Euro 'Cross Camper Yannick Eckmann (Clif Bar Development Team) scored a second place behind Belgian Gianni Vermeersch at the Noordzeecross in Middelkerke, Belgium, on Wednesday. Eckmann's performance bodes well just days before the Campers will take on the next Cyclo-cross World Cup in Zolder.
"It was a tough, hard race with a very fun course," said Eckmann to Cyclingnews. "I had a good start and found myself chasing the eventual winner. Then we were together, and I attacked a few times.
"But the level is very high here and I didn't get away. I need to work on my accelerations out of the corners. I'm good coming in to the turns, but coming out, it's all about acceleration." Eckmann is a German residing in Boulder, Colorado. He is expected to earn his US citizenship in time to race as an Under 23.
Riders who are part of the Euro 'Cross Camp are presently spending up to two weeks in Europe getting a taste of international 'cross racing. The performance of Eckmann and the other riders is making camp director Geoff Proctor proud.
"It was a good first effort for some of our juniors like Skyler Trujillo (Black Sheep Jr. Cycling), Chris Wallace, and Joshua Lehmann, and a strong effort for Yannick and David Kessler (11th). Yannick rode a very smart race, outriding and outwitting two of the four in the lead group," said Proctor to Cyclingnews. It takes awhile to adjust to the racing here, and I'm encouraged by where our juniors are right now. [They are] building the confidence for Saturday's World Cup."
Among the elite riders, alumni campers Jeremy Powers and James Driscoll (both Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) rode in the first and then the second group, too. "It was great to see," said Proctor. "And Jonathan Page (Planet Bike) had a decent race [He finished eighth. - ed.]."
Not every racer was putting it all on the line though. "Danny Summerhill had more of a training kinds of a race day, but Brian Matter (Team Gear Grinder) and Travis Livermon (Champion System/Cannondale) definitely stepped it up and looked good," said Proctor. "Our Under 23s were racing mixed in with the best in the world, and they all rode hard. It was a good day to work out a few bugs logistically and another brisk day in Belgium with intermittent sun and a stiff onshore breeze."
"Yannick's second place today to go with Danny Summerhill's third place in Lichetervelde this past Saturday are great indicators of what this Camp can achieve," said Proctor. "Good results feed off themselves. We've had some podiums over the years, but this year has started pretty well.
"Equally important are the gains in character I see in the riders. My experience has been that it's the mental side of the game that gets the most play when you're over here." Proctor added that the fitness gains count, but it's the character building that contributes most to improving results.
"Each day of the 'Cross Camp, I try to focus the riders on a character trait. Some days we discuss them; other days we don't have time, but I want them thinking about a new one each day. At the end of the day, these are the life skills they can take with them."