There's this catch phrase in cycling right now, popularized by the Tour de France-crushing Team Sky. The phrase is about how cycling is all about "marginal gains" - small details that add up to create superior performance. Whether it's ice vests in the heat or, more 'cross relevant, one-psi pressure increments, the theory is that by adding up all these seemingly minor pieces of the puzzle that is victory, we can hope to maximize the potential of our performances come race-day. This idea, while designed to be something that relates the miniscule details, can also be used as a lens to view the "macro" of our cycling goals.
Sometimes, success comes in a wave, like some sort of proverbial manna from heaven, we get results or see improvement that catapults us to a different level. These moments, while being the ones we all dream and long for when we are looking to our season, are exceedingly rare.
More often success comes out of series of "marginal gains". Each season, each day, each race we stubbornly put our selves out there to try and claw our way up through the ranks, one hard-fought step at a time.
Where, you might be asking, am I going with all this jingoistic psycho-babble in this Euro 'Cross Camp journal? Well, the point all this is that today was the Zolder World Cup - a place of legend in the pantheon of cyclo-cross lore. When Worlds were held here, the crowd was estimated at 50,000 - 60,000 people. That's a lot of beer and frites in case you were wondering.
I was here at camp during the 2008-09 season and despite some of those dramatic waves of growing success that I was talking about earlier, I came over still somewhat of a late comer-newbie to the 'cross scene. Long story short, the trip was an amazing learning experience, and helped make me a better racer, but the other truth is that I got pretty beat down in these races - failing to finish on the lead lap in any of the World Cups or Super Prestiges that I started. This year's journey didn't start with much better, with a 48th place (at two laps down) in the Namur World Cup the other day, so I was really feeling the pressure to show that I was in fact a better and stronger racer then when I came here three years ago.
So today, when I made it through eight laps of brutal sand and mud and speed without getting pulled, and crossed the finish line to find Geoff [Proctor] waiting to congratulate me, it was a moment I probably won't forget anytime in the near future. Surrounded by thousands and thousands of people, my bike a grinding mess of grit and mud, my hands stiff enough with cold that I could only manage rudimentary tasks, I was proud of my marginal gain today.
It might not be the stuff of headlines, or job offers - I'll leave that to my younger, and incredibly talented teammate Logan Owen, who got second in the junior race today. But as the token "old guy" here at camp, I'll take the steady approach, and along with all my US compatriots here in this foreign country in the middle of the holidays, away from friends and family, chasing a dream and our chance to hopefully meld ourselves into better bike races in the heartland of the sport.
Today I am proud of proving to myself that hard work pays off, if only in marginal gains.
Euro 'Cross Camp Director Geoff Proctor will lead the tenth annual cyclo-cross camp that will run through late December and early January. Nine juniors, six U23s and one elite rider will make the journey to Belgium to train and race over the Christmas and New Year's holidays.
What's new for this year is the location of the Euro 'Cross Camp, which will be in Vorselaar, Belgium. Racing for the campers will begin on December 23 at the Namur World Cup and run through the Baal Bpost Bank Trophee on January 1. A few of the Euro 'Cross Campers will stay a bit extra so that they can also compete in the Rome World Cup on January 6.
The camp has previously helped the careers of racers like current US National Champion Ryan Trebon, Jeremy Powers and Jamey Driscoll. Read these diaries for hints of who may emerge from this year's crop of three elite, eight U23 and eight junior racers as America's future 'cross stars? Coach Proctor and his riders will take turns contributing diary entries.
2012-2013 Euro 'Cross Camp X Roster
Justin Lindine (Redline Bicycles), 28, New Salem, MA
Manny Goguen (C.F. Racing P/B Trek Portsmouth), 21, Hopedale, MA
Danny Gerow (Wolverine Racing Elite CX, 21, Grosse Pointe Farms, MI
Josh Johnson (Bissell-ABG-Nuvo), 20, Fort Wayne, IN
Skyler Trujillo (Boo/Enve/Challenge), 20, Fort Collins, CO
Andrew Dillman (Bob’s Red Mill Cyclocross), 18, Fairdale, KY
Tobin Ortenblad (Cal Giant Berry Farms/Specialized), 18, Santa Cruz, CA
Logan Owen (Redline Bicycles), 17, Bremerton, WA
Curtis White (Hot Tubes Development Team), 17, Duanesburg, NY
Nate Morse (Hot Tubes Development Team), 17, Cohasset, MA
Stephen Bassett (Bob’s Red Mill Cyclocross), 17, Knoxville, TN
Nick Torraca (Mad Duck Cyclery), 17, Grapevine, TX
John Francisco (Red Zone Cycling) 17, Louisville, KY
Peter Goguen (C.F. Racing P/B Trek Portsmouth), 16, Hopedale, MA
David Lombardo (Verdigris-Village Cyclocross), 16, Crystal Lake, IL
Josey Weik (ISCorp), 16, Wrenshall, MN
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