By Sue George
Geoff Proctor is enjoying a well-deserved albeit rather short break between the Euro 'Cross Camp he hosted over the holidays and the upcoming UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Italy. Looking back at the Euro 'Cross Camp, during which Proctor took 16 young riders to Belgium for two weeks of racing experience, Proctor was pleased.
"I was really encouraged this year with the experiential level of the camp – it was starting point for those guys," said Proctor. "You can maybe learn more in two weeks over there than a whole season in the US."
"There was one race the juniors did that was the sketchiest thing you've ever seen," recalled Proctor. "Gavin [Mannion] hit a tree, broke his helmet and still finished. Guys were getting carted off on stretchers."
This year's camp featured more young riders, including mostly juniors and under 23 riders. "Four of the juniors were first-years. They did really well. For a 16 or 17 year-old kid, it is a tremendous leap to jump from our [US] nationals and go over there. It makes a big impression on these guys."
When the young men weren't racing, they were getting some life lessons from Coach Proctor. "We talked about risk assessment and ambition and the willingness to fight – all the qualities it takes to do well over there. We did a lot of talk on planning and programming and how to take an annual view of your season and not just the cyclo-cross part. We're teaching these guys how to plan better and to learn how to say no.
"To be targeting world championships in January … you only have so many matches you can burn." Proctor advocated an intelligent big picture approach to riders' seasons.
Proctor takes a long term view with the camp. He's interested in how the first and second year juniors will be doing when they in their final years as espoirs. "All five guys on the U23 US National Championship podium were Euro 'Cross Camp alumi. I bet next year's junior podium will be largely made up of kids from the camp this year. The four first-year juniors I had this year were really strong."
On Thursday, Proctor will return to Europe to run a pre-worlds camp for five days in conjunction with the World Cup. Then it's off to Italy for the World Championships. Nine of his Euro'Cross Camp riders will join him there.
Eight of the sixteen riders from the Euro 'Cross Camp will head to worlds. The elite women, junior men's and U23 men's rosters are already set. The elite men's team will consist of Ryan Trebon, Tim Johnson, Jonathan Page, with Euro 'cross camp veteran Jeremy Powers as the sole discretionary pick.
When asked to predict top American performances for worlds, Proctor pointed to Katie Compton, who is sitting second in the UCI rankings for elite women.
"I want to see all of our guys do well," said Proctor. "I want to see our elite guys do well because they struggled at Christmas-time - Tim Johnson, Ryan Trebon and Jeremy Powers. And Jon Page is starting to come around. I know how hard these guys work and I hope it comes together for them."
Read about the exploits of this year's Euro 'Cross Camp participants.