With my crash, I bent my bars and probably broke a spoke, so by the time I got to the pit mentally, I had kind of checked out of the race. In reality, I had lost sight of the second placed under 23 rider ahead of me, so after that, I just kind of rode around pushing it hard on the straight-away sections and taking my sweet time on all of the slick, slippery sections until the finish. I rolled in with Jeremy Powers getting 21st and 22nd.

Other then that, yesterday was a happy and a sad day. We went out to the end of camp dinner and said our thank yous and goodbyes to all the mechanics and staff. If it wasn't for them, none of what we have accomplished in the past two weeks would have ever been possible.

I would also like to give a special thank you to Geoff Proctor because with out the passion and drive to help young, American riders grow and learn more in this sport, none of us would be here today, and for that we all owe a very big thanks to him.

From there we went home, finished packing and just hung out – making it, for some of us a very fun way to end our 2008-2009 Christmas camp!

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

Elite men
Brian Matter, 30
Matt Shriver, 28
Troy Wells, 24

U23 men
Will Dugan, 21
Jeremy Ferguson, 18
David Hackworthy, 19
Andrew Llewellyn, 18
Bjorn Selander, 20
Danny Summerhill, 19
Nick Weighall, 21

Junior men
Cody Cox, 17
Joe Dombrowski, 17
Eric Emsky, 17
Manny Goguen, 17
Cody Kaiser, 16
Gavin Mannion, 17
Zach McDonald, 17
Morgan Ryan, 18
Chris Wallace, 16

Racing schedule

December 21: Uitbergen
December 26: Heusden-Zolder World Cup (CDM)
December 28: Superprestige Diegem (C1)
December 30: Azencross / Cross des as, Loenhout / Wuustwezel (C1)
January 1: Grote Prijs Sven Nys, Baal (C1)
January 2: Grote Prijs De Ster, Sint-Niklaas (C1)

Manny Goguen at US 'cross nationals

An awesome Christmas present

By:
Cycling News
Published:
January 01, 2009, 0:00 GMT,
Updated:
April 22, 2009, 20:10 BST

This is my first time going to the Euro 'cross camp. It’s been quite an experience for me so far. I...

Belgium, January 1, 2009

This is my first time going to the Euro 'cross camp. It’s been quite an experience for me so far. I didn't know what to expect coming here: what the racing would be like or what living at the house would be like.

After the first few days I got the hang of living at the USA cycling house. It's pretty simple and routine, actually. We get up at 8am (unless there is a race and we have to leave early), eat breakfast and head out for our ride by 10am. After our ride we eat lunch and then we hang out until dinner. During the hang out time I'll usually get on my laptop for a little while and sometimes head to the store or Wall for a snack.

Right around 6pm we hear the famous dinner call. Everyone heads down, grabs a plate, serves themselves and sits. The table is huge! It sits 10 on each side so we usually have multiple conversations going on. If we wanted to have just one, we would have to play telephone to get it from one end to the other. After dinner we all pitch in to clean up. Then it's time to watch some TV, read or get on our laptops.

One of the coolest thing to me is that someone washes my bike for me after the races. It's just too cool. Also, having the guys in the pit taking care of anything I need with my bike is awesome. I'm living like a pro. Man, I could get used to this!

Anther really cool thing is that you can walk or ride anywhere in town. It's so compact. I love going around town. Today Morgan and I went to the chocolate shop so I could got some chocolate bars to bring back home to my family.

At 12:00am this morning tons of fireworks started going of all over town. We all were sticking are heads out the windows trying to get a good look at them. Someone five houses down set some off in their back yard. They were right above us and it was wicked cool.

Overall it's been a wicked fun trip. I'm learning more and more every day. This has been a great Christmas present to be here. Happy New Year and thanks for reading.

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

Elite men
Brian Matter, 30
Matt Shriver, 28
Troy Wells, 24

U23 men
Will Dugan, 21
Jeremy Ferguson, 18
David Hackworthy, 19
Andrew Llewellyn, 18
Bjorn Selander, 20
Danny Summerhill, 19
Nick Weighall, 21

Junior men
Cody Cox, 17
Joe Dombrowski, 17
Eric Emsky, 17
Manny Goguen, 17
Cody Kaiser, 16
Gavin Mannion, 17
Zach McDonald, 17
Morgan Ryan, 18
Chris Wallace, 16

Racing schedule

December 21: Uitbergen
December 26: Heusden-Zolder World Cup (CDM)
December 28: Superprestige Diegem (C1)
December 30: Azencross / Cross des as, Loenhout / Wuustwezel (C1)
January 1: Grote Prijs Sven Nys, Baal (C1)
January 2: Grote Prijs De Ster, Sint-Niklaas (C1)

Brian Matter, tearing it up in Belgium.

The full Euro experience

By:
Cycling News
Published:
January 01, 2009, 0:00 GMT,
Updated:
April 22, 2009, 20:10 BST

This is my first time I've traveled to Europe for cyclo-cross. When I arrived in Belgium I knew that...

Belgium, January 1, 2009

This is my first time I've traveled to Europe for cyclo-cross. When I arrived in Belgium I knew that it would be one of the most challenging racing experiences ever and it has proven to be true. The racing is so fast, grueling and difficult. It isn't only the racing that makes you completely deteriorate, it is everything combined with the racing. It is the entire emersion into the most hardcore cyclo-cross culture in the world.

It's the same routine day in and day out. The same ham and cheese sandwich for every meal. On top of all that, there are the fans that despise you when you are competing against the Belgian greats.

The Belgian fans are completely different than the fans from the US. At each race this week there has been a minimum of 10,000 spectators and at the World Cup in Zolder there were over 20,000 fans. These fans are crazy for 'cross. Cyclo-cross is the NASCAR of Belgium. The fans wear jackets that have their beloved riders on them. "I am Supporter of Sven Nys" or "I am Supporter of Bart Wellens" is embroidered on the back. I have yet to see a Belgian wearing a jacket that says supporter of Troy Wells or Jeremy Powers.

I have never felt so much pressure to perform even when warming up on the course. You are constantly under the microscope. Today, during my warm up at the Grand Prix of Sven Nys , I kept trying and failing to ride a stair step section. It was very challenging and I practiced a few times. Each time they are watching your every move: how you approach it, what gear you are in and the speeds you take. Each fan is constantly analyzing you to see if you are going to beat their rider. Keep in mind that you are not their favorite rider, so they want you to fail.

The ability to block them out and completely focus is something I have yet to learn. When we are racing it is easy to just race and stay focused. When you are warming up it is different and hard to block out the 50-yard Belgian stare.

Here in the heart of cyclo-cross land, spectators pay between 10 to 20 euro (probably around $30 US) to watch you crash in the barriers. In America they cheer because you are a good sport for picking yourself up and going on. When you crash in Belgium, the fans cheer not because you picked your pile of bones up, but because you are broken and bleeding and they love it. When you are not leading the race, you are getting heckled and yelled at by the drunks.

The beer garden is flowing like the Colorado River at the crack of dawn on the course as the races start early and all of them are watched. The most important is the Elite Men's race, but the U23 is often one of the most exciting races and the fans are on their way to top levels of intoxication. When the Elite race comes around these fans are saturated with more Belgian beers than you will find on tap at any bar in America and screaming for you to suffer like a dog. It's a good thing I can't understand a word that they are saying because surely what is coming out of their mouths, other than the rank of beer and cigarettes, isn't supportive.

There is nothing like being completely gassed on a climb or through a run up and sucking in the cigarette smoke. While we are racing, everyone is drinking and smoking watching you in pain. We are completely flat out, gasping for oxygen, trying to keep the legs turning and we're inhaling some nasty, expired, Belgian cigarette smoke mixed with partially digested beer. You just keep going and after a few minutes of sucking in that stale air you are used to it, with your head up, focused as you plow through the beer cups on your way through the crazy fans.

The Euro camp has been exactly what I have needed to learn about what it really takes to be at the top level of cyclo-cross racing. Racing at this camp has been an eye opener and good preparation in chasing a spot on the US Worlds team. I didn't show that I deserved a spot today, as the mind and body were not on the same page. Tomorrow is the last opportunity for all of us to leave this camp on a high note.

Even if the racing doesn't go well, I know I can speak for everyone in saying that this experience will pay off huge in the years of racing to come. Racing in the states will be that much easier next year. Wish us luck tomorrow and at the World Championships! Again, I have to say thank you to everyone at Jittery Joe's, Contender Bikes in Salt Lake, SRAM, Van Dessel Bikes, Specialized for the saddles, Barbara Dowd, my coaches, the good people of D'Jango, Colorado and family and friends for all of their support. I apologize if I am forgetting anyone. It has been awesome! The journey continues.

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

Elite men
Brian Matter, 30
Matt Shriver, 28
Troy Wells, 24

U23 men
Will Dugan, 21
Jeremy Ferguson, 18
David Hackworthy, 19
Andrew Llewellyn, 18
Bjorn Selander, 20
Danny Summerhill, 19
Nick Weighall, 21

Junior men
Cody Cox, 17
Joe Dombrowski, 17
Eric Emsky, 17
Manny Goguen, 17
Cody Kaiser, 16
Gavin Mannion, 17
Zach McDonald, 17
Morgan Ryan, 18
Chris Wallace, 16

Racing schedule

December 21: Uitbergen
December 26: Heusden-Zolder World Cup (CDM)
December 28: Superprestige Diegem (C1)
December 30: Azencross / Cross des as, Loenhout / Wuustwezel (C1)
January 1: Grote Prijs Sven Nys, Baal (C1)
January 2: Grote Prijs De Ster, Sint-Niklaas (C1)

Troy Wells of Team Clif Bar races in Vegas

The Fox

By:
Cycling News
Published:
December 31, 2008, 0:00 GMT,
Updated:
April 22, 2009, 20:10 BST

So another euro 'cross camp has come and it is in its last couple days as I write. I feel as if I...

Belgium, December 31, 2008

So another euro 'cross camp has come and it is in its last couple days as I write. I feel as if I had my best euro 'cross race of my career on Sunday night in Diegem, Belgium.

Besides the race, I have to tell you about Chris De Vos, AKA "The Fox." He is the head Soigneur at the USA cycling house here in Izegem. Fox does a lot more than your normal soigneur, he keeps me and the rest of the crew entertained. He also drives around an 18-wheeler truck in the morning as if it's a sports car.

"Fox" basically just messes with me over the course of the day. From pouring a water bottle on me during massage to telling me with my haircut I look like some comic from the 1930s. Just do not have him pin your number on you or you will not make it to the start line.

After Zolder and Loenhout, he rushed us out of the venue after the race only sit in traffic for the next hour moving at one km/h. Then once we get on the highway and have to pee, he just drives right by the rest area. He tells us to drink less after the race so we wouldn't have to pee so bad.

I always forget how much traffic the races over here end up producing. It is like trying to leave a football game in the states.

With his new Blackberry Storm purchase, he is on Facebook more than a 13-year-old girl or Danny Summerhill for that matter. Also his Storm is set up with the Yeah Baby! Austin Powers text alert.

However, he burns me many DVDs to help me pass the time. He makes my time over in Euroland go by much faster. Coming back this year after a year off from the camp, it was like seeing a friend I haven't seen for two years.

My last race is on Thursday in Baal. Some guys are racing on Friday in Sint-Niklaas. On Friday I'm on the plane back to the Denver, Colorado, and than I head to Mexico for some time on the beach.

I wish everyone a fun New Years Eve. I will be kicking it at the house trying to get ready to give it one last go in Baal.

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

Elite men
Brian Matter, 30
Matt Shriver, 28
Troy Wells, 24

U23 men
Will Dugan, 21
Jeremy Ferguson, 18
David Hackworthy, 19
Andrew Llewellyn, 18
Bjorn Selander, 20
Danny Summerhill, 19
Nick Weighall, 21

Junior men
Cody Cox, 17
Joe Dombrowski, 17
Eric Emsky, 17
Manny Goguen, 17
Cody Kaiser, 16
Gavin Mannion, 17
Zach McDonald, 17
Morgan Ryan, 18
Chris Wallace, 16

Racing schedule

December 21: Uitbergen
December 26: Heusden-Zolder World Cup (CDM)
December 28: Superprestige Diegem (C1)
December 30: Azencross / Cross des as, Loenhout / Wuustwezel (C1)
January 1: Grote Prijs Sven Nys, Baal (C1)
January 2: Grote Prijs De Ster, Sint-Niklaas (C1)

Author
Euro 'cross camp VI

For its sixth consecutive year, the Euro 'Cross Camp will travel to Izegem, Belgium for two weeks from December 20, 2008 to January 3, 2009, with some of America's most promising cyclo-cross talent. Euro 'Cross Camp Director and US National Team Coach Geoff Proctor selected 19 male riders to take on some of the toughest courses and strongest riders abroad and to prepare for the World Championships in late January. The camp has helped the careers of racers like current US National Champion Ryan Trebon, Jeremy Powers and Jamey Driscoll. Read these diaries for hints of who may emerge from this year's crop of three elite, eight U23 and eight junior racers as America's future 'cross stars? Coach Proctor and his riders will take turns contributing diary entries.