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Appreciating the small things in an unfamiliar place

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McFadden after a successful race at MFG's Woodland Park GP

McFadden after a successful race at MFG's Woodland Park GP (Image credit: Matthew J. Clark/www.str8films.com)
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Courtenay McFadden's number before the mud of Namur

Courtenay McFadden's number before the mud of Namur (Image credit: Courtenay McFadden)
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McFadden in her first race on European soil

McFadden in her first race on European soil (Image credit: Dan Seaton/www.gearratios.org)

Finding comfort in a strange world when you're miles away from home can be difficult. As this is my first trip across the pond, I heard story after story about the way of Belgium, the racing, the spectators, the racers, the weather, the mud, the courses. The more I heard, the more worried I became. I was leaving everything I know, everything I feel comfortable with to travel to an unfamiliar land with unfamiliar people, racers and courses.

As I lined up for Namur on the fifth row, I felt a sense of nervousness fade away. All I had to do was race my bike to the best of my ability, soak up the experience, learn, and have fun. I was prepared with sharp elbows to hold my lines, I was prepared to hear no cheering, and I was prepared to crush the drops of Namur.

As the race began, I realized these girls are no different than racing at home, no matter what race you are in, everyone is vying for the best position. As I passed riders through turns and on descents, I realized I'm not the timid rider I thought I was. I found myself enjoying the steep drops of Namur, slipping and sliding around the ruts of mud that isn't typically seen in the US circuit. My favorite part of the day was dropping down one of the descents with tons of spectators at the bottom. As I was flying down the hill towards the padded barricades, I couldn't help but smile when the spectators would “ooh and aw” in fear that you were going to hit the barricade, and as you rode through the mud cleanly they cheered for you. Every lap I gave them a huge smile, and every time they cheered even louder as I pedaled away. Who said Belgium fans where quiet?

On the drive back to the house, we went through pockets of rain clouds and sunshine and saw a beautiful rainbow. As I reminisced on my first race day in Belgium, I couldn't help but smile. Being from the Pacific Northwest; rain, clouds, pieces of sunshine and rainbows commonly occur at the same time. When we race at home, we race in mud, and the fans in Seattle, they love to cheer. As it turns out, a race day in Belgium isn't much different than a race in the PNW.

Even though I'm miles away from home, in an unfamiliar land, it's the small things that you find comfort in to help you feel more at home. So as the skies open up with rain, and I hear the raindrops on the roof, and I can't help but smile as I find comfort in the small stuff.

EuroCrossCamp Director Geoff Proctor will lead the eleventh annual cyclo-cross camp that will run through late December and early January. 10 juniors, four U23s and two elite women will make the journey to Belgium to train and race over the Christmas and New Year's holidays.

Racing for the campers will begin on December 22 at the Namur World Cup and run through the Baal Bpost Bank Trophee on January 1. A few of the EuroCrossCampers will stay a bit extra so that they can also compete in the Rome World Cup on January 5.

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 racers as America's future 'cross stars. Coach Proctor and his riders will take turns contributing diary entries.

2013-2014 EuroCrossCamp XI Roster

Elite Women
Elle Anderson, San Francisco, CA, Cal Giant Berry p/b Specialized
Courtenay McFadden, Bellingham, WA, Bicycle Bluebook/Rock Lobster

U23
Andrew Dillman, Fairdale, KY, Sophisticated Living p/b Bob's Red Mill
Cody Kaiser, El Dorado Hills, CA, Cal Giant Berry p/b Specialized
Tobin Ortenblad, Santa Cruz, CA, Cal Giant Berry p/b Specialized
Logan Owen, Bremerton, WA, Cal Giant Berry p/b Specialized

Junior
Grant Ellwood, Boulder, CO, Boulder Cyclo Sport Devo p/b BJC
Peter Goguen, Hopedale, MA, RACE CF | racecf.org @racecf
Lance Haidet, Bend, OR, Bear Development Team
Gavin Haley, Louisville, KY, Red Zone Cycling Elite
Chris Key, Boulder, CO, Boulder Cyclo Sport Devo p/b BJC
Ian McShane, Louisville, KY, Sophisticated Living p/b Bob's Red Mill
Ethan Reynolds, Boise, ID, Hot Tubes Development Cycling Team
Austin Vincent, Simsbury, CT, RACE CF | racecf.org @racecf
Josey Weik, Wrenshall, MN, Red Zone Cycling Elite
Cooper Willsey, Hinesburg, VT, Cyclocrossworld.com/Cannondale

EuroCrossCamp schedule:
Thursday, 19 December – Riders arrive in Belgium (fly in to Brussels)
Sunday, 22 December - Namur WC
Sunday, 22 December - Waremme (for racers not racing in Namur)
Thursday, 26 December - Zolder WC
Thursday, 26 December - Beernem (for racers not racing in Zolder)
Friday, 27 December - Loenhout bPost bank trofee
Sunday, 29 December - Diegem SuperPrestige
Wednesday, 1 January - Baal bPost GP Sven Nys
Thursday, 2 January – Riders depart for U.S. (fly out of Brussels)
Friday, 3 January – USAC Selected riders fly to Rome
Sunday, 5 January - Rome WC
Monday, 6 Jan – Riders depart for U.S. from Rome