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A Home away from Home

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Chatting with Powers and chatting with each other about everything from bikes to racing to girls

Chatting with Powers and chatting with each other about everything from bikes to racing to girls
(Image credit: Danny Summerhill)
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A special visit from Santa to wish us a merry Christmas and give the U23 and elites champagne to celebrate

A special visit from Santa to wish us a merry Christmas and give the U23 and elites champagne to celebrate
(Image credit: Danny Summerhill)
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Christmas eve

Christmas eve
(Image credit: Danny Summerhill)
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Christmas dinner

Christmas dinner
(Image credit: Danny Summerhill)
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A couple of cards to open Christmas morning under the little tree Brooke insists I have over here since we don't actually have one at the house

A couple of cards to open Christmas morning under the little tree Brooke insists I have over here since we don't actually have one at the house
(Image credit: Danny Summerhill)
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Justin L calling home to wish the loved ones a Merry Christmas

Justin L calling home to wish the loved ones a Merry Christmas
(Image credit: Danny Summerhill)
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Letter of the day from Brooke, who sends 1 letter per day with the number of days left until I come home. Some times they include little games and funny facts to pass the time

Letter of the day from Brooke, who sends 1 letter per day with the number of days left until I come home. Some times they include little games and funny facts to pass the time
(Image credit: Danny Summerhill)
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My stash of letters from home

My stash of letters from home
(Image credit: Danny Summerhill)
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Skyping home to family and friends - Merry Christmas etc

Skyping home to family and friends - Merry Christmas etc
(Image credit: Danny Summerhill)
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Watching my daily fill of Grey's Anatomy to pass the time while other people are watching The Hills and other heart warming chick shows up stairs to pass the time as well

Watching my daily fill of Grey's Anatomy to pass the time while other people are watching The Hills and other heart warming chick shows up stairs to pass the time as well
(Image credit: Danny Summerhill)
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Second place at junior nationals, Jeff B building up his bikes for tomorrow's World Cup after finally receiving them from the airline 3 days later

Second place at junior nationals, Jeff B building up his bikes for tomorrow's World Cup after finally receiving them from the airline 3 days later
(Image credit: Danny Summerhill)
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Board with kitchen duties of the day

Board with kitchen duties of the day
(Image credit: Danny Summerhill)
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My bag - getting ready and packed for tomorrow's World Cup in Zolder.

My bag - getting ready and packed for tomorrow's World Cup in Zolder.
(Image credit: Danny Summerhill)
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The neighborhood

The neighborhood
(Image credit: Danny Summerhill)
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A group of people sitting around the couch watching the only English thing on TV which is the music video Chanel JIM (very very addicting and a definite good way of bonding with fellow team mates discussing how hot the singer is and who's the hottest of all etc etc)

A group of people sitting around the couch watching the only English thing on TV which is the music video Chanel JIM (very very addicting and a definite good way of bonding with fellow team mates discussing how hot the singer is and who's the hottest of all etc etc)
(Image credit: Danny Summerhill)
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The Christmas birds are ready for the oven.

The Christmas birds are ready for the oven.
(Image credit: Danny Summerhill)
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The yule logs?

The yule logs?
(Image credit: Danny Summerhill)
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A game of scrabble with Santa

A game of scrabble with Santa
(Image credit: Danny Summerhill)
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Three of the guys going out for a spin on the house cruiser bikes to enjoy the significantly nicer weather then we have been having

Three of the guys going out for a spin on the house cruiser bikes to enjoy the significantly nicer weather then we have been having
(Image credit: Danny Summerhill)
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Santa Mario and me

Santa Mario and me
(Image credit: David Kessler)

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.

No doubt.