It has been a week since I said goodbye to America and boarded the plane en route to Belgium to stay at the United States National Team House for the second time. I am back again under the guidance of Geoff Proctor, who I came with back in August for road racing. Only this time, I am here to battle it out against some of the world's best, Junior cyclo-cross racers.
I think the biggest difference from the road season, other than the fact that I have already been here and that I am racing in entirely different conditions (snow/mud and a temperature fluctuating around thirty five degrees F), is that this time, I feel like it wasn't just something I really wanted to do; it was definitely something that I needed to do, to get back on track, after a hard few weeks back home.
The biggest thing that I have seen has been a very good camaraderie amongst us American racers and the people who make it possible for us to be here. Whether it be toughing out the ice and snow, like I have the past couple days with Jerome Townsend and Lil' Steve Fisher; crowding the whole work room area spinning away on the trainers and rollers; or just sitting around for hours - there is lots of downtime - at the TV listening to everyone's opinion on the current music video being watched (preferably Lady Gaga); we have all come to shatter that whole "anti-social vibe" that Troy described in the last blog entry. And, if anyone hadn't, Christmas Eve at the House forced them to.
It was a great night which was celebrated by all of us riders, Els and her two daughters Charlyn and Naomi; a whole bunch more of the US House regulars like Super Mario, or last night, Santa Mario; and Geoff and his family. Hors d'oeuvres like chicken wings and a selection of cheeses started off the night, followed by a nice dinner, consisting of turkey, peas, pears, cranberries, deep-fried potatoes, and rice.
For dessert, Els got two types of delicious cakes, and for me, the rest of the evening was filled with chatting with everyone, dancing in the kitchen with Mario's wife (Naomi wouldn't dance with me ?), watching Super Mario perform one of his magic tricks, attempting to play a civil game of Scrabble, and finishing the night keepin' it real watching Da Ali G Show wivz no uvva den mee main matez, da phresest blokez in da house, Phat Matt Spinks and Homeyskool Lehmann.
At this point, I can't express how nice it is to be around a group of such fine, diverse, fun and hard-working individuals, who can all relate and are here to do one thing: to engage in the sport of cyclo-cross.
On another note, after speaking of the celebrations at the house on Christmas Eve, I can't help but personally thank Noel and Els and everyone at the house in Izegem, for everything they do to make this a nice home for me and other young, American bike racers. This house is definitely a HUGE improvement over the "flop-housing" that cyclists like Lance Armstrong and George Hincapie had to endure before the US House was set up.
I would also like to thank Geoff Proctor for another amazing trip and all the enthusiasm/knowledge you've brought as my chaperone for my first two times in Europe. Also, thank you Ben Turner, who has given so much to me on the CLIF BAR Development Team. Also, thanks Mom and Dad for everything you've ever done for me and for all of your support; without you guys, I most certainly wouldn't be here.
Thanks for reading, and I guess I should leave you with some motivation words of wisdom or something… I'd say you have to just keep things fun and don't get stressed out. Also, enjoy the moments you share with people. "Do ya thang man" (Icecube) regardless of what people are "lookin' at," and get good rest.