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Ready to race

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We are definitely in Euro 'cross land.

We are definitely in Euro 'cross land. (Image credit: Eric Emsky)
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Nick Weighall warms up

Nick Weighall warms up (Image credit: Eric Emsky)
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Standing water in the carrot fields

Standing water in the carrot fields (Image credit: Eric Emsky)

Belgium, December 21, 2008

Another December has come around, and the Euro 'Cross Camp has begun yet again. For some riders, this is their third or fourth time trip and for others, it may be their first. It is truly an awesome experience for all.

To me, camp is an opportunity to race my brains out and have some fun. I love racing in Belgium as it presents a whole slew of new challenges. These range from adjusting to life in the team house to the nature of the racing. I always enjoy a newly presented challenge. Traveling to race is especially enjoyable for me because living at home eventually gets old, and I eventually begin to crave some adventure. A trip to Belgium is just the medicine needed to break the monotony of everyday life.

Today's ride served as an opportunity to spin the legs out and get ready for the race tomorrow in Gent. A large group consisting of Matt Shriver, Manny Goguen, Chris Wallace, Cody Cox, Joe Dombrowski, Cody Kaiser, Troy Wells, Geoff Proctor, Andrew Llewelyn and I rode to Lichervelde to watch Nick Weighall compete in a small race. Nick has been here for four days now and finally had the chance to race. Even though it was a small race, the competitors showed up in their top form and raced to their maximum.

When I was watching the riders plow through the thick, goopy mud it reminded me of how much different European cyclo-cross is than American cyclo-cross. The racers are generally much faster, the local races are held on small farms rented out for the day and spectators are everyday people going to see a sporting event, much like people attending a baseball game or horse race.

Cyclo-cross racing isn't something that strange cyclists do in the winter, it is a legitimate sport. I saw an example of this when we were on the ride today. We were passing through the town of Ardooie and we passed over a painted start grid on a main street. When was the last time you saw a white start grid painted on the main street of your hometown? Even I was a little surprised to see it painted there on the asphalt.

One other key difference is the competitors themselves. When lining up one the start line, there aren't just one or two riders present who can win the race on that particular day, there may be nine or ten. It makes everything much more interesting.

I always enjoy the opportunities the first race presents. It is the best way to test the legs and ready for the larger races coming down the road. In addition, it also helps mentally prepare everybody for the challenges the path ahead carries with it.

I'm looking forward to the next two weeks. Just thinking about all that is in store makes me a little giddy.

Have a good one and enjoy the holidays,
Eric Emsky

For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Eric Emsky

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.