Head-congested trip

Belgium, December 25, 2008

It seems things here in Izegem, Belgium, are really getting intense. The tensions are high as the first World Cup for the Euro Cross Camp VI approaches. Since I have not raced yet due to sickness, I will go through my experiences thus far in my euro-trip.

Sadly, my great excursion across the pond began with some major head congestion. Though I had been on an airplane for several hours in dry recycled air, the pounding head was a sure sign that I was coming down with a cold, though I kept telling myself otherwise.

The seven-hour flight was a bizarre experience. I have never been on a plane for that duration of time before. As the plane descended into Brussels, my head felt as though was being compressed and every blood vessel seemed to explode. Once the plane was on the ground, there were no more problems other than being sick. However, my first few days in Europe on a completely new time zone were going to be spent with my head congested.

A soigneur who didn't speak any English picked me up, but I seemed to do things right as I got to town successfully. Izegem is a town that was expected; a small, simple town in the rural-industrial area of Belgium.

I spent two hours building my bike due to all the stresses of staying up for 24 hours. More of the team arrived, jet-lagged, and some without bikes. We got all our stuff organised and went on a ride to watch Nick Weighall do a race. I was unlucky with a double flatting and then mocked by all the Belgians.

The next day, I was not able to race because, well, I could not breathe so I had the privilege of riding with big-time pro Matt Shriver, Gavin Mannion of Hot Tubes and Will Dugan of Richard Sachs bikes. We decided to do an easy-long ride to Roubaix, France, a total experience to say the least.

The highlight of that trip would be getting lost, watching Matt fool himself in conversation with three French girls and getting four authentic croissants for one euro.

I feel much better and I have the system of the house under control. I get up at eight-ish – still dark – eat some bread with speculoos, go for a ride and then relax for the rest of the day.

As far as Belgium is concerned, I have been very engaged in the area. Izegem, though small, seems very huge due to its maze like structure of roads. It seems there is a chocolate shop on every corner, though I have yet to taste the wonders of the Belgian treat.

Two large wind turbines power the town. An obvious sign that Belgium is clearly ahead of the U.S. in energy consumption. The cars here are insanely small, constantly go 150kph and nearly hit you by an inch. In the U.S. I would be nervous about this, but here the drivers, as crazy as they are, seem very competent and confident in their manoeuvrability.

The houses are very small and the people live completely within their means. The lifestyle seems an active one, thus the common Belgian is very thin and healthy, aside from the constant smoking. Every town consists of major open spaces, in which there are many farms and industrial parks.

Though I have not raced yet, I know I will come out of here with a keen insight on racing. This is the only thing I need to move up to the next level. It looks like Santa will be visiting the camp this year after all!

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)

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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.