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Fun in the snow at camp

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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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Ryan Knapp in Kalmthout

Ryan Knapp in Kalmthout (Image credit: Tom Robertson)
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Trying to find our way around while "rallying"

Trying to find our way around while "rallying" (Image credit: Ryan Knapp)
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The start of our Gentelmans Race.

The start of our Gentelmans Race. (Image credit: Tom Robertson)
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A little ice on my shoes after our practice race.

A little ice on my shoes after our practice race. (Image credit: Tom Robertson)

As a first time Euro Cross Camp attendee, I had all kinda of thoughts and ideas as to what camp life might be like here in the heart of Cyclo-cross country. Some of them were fairly accurate and others not so much.

The dynamic here at camp is an interesting one to say the least. In general, we have a bunch of guys who enjoy a good practical joke and most can take the ribbing just as well as they can give it (almost). From what I hear from the veterans, this seems to be one of the best team dynamics the camp has seen in recent years. It definitely makes for some good times around the dinner table and plenty of laughs.

The good times have definitely spilled over from the dinner table out onto the streets of West Flanders on our training rides and races. Since Belgium has seen an unusual amount of snow since we arrived last week, we have been having some good times "rallying" our bikes on the training rides. If we're really looking to sharpen our handling skills, we'll set out on road tires. With the frozen streets, road tires and a little "argy bargy", entertaining ourselves on the training rides is a simple task.

Today we went about our normal routine, but with a twist. Our camp Director Geoff wanted to give us a chance to open up our legs in the middle of the week, while also giving us a chance at some inter-squad competition. He mapped out a short course near the canal, weaving through the trees and around some natural obstacles. Ryan Trebon even came over to throw down in the snow and slush and see if his "argy bargy" was up to snuff. A good time was had by all, and the gentleman's race even came down to a photos finish between Zach and Ryan.

I'd be remiss to give an account of my experiences here and do it without note of my first ever World Cup. The race result was nothing to write home about, but the experience was unbelievable. It blows my mind that I can travel across the Atlantic to race at the highest level and, logistically speaking, it was easier than doing a local race. It's a testament to the hard work and planning that Geoff Proctor and the Camp Staff put into every part of the process. I'm scheduled to race four out of five days starting after Christmas, and I'm determined to make the most of my time here, hopefully each race.

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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

Elite men

Sean Babcock, 28, (Kona)
Ryan Knapp, 27, (BikeReg.com)
Ryan Iddings, 27, (Redline)
Mitchell Hoke, 23, (Cliff Bar Development Team)

U23 men

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)

Junior men

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