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Euro 'Cross Camp VII

Out and about on cruisers during Euro 'Cross Camp

Time flies

Joshua Lehmann
January 04, 2010, 21:18 GMT,
January 04, 2010, 21:48 GMT

Campers take home valuable lessons

It is hard to believe that 17 days have passed since I arrived in Belgium; the time has flown by so fast. I have learned so much more than I anticipated and covered more subjects than I thought we would. The experience has definitely exceeded my expectations. With all of that, what can I take away from Belgium?

Adaptability is a crucial aspect of racing. Having flights that were delayed, baggage and bikes that didn't arrive with me, wheels that traveled to India and missing the first two races all have the ability to be frustrating. Making the best use of my time, focusing on my goals and enjoying what I could helped pass the time and helped make the best out of a compromised situation.

Even though I did not have my bikes, I found a few solutions by riding the cruiser bikes at the team house, jogging on the roads and did plenty of stretching. This allowed me to keep my fitness for the upcoming races. I understand the value of adaptability in a race, but this trip has made it perfectly clear how I need to adapt to everything else to improve my racing.

To know the purpose for the day is essential. If the day was meant for rest, then rest it is. If the day was meant for racing, then racing it is. To be focused and single-minded is always difficult with so many distractions, especially when the distractions are fun.

Geoff Proctor said in one of the team meetings, "You are doing a great job of being united, but you [the group] should make sure that you do what is best for yourself. Even if that means riding inside rather than ride outside. Just make sure that you are doing what is best for you." It is imperative to focus on the goals in order to achieve them.

How to find success in a less than stellar performance is invaluable. A couple of the races did not go according to the plan. Either I had trouble warming up, had no legs or had mechanical issues. While they were not ideal, each one had a lesson to take away to improve the next race. Whether learning how to play full contact 'cross (politely) or figuring out how to get the best results without the normal power in the engine. There was definitely a lesson in each race.

Enjoying the experience is a tremendous reward. I am not sure which I enjoyed more, being able to chat with Jamie Driscoll and Jeremy Powers or racing at a World Cup in the Team USA skinsuit. Being able to just shoot the breeze with the Cannondale/ boys was pretty cool. Then again, toeing the line in the USA skinsuit was AWESOME. I am almost certain that the skinsuit added at least 50 watts to my start.

The whole experience will not soon be forgotten, and I think it is very important that everyone know how well the Team USA Crew takes care of the riders. Everyone did a superb job - Geoff for offering needed advice, Fox for always encouraging us, Els for the delicious food (especially my birthday cake), Brecht for the constantly squaring away my bikes and the other mechanics and soigneurs for putting our experience at the top of their TO DO list. I offer a sincere thank you to all of the people, in Belgium and the States, who have made this Camp possible and a tremendous success.

As I leave Belgium, I am more motivated than ever to train smarter, race harder and enjoy the experience as it comes.

Joshua Lehmann

Josh Berry trying way too hard in the skinsuit.

A life-changing experience

Joshua Berry
January 03, 2010, 20:55 GMT,
January 03, 2010, 21:08 GMT

Joshua Berry's fondest memories of Belgium

Ten races in 16 days and I find myself lying in my bunk bed with my feet up watching Lady Gaga. Other than thinking about how crazy this music video is, I have to figure out how this camp has been for my growth as a cyclist. Simply put, this has completely changed my life.

There was not an instance of divine intervention but I have been fully influenced by this time in Belgium. I raced 10 races in Belgium, of course I was changed. I will admit that I felt like I completely had my ass handed to me in all of the races and it would be enough to have some racers quit because they feel like they will never be as fast as the likes of Sven Nys or Tom Meeusen. This may have hurt the spirits for some, but these races have simply been the kindling of the fire I need.

I have just finished my season and in the best way possible I am not relieved with the end but ready to prepare for the next one. Also, I decided that Ryan Weaver is the Sven Nys of Portland. Sorry, you don't get that if you are not from Portland.

Some great moments of my trip were Zach [McDonald] not washing his helmet and keeping his helmet as muddy as possible, Danny [Summerhill] taping an iPhone to his bars so he can watch Cross Tube, the treacherous descent in Zolder, the severe lack of ladies in Belgium, the juniors and their antics, the Bear and Fox's verbal arguments, Travis Livermon flipping over a barrier into a frozen lake, the countless hours of putting my legs up, the live TV coverage of 'cross racing and the 18 hours spent watching Gossip Girl.

The camp was anything but uneventful and I am glad I was chosen to be a part of this experience. Tim and Sue Butler, thanks for feeding me and riding with me on the coldest day. Cody, thanks for making me fast. River City and cycle path, thanks for keeping me well equipped for the 'cross season. Paul, none of this would be real without you. Thanks. Geoff, Ells, Noel, Fox, camp would not work without you. Thank you.

USA's Chris Wallace racing in Belgium

Balancing school, racing and a trip to Antwerp

Cycling News
January 02, 2010, 21:26 GMT,
January 02, 2010, 21:56 GMT

Chris Wallace multi-tasks in Belgium

My time here in Belgium has gone by very quickly and I am already headed back to the States on Sunday. I arrived here last Monday night/Tuesday morning and was unlucky like most of the other riders and had a long travel day with many delays. Luckily, I received all of my luggage.

My time in Belgium ever since then has been filled with much racing and riding with the added task of trying to fit some school work in. I was expecting to take all of my finals early but my school administrators told me that was not going to happen so I was forced to lug all of my books here to Belgium, something I have been doing traveling around the US all season. Surprisingly, however, calculus and chemistry are good ways to make the down time here go by.

This past Wednesday, however, I had a break from all of the racing and school work and I took the train up to Antwerp to meet with the director of Navigators Insurance’s office in Antwerp, Jan Dela Ruelle. Navigators has been my main sponsor for the current cyclo-cross season. Upon my arrival, Jan took me to the Navigators office to show me around and meet some of the employees there. After about 30 minutes of talking about cyclo-cross we headed to the city center for lunch.

When we arrived at the city center I was amazed at all of the buildings and structures all over. After some walking around on the cobbled streets we headed to a small restaurant and I ended up having one of the best meals of pasta and cheese I can remember having. Next, Jan showed me more of the city and showered me with gifts of chocolate and the Belgian specialty, Speculoos. Shortly afterwards I got back on the train to Izegem, but it was a great afternoon.

As the season is just about a month from being over I would like thank my sponsors for everything they have done for me this year. First, Navigators Insurance for enabling me to make everything I have done this year possible and for great support throughout the year, the KCCX group for their continued support at races and managing a great team, Verge Clothing, Scott Bicycles, Easton Wheels, SRAM, Challenge Tires, Giro, and TRP Brakes for supplying their great products they make, my parents and family for helping me succeed in races and the support they provide me on and off the bike, and finally God for everything that has happened to me.

Until next time,
Chris Wallace

Number is pinned on and all ready to go.

It's all about the warming van

Brian Matter
December 31, 2009, 18:08 GMT,
December 31, 2009, 18:49 GMT

Euro 'Cross Campers fend off winter's nip with some help

The warming van is where it all goes down, and it is an integral part of cyclo-cross culture here in Belgium. Things start bright and early with the warming van when the mechanics jam pack as many bikes, wheels, trainers, and other equipment into the back of the van.

When the warming vans arrives at the race it is a mad dash to find the perfect parking spot. Usually we strategically park three vans together, and then in between the vans the mechanics set up. Tents with trainers, tents with food and tea, and tents with workstands and tools from our headquarters for the day.

Then the real action begins. The mechanics have prepped the warming van with a propane heater and a light connected to a generator. Then the riders arrive. There are three very small wooden benches in the van. One is nearer to the heater and on cold days, it's the spot to get. The pros usually show up to the warming van three hours before their race. We unwrap the tin foiled ham & cheese and have our pre-race meal.

Just about the same time Danny Summerhill comes rolling in after his race. The mood is instantly set. If Summerhill races fast, then the atmosphere is good. If Summerhill has a bad day, then it gets pretty grim until Troy Wells cranks some Beastie Boys on the iPhone. If Summerhill's hands are frozen, Wells will politely do an interview for him.

It gets hectic when the rest of the Under 23s arrive, and there are seven to 10 of us in a van all trying to change at the same time. Some guys are covered in freezing mud, a warning is shouted that the pants are coming down, and next thing you know someone's bare ass is in your face. The U23s get rushed out, a little silence, you try not to step your clean socks in wet mud, and the ceiling drips like a tropical rain forest from the condensation. Your clothes get wet, you hit your head, and someone spills your warm coffee. Some practical jokes are played, and then we head out for a lap or two.

After two laps, it's back to the van. Upon arrival we reflect on the course, the appropriate clothing for the race and the sensations in the legs. More practical jokes and then Fox and Els bring us some more tea or coffee and rub the legs and feet down with some warming cream. The smell is in the air. Race time is approaching. We start to pin on the numbers and put on racing suits.

Forty-five minutes before the race Geoff Proctor arrives with "Proctors Words of Wisdom" before he heads to the pits. Five minutes of pure motivational speech. This guy does a better job than Matt Foley. Forty minutes to go and we are suited up and headed for the trainers. The superfans are there in the thousands waiting to see who walks out of the van. Shouts of Ryan Trebon, Todd Wells, and Johnson, but this time around it's only Matter, Troy Wells, and Justin Lindine. We sign some autographs, and it makes them happy. Then its off to the races.

After the race, we are instantly back in the van. The heat has been off for an hour. The generators are packed. It's dark and cold. We beg for the heater to be turned on. The matches are soaked wet. We borrow a lighter from a smoking superfan. A little heat. The pain sets in. Fox yells, "let's go". We change. Throw our dirty clothes back in the race bag, and exit. The mechanics load the warming van with the mud soaked equipment as the riders are whisked away in another van through the raucous crowd.

Brian Matter
Team Gear Grinder

The Frite car!

A Nice Day Off . . .

Cycling News
December 30, 2009, 21:42 GMT,
December 30, 2009, 21:50 GMT

Jeff Bahnson gets a well-deserved break

In the past four days the majority of the camp members competed in three races. On Saturday there was the Zolder world cup, on Sunday there was Diegem, and on Tuesday was Loenhout. After Loenhout we were all looking forward to some well deserved time off.

For most of the trip it seems like we have been focusing on riding, getting all of our clothes and riding gear together, making sure our bikes work, cleaning off dirty shoes, trying to stay hydrated, eating healthy, stretching, making sure our legs are fresh for the next day, overall just trying to be as prepared as we possibly can for the next race on the agenda.

After the race on Tuesday I had no worries for the next day, I knew I wouldn't have to get up at 5 in the morning and jump into a van going to another place in Belgium. I didn't have to find all my riding gear, pack up my bottles and food, drink lots of water, carbo-load, or give my bikes a look over.

After dinner that night most of the kids just went into their different rooms and spent the rest of the evening checking e-mail, talking to friends, going on Facebook, listening to music, or watching a movie.

Don't get me wrong the races over here are awesome and I look forward to every one, but sometimes it is really good to just get your mind off things and relax. Today was great, we got to sleep in till 9 and took as long as we wanted to get up, get dressed, and eat breakfast.

For most people there was not much training to do, just an easy spin or no ride at all. There were many trips to the local chocolate shop to pick up presents for friends and family back home. Other people decided to go into town and get some waffles and frites. There was also lots of time spent in front of computer screens. And as always stopping by the Delhaize supermarket and "The Wall" for some snacks. Then we all finished off the day with a trip to the bowling alley, which was super fun, in the end Yannick finished first with 147 points.

It's very easy to get bored while staying over here, being in the house all day and getting into meaningless tasks like checking your Facebook every five minutes. It helps to just get out of the house and do something different from the normal schedule, even just wandering around town for an hour or so can really help you to clear your mind and get refreshed.

It was a pretty tight squeeze for our USA Cycling cars in the parking alley.

The hits just keep on coming

Justin Lindine
December 30, 2009, 4:46 GMT,
December 30, 2009, 4:47 GMT

Justin Lindine reflects on a day of learning and getting lost

It was a nightmare stop and go roller coaster before we even got to the race. I couldn’t tell if the surges in traffic were making me more or less nauseous then the radio ‘Donna’ mix of incredibly bad American pop mixed with Belgian techno-esque noise. In either case, those of us in the back seat were rapidly reaching terminal sick state accompanied by the desperate need to pee. Great.

Step one after arriving at the venue was to miss the access to our parking zone. Step two was to use the facilities between a team sprinter van and some nice Belgian person’s shrubbery. Ahh… After that desperate evacuation of fluid and some much needed fresh air there was the question of this whole race thing we were supposed to be getting ready for.

The weather was pretty atrocious…I mean, nice typical Belgian weather. In other words it was two degrees Celsius and raining. It doesn’t take a degree in soil science to guess that rain, plus bike racers, plus a farmer’s field equals all sort of pasty, peanut-buttery mud. Sweet! Because really, my bike has not had enough beat into it over the last couple of days. Sigh.

Morale in ‘Camp USA’ was not what you would call high upon arrival. There were shivering Under 23 riders milling around, waiting for their ride home. Unfortunately their race was still being called in the distance. Me and my two other ‘profs’ (Troy and Brian) sat in the warming van after riding our one course reconnaissance lap. We pondered the deeper questions of motivation, purpose, line choice, dismount or ride and did some just general complaining about how hard it was going to suck to slog through a tractor pull of mud for an hour. Our musings did nothing to change the weather or the course however, and soon it was time to ride the trainers and do something of a warm up.

The course at Loenhout is nothing if not a really good example of an inventive use of open featureless space. When I say that a lot of it is just a farm field, I’m not kidding. But through the magic of design – plus a lot of sponsorship dollars – out of this field rose multiple flyovers,\ and a pump-track like whoop section (if you think this sounds like fun, go to your local BMX track, put 20lbs of air in the tires of your cross bike and try it out: it’s terrifying at high speed, and I like pump tracks).

Once again I was amazed at the crowds at these races. I mean, who wants to come out on a day like this: sane animals are hibernating or migrating right about now. But despite this there were thousands upon thousands of Belgians making their way into the rainy wetness of some random field to watch us accomplish what a tractor and a plow would in about half the time.

As I made my way around the course trying not to look like a flailing idiot too much of the time, I rode through clouds of cigar and cigarette smoke so thick I could almost taste it. This is racing. This is awesome. I’m riding well. I’m being lapped by Sven Nys. Sigh.

It took forever to figure out how to get back to the car. I was cold, dejected and not wanting to stare into the faces of a public so excited by this sport. How many fences are there in this place? Where the hell am I? But in reality the people were polite and eventually, after me looking dazed and confused for long enough, gave me directions back to town and the parking lot. It’s amazing how you can ride so many laps around a labyrinthine course without having any understanding of where it actually goes.

So now we were back in the van, piling wet muddy clothes into bags to deal with later. Another day in the books and still not much of a result to speak of. Troy managed a pretty solid result riding in with a group containing mountain biking icon Jose Hermidia for 30th. Not too shabby. The rest of us, or at least myself, spent the van ride back thankfully a little less motion sick, albeit a little more reflective.

As I sit staring out the window at the Belgian countryside passing by I’m already thinking about the next race, and the bike maintenance I have to try and get done in the next couple of days, plus what I’ve learned here that I can take with me into next season and beyond. It’s been a humbling day for a lot of us to be sure, but I know that – at least for myself – I’m trying to soak in as much experience as the Belgian mud soaks in the rain…Tomorrow is another day.

Euro 'Cross Camp VII

Euro 'Cross Camp Director Geoff Proctor will lead the seventh annual cyclo-cross camp that will run through late December and early January. This year, seven juniors, eight under-23 and three elite racers will make the journey to Belgium to train and race over the Christmas and New Year's holidays in Europe. Of those, just seven are returning Euro 'Cross campers.

The riders will stay at the Under-23 House in Izegem, Belgium, and take advantage of all the infrastructure of the US Under-23 national road program run by USA Cycling's Noel Dejonckheere.

The camp has previously 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.

Elite Roster

Troy Wells (Durango, Colorado, USA) Team Clif Bar
Brian Matter (Sheboygan, Wisconsin, USA) Team Gear Grinder
Justin Lindine (Maplecrest, New York, USA)'s Garage/IF

Under 23 Roster

Danny Summerhill (Centennial, Colorado, USA) Felt-Holowesko Partners-Garmin
Zach McDonald (Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA) Stevens/Classic Cycle
Jerome Townsend (Princeton, Massachusetts, USA)'s Garage/IF
Steve Fisher (Bellingham, Washington, USA) Rad Racing NW/Hagens Berman
Travis Livermon (Winterville, North Carolina, USA) Champion System/Cannondale
Josh Berry (Portland, Oregon, USA) Unattached
Joe Dombrowski (Marshall, Virginia, USA) Haymarket Bicycles/HomeVisit
Joseph Schmalz (Lawrence, Kansas, USA) KCCX/Verge

Junior Roster

Chris Wallace (Shawnee, Kansas, USA) KCCX/Navigators Ins./Verge
Skyler Trujillo (Fort Collins, Colorado, USA) Black Sheep Jr. Cycling
Jeff Bahnson (Newark, Delaware, USA) Thule/Van Dessel
Matt Spinks (Layton, New Jersey, USA) Team Plan C CX/Stevens
Yannick Eckmann (Boulder, Colorado, USA/Ger) Clif Bar Development Team
David Kessler (Littleton, Colorado, USA) Clif Bar Development Team
Josh Lehmann (Weare, New Hampshire, USA) Sunapee/S&W/Continental Paving