This is my sixth time attending Geoff Proctor's Euro 'Cross Camp, and I think it is safe to say this has been the most challenging trip across the pond for us yet. First, the 10 days of missing bikes for Mitch, then the three to four days of camping out in London for our juniors, Jeff and Gunnar, and now this freakishly cold and snowy weather has definitely made for one of the most interesting and eventful camps I have ever seen.
My trip over was probably one of the most character-building experiences that I have had flying to Europe. It all began in Denver when my carry-on luggage containing all of my race and casual clothing for two weeks was taken to be put down below because of a lack of overhead space. I was assured that it would be handled with care and given back to me in Brussels. Ha!
My next flight however was looking great with an aisle seat in economy plus thanks to my Premier Executive status and a great movie selection for the next nine hours. I settled into my seat, feeling pretty content, when suddenly my heart sank. I looked up and saw a mother wielding three bags and a toddler banging through the aisle. She looked at me, and I then knew they were my seat mates for the next nine hours.
Long story short - within 20 minutes of this flight taking off, this monstrous baby was crying and squirming all over the place. He became such a handful that his mother let him down and he started to roam, first onto my lap and then into the aisle. To my amazement the mom then, magically, fell asleep! So, for the next six hours, I became Danny the Nanny, grabbing this kid as he would crawl underneath people's seats and try to run up and down the aisles, while his mother remained un-wake-able.
I did eventually get this kid to fall asleep, so for the next three hours and two whole movies, I sat there holding someone else's baby, whose name I didn't even know. This was until I got up to go to the bathroom. I put my new little friend down in my seat, and came back five minutes later to find the mother and child sprawled and passed out all over my seat.
By this time, the flight crew had figured out that this was not my baby and they were not even friends of mine. They were so amazed and shocked at this mother's behavior that they apologized profusely to me and then tried to wake up the sleeping pair. At this point, all hell broke loose and the sleeping mother broke in to a rage screaming at the flight attendants for waking up her baby.
Thankfully, we landed not long after this, and as I was exiting the plane the flight attendants handed me a card - it was a voucher for a free flight anywhere United flies. I could never get back the nine hours of lost sleep, but I did appreciate their gesture and it was some consolation for my awful trans-Atlantic crossing. By the way, the carry-on bag didn’t arrive for three more days.
Compared to some of the riders, my journey to Izegem was not that dramatic, even though it seemed so at the time. The moral of the story is that each and every one of us has a saga of what it took to get here, and if it weren't for Geoff Proctor's hard work and dedication making these camps happen every Christmas, none of us would have had the chance to learn something about the world and ourselves during the last few character-building days.
Let me just end by sharing what I always say to any new little friend who crawls up into my lap during a flight: Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
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This year's Euro 'Cross Camp will feature a total of 20 riders including four elite, seven under 23 and nine junior cyclo-cross racers. Some of the riders are veterans of previous camps while others are new.
It is the eighth year that Camp Director Geoff Proctor is taking young (mostly) American cyclo-crossers over to Europe to gain more experience racing in and near Belgium. The opportunity gives them the chance to experience cyclo-cross at its highest level with races at two World Cups. They'll also get to compete in several national-level events.
"Domestic racing is great, but you still have to go to Europe for the highest levels. If you want to be the best in the world, you have to go race the best," said Proctor, who is a school teacher in Montana. He's also a member of the UCI's Cyclo-cross Commission.
Riders will arrive on Thursday or Friday, December 16 or 17 and depart just after the New Year. Expect daily blogs from the riders on their vacation adventures.
Euro Cross Camp VIII Roster
Sean Babcock, 28, (Kona)
Ryan Knapp, 27, (BikeReg.com)
Ryan Iddings, 27, (Redline)
Mitchell Hoke, 23, (Cliff Bar Development Team)
Danny Summerhill, 22, (Garmin-Holowesko)
Jerome Townsend, 22, (BikeReg.com/Joe’s Garage/Scott)
Steve Fisher, 21, (Rad Racing NW/Hagens-Berman)
Chris Hurst, 21, (Unattached)
Joe Schmalz, 21, (KCCX/Verge/Challenge)
Zach McDonald, 20, (Rapha/Focus Cyclocross Team)
Cody Kaiser, 19, (California Giant/Specialized)
Yannick Eckmann, 18, (Hot Tubes Development Team)
Jeff Bahnson, 18, (Van Dessel Factory Team)
Gunnar Bergey, 18, (C3-Athletes Serving Athletes)
Bjorn Fox, 18, (Clif Bar Development Team)
Kolben Preble, 18, (Clif Bar Development Team)
Jeremiah Dyer, 18, (Champion Systems/Cannondale)
Zane Godby, 17, (Clif Bar Development Team)
Cypress Gorry, 17, (WEB-OP)
Andrew Dillman, 17, (Red Zone Cycling)
Euro Cross Camp VIII Race Program (subject to change)
Wednesday-Friday, December 15-17: Riders travel to camp
Saturday, December 18: Lichtervelde
Sunday, December 19: UCI World Cup-Kalmthout
Sunday, December 19: Maldegem
Wednesday, December 22: Team Training Race (Ardooieveld)
Saturday, December 25: Beernem
Sunday, December 26: UCI World Cup-Zolder
Sunday, December 26: Balagem
Monday, December 27: Super Prestige-Diegem
Wednesday, December 29: Azencross GVA-Loenhout
Thursday, December 30: Sylvester Cyclocross-Bredene
Saturday, January 1: GP Sven Nys GVA-Baal
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