For me, this year's EuroCrossCamp was about doing Belgian races, where I knew what to expect. Until now, every course I had done on my past two trips was a brand new experience. I didn't know what to expect around the next corner. This time, I knew Namur would be crazy technical, Loenhout would be a tractor pull and Beernem has a dangerously tight start. Now I could apply what I had learned last year to both the races and the lifestyle in general.
When I arrived, I was greeted by a warm and sunny Belgium. I had come from temperatures of around -20 degrees F, so it was practically tropical and riding outside felt great. The first few days in Belgium were relaxing.
Three days into the trip was the Namur World Cup. This was my favorite race last year. With its insane drops and brutal uphills, it really is a primal course that favors a rider who can handle their bike and the pain that comes along with such an intense race. I made sure everything was in line for me to have a perfect race. Pre-race meal, check. Pre-ride, check. Warm up, check.
The thing with 'cross, though, is that any control you think you have over the outcome of a race is usually an illusion. Immediately off the start there was a large crash that I got caught behind and, just as I was starting to recover from it, I went over the bars and crashed really hard on my shoulder. I had to ride the rest of the race with one arm until I was pulled.
A few days later, all the EuroCrossCamp kids and I had the honor of a Q & A session with the world champion Sven Nys. Meeting him in person was a great experience and we all got to ask, arguably, the greatest cyclo-cross racer of all time any question we wanted. He is the embodiment of a true champion. Confident, Humble, and disciplined. I learned a lot from him in just half an hour. A big thanks goes out to Geoff for arranging this and Sven for taking the time out of a very busy schedule to talk to a bunch of aspiring American kids.
It didn't take me long to recover from my Namur crash and, just a few days later, I was ready to go at it again in Beernem. It's a local race, smaller and not UCI registered, so it's not limited by any safety constraints. As a result, the course is dangerous. Right after a really long and fast start, you are constricted into a two-meter wide alleyway. There are several high speed corners where you will go into the creek if you don't make the corner, and various rocks and roots strewn about the course just waiting to give you a flat. It's a fun race though, and I had a good time placing 11th.
The next race on the schedule was Loenhout or, as I like to call it, the tractor pull with whoops thrown in. I feel like this adequately sums up the entire course. It's not a well suited race for me, but I still had a decent day and pulled a 23rd.
I was supposed to race Diegem, one of my favorites. It's a super cool course with lots of climbing and unique features. Alas, I woke with a sore throat. I went to the race course to see if I could still race, but could barely breathe in the pre-ride. I decided to opt out and try to get healthy for the last race in Baal.
Despite some disappointments, EuroCrossCamp has been a lot of fun and a great learning experience. It's an honor to attend this camp once again. Thank you so much to all the staff for making it smooth and hitch free. Thank you also goes to each and every person who made it possible for me to attend.