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Sleep, eat, race, recover, repeat

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The day's schedule.

The day's schedule. (Image credit: Jim Anderson)
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Mechanics doing what they do best!

Mechanics doing what they do best! (Image credit: Kolben Preble)
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Kolben Preble warms up.

Kolben Preble warms up. (Image credit: Tom Robinson)

This story takes place in a small, sleepy, industrial town somewhere in Belgium called Izegem. In this town there is a house - a medium-sized brick house situated on the corner across from the Mazda dealership. Every year around Christmas time, much to the amusement and dismay of the locals, about 20 crazy American cyclo-cross riders come here and invade the house and parts of the town. I am one of those riders and today, ladies and gentlemen, I am going to try and convey to you the day-to-day antics that take place here.

5:30 AM: The alarm sounds on my phone and I groggily fumble around to shut it off. Is it time to get up already? It seems like I just went to sleep. It's race day today and the juniors have an early start. In addition, there is a two-hour drive, plus the three hours it takes to sign in, pin numbers and fumble around the course.

5:45 AM: After falling down the stairs on my way to the kitchen I am ready to get going on the first challenge of the day - breakfast. This morning for the sake of time I keep it simple with toast, a yogurt with cornflakes, and to top it all off a banana.

6:25 AM: Hoping I remembered everything I pack into the IVECO van along with all the other juniors. Dang it! I end up with a middle seat. That means no sleep for me for the next two hours while everyone else around me is snoring.

8:30 AM: As the sun comes up over the countryside we arrive at the race. Geoff shows us the way to registration and we all wait for a painstakingly long time for the old Belgian dude in charge of registration to figure out how to use his computer.

10:30 AM: we all have our numbers now and were able to go pre-ride the course, or as they call it here parcours. The course is fairly straight forward - weave through some old cow pasture, mixed with a few fly-overs and a trip across a cement pump track. Of course it’s muddy like every other race so far but this course is far less technical than some others we have already raced.

11:23 AM: As I go to pass a juiced Belgian, in what seems like a totally legitimate place, he sticks his bars into mine and we both go down. As I go to get up I feel the repeated smack of a front tire on my head. I look up and the same guy who just crashed me is slamming his front wheel into me and yelling in a foreign language. Chuckling to myself, I ride off.

12:01 PM: Finished with my race I feel much better, but suddenly I am hit with the urge to eat everything in sight. I wolf down my sandwich and franticly weave my way through the sea of fans and team RVs looking for something edible.

3:07 PM: We arrive back at the house and untangle ourselves from the cramped van. Tomorrow is yet another race, so it’s a rush to hit the showers and get our stuff in the wash, all before the U23s get back.

4:00 PM: We all sit down to watch the pro race on TV. Some of us eat the most commonly consumed food in the house, yogurt, and others look like they're about to fall into a coma. It’s been a long day but it has been an even longer day for the mechanics. In a few hours we will all go to bed and start the process all over again. Just another day racing in Belgium!

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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