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Christmas time and the Euro style

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Ryan Knapp at the snowy Kalmthout World Cup

Ryan Knapp at the snowy Kalmthout World Cup (Image credit: Tom Robertson)
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The Kalmthout World Cup gets underway.

The Kalmthout World Cup gets underway. (Image credit: Tom Robertson)
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Jerome Townsend at the start of the Kalmthout World Cup, pre start-finish straight crash.

Jerome Townsend at the start of the Kalmthout World Cup, pre start-finish straight crash. (Image credit: Tom Robertson)
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Bjorn Fox at the camp training race in Izegem.

Bjorn Fox at the camp training race in Izegem. (Image credit: Willem Beerland)

We have a spent a little bit over a week at the Euro 'Cross Camp in Belgium. It has been very cold, around freezing the whole time. On the rides the roads are either slushy, getting really wet, or super icy, making it hard to stay upright. We've spent time preparing for racing either at the house or out riding.

The first two races I did in Belgium were last Saturday and Sunday. The first was a local event on an icy farm field and the second race was the Kalmthout World Cup race near Antwerp.

On Saturday's race most of us from the Euro 'Cross Camp had enough UCI points to be called up to the front row. I had a great start and led in the beginning; then I had a mechanical and dropping back a little to finish in third place. At the World Cup I was called up in the third row, didn't have a great start but I had a blast in the race.

I finished in 44th place, the first American. It was really fun racing with people from all different countries; an orange Dutch guy, a small blue, red, white French guy... Fighting against the best of all the different countries. The course was fast, icy, muddy and hilly.

Today is Christmas Eve; we woke up at 8:30am and went for a ride. I did a prep ride along the canal in town. The canal has a pretty cool bike path, but it's icy and slippery, which is actually great cyclo-cross training - combining handling and power. This afternoon there was a trip to the Tour of Flanders Museum.

Today we had a special Christmas Eve dinner - with the table set very nicely. Some family of the people who are in charge of the house joined us for food and we had a good time. We had a toast (only an Aquarius orange drink for us; champagne for the staff), dinner, and cake for dessert.

It's interesting to see how there is a difference in Christmas tradition. Here in Europe the big day for celebration is Christmas Eve, which is when they have the main event and open all the presents. In America it's Christmas Day. All of you know what happens then, so I won't go into it here.

In addition to the differences in tradition one of the most interesting aspects of the European experience for me is the difference in style. No, I don't mean riding style, I'm talking about clothes - not cycling clothes, straight up clothing.

Ever since my first trip to Europe back in 2007 for my first Euro 'Cross Camp I have liked the European's style choices. Being taller than a pre-teen but almost as skinny it's hard to find nice clothes in the US that fit the way that I want them to; in other words tight, without paying an arm and a leg or getting things tailored.

However, shopping in Europe is a different story entirely! The problem I have here is twofold; first, I want to buy pretty much EVERYTHING I try on, which being a poor cyclist I can't. Second, it seems that most of the people shopping in the same places I am are my size and when I see a sweater, shirt, pants etc, in 'my' style half the time there aren't any left.

This second issue is compounded by the fact that I am shopping on Christmas Eve when many people are doing last minute shopping AND the stores are no longer stocking 2010 stock, trying to make room for all the 2011 collections, which haven't quite arrived yet so the stock is at an all-time low. However, there is nothing I can do about the timing - I still manage to do pretty well with finding everything and my closet is gradually filling with Euro threads as they replace the less desirable American ones.

A typical shopping trip for me involves walking from the house to the train station, hopping aboard the less-than-10-minute ride to Roselare (nearest big 'town'), and then walking to the street where all the shops are located. Notice the amount of walking, public transportation and the non-existent use of a car!

For me this only adds to the appeal of the 'Euro style' - it's not necessary for there to be a paved football field or two for a car-park, a few places will suffice for the odd person who does drive. No wonder all the clothes are tighter and fit better, nearly every one here is super fit! America take note, or at least pretend to and maybe act like you care about public transportation and such...

Bjorn and Jerome