Racing in the pasture

Belgium, December 22, 2008

Camp has begun and the excitement level is high here at Euro cross camp 6 in the heartland of cyclo-cross. Everyone is still trying to settle in, as many people have some loose ends to tie up, which includes getting their lost bikes here to Izegem, Belgium. Others are missing everything and just wait for that doorbell to ring to get some fresh T's and boxers.

For some reason this has been a really rough year for travel – almost everyone has had some sort of hang up on their way to Belgium. For myself it was a four-hour delay in Newark, New Jersey, on account of freezing rain and a good amount of snow on the ground, which had Cody Kaiser and myself stuck on the tarmac bored to death. The worst part was thinking about the six-hour flight ahead. But luckily Cody and myself made it here all in one piece and with our entire luggage.

Today was the first race day of camp for those of us with bikes. My day started out at 3:00 in the morning, as the nine-hour time change had my body all jacked up, my eyes instantly came open and I knew there was no going back to sleep, so I rolled out of bed to get some food without waking up my roommates.

But that was a challenge in itself with creaky floors and doors that squeal like my brakes when they are toed in wrongly. It took some careful foot work to make it to the kitchen. But after some food and another adventure upstairs in the dark I was all good and slept till Geoff's wake up call.

The race today was a typical Belgian local weekend race. The course was created in a cow pasture, just outside of a small town near Gent, and utilised the extremely bumpy single track that wound its way around the grasslands. Some interesting notes to the race include the extremely short lap times in the range of three and a half minutes, and the second pit, which took the use of a cow feeding troth as a bike wash station.

The juniors were the first to go off and for many of them it was their first taste of Euro racing. When talking to them two things became instantly apparent for those who race in Belgium for the first time. The courses are way different and usually more technical. Also, the racers won't give you an inch and it is up to you to shut the door fast or risk getting chopped.

But the juniors did a great job getting four guys in the top ten. I raced the Elite/U23 race at 15:00. We had the first three call ups, which was cool. Unfortunately, with no UCI points it was a back row start for myself and Andrew. I put in some pretty swift moves on the first lap to move up and steadily picked off people while trying to avoid the cow pies and wooden course polls. I finished up in 19th, which I was happy about, as it was my first Elite race in Europe. Danny had the best ride of the day in seventh and did something like 20 laps.

Tonight ended with some trips to the wall and the usual dinner from Els but there were some new faces around the table as the rest of the guys finally made it to Belgium, and a guest appearance from Jeremy Powers helped animate dinner. So now we have four days of training before the Zolder World Cup and we all plan to adventure around Izegem and its surrounding towns and make the best of our Belgian experience–hopefully without getting lost.

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.