Euro 'Cross Camp is back for year number eight this winter, and camp organiser Geoff Proctor has announced the list of 20 men that make up this year's roster including four elite, seven under 23 and nine junior racers.
The riders will travel to Europe and base themselves in Belgium for approximately two weeks at the end of December, during which time they will race a mix of local and international events.
"We'll get there Thursday or Friday, December 16th or 17th, and the riders will open their legs in the first race on Saturday," Proctor told Cyclingnews. "The first World Cup is in Kalmthout, which has Under 23 and junior categories. We have a few guys who are trying to finish in the top 16 in order to get a front row start at the world championships."
The first week of this year's trip in bookended by World Cups on consecutive Sundays. The racers were going to ride an event in Holland during the week in between but instead will do an intersquad scrimmage for "bragging rights".
"It'll be fun to have all the campers in the same race, and maybe I'll invite some other Americans who will be over there around then," said Proctor.
Not all the racers will be able to do the World Cups. Only six under 23 and juniors and eight elites can start each World Cup. "The rest will do smaller, non-UCI race that will still be amply challenging," said Proctor.
The camp will wrap up on Saturday, January 1 with a race in Baal, the hometown of Sven Nys.
The elite and under 23 racers will likely get to race more than the juniors during their time at the camp. Proctor explained why. "A Belgian federation rule limits junior races per week and per season. The idea is to keep them from over-reaching. In Belgium, you have a calendar card and officials sign it at each race. You can't do more than two per week."
Proctor explained that it's about quality, not quantity. "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." Proctor pointed out examples of racers who excel with many podium finishes in the US but infrequently crack the top 10 in Europe.
Riders going to the camp are self-funded. They must cover airfare and a daily fee that includes transport, lodging, food and mechanical support. This year four to five riders will get some financial assistance of up to about $500 from private donors. Many are helped personally by parents, sponsors and their community.
In between racing, riders will have other chances to learn about life as a bike racer. "This year, I have a sports psychologist coming and I'll probably have a soigneur give a seminar on the roles of team personnel in European racing," said Proctor.
He'll also include useful life lessons on time management and education. "I'll have a few of the camp's riders give a talk on balancing bike racing and college. For example, a guy like Zach McDonald balances school at the University of Washington with U23 racing. As a teacher, I want to see these guys navigate that balance." Proctor is a high school teacher in Montana.
As in previous years, Euro Cross Camp will not include any women. Proctor hopes to change that in the future. "I tried different approaches to getting some women and I was close, but you can't just bring one woman. I talked to a few up until Fort Collins a few weeks ago but it didn't work out. I will try a few different approaches next year. I'd like to see three or four come over."
Looking at current results, past camps have proven a success, helping some of the current top domestic riders develop their careers. "Seven of the top 10 riders at the Fort Collins USGP were camp alumni. Ryan Trebon, Barry Wicks, Jeremy Powers, Brian Matter, Tristan Schouten, Zach Mcdonald, Nick Weighall, Troy Wells and Adam Kappius, etc."
The effects of the camp can be far reaching, going beyond just those riders who get selected to attend. "In a lot of ways, I think people see the camp as uni-directional, bringing Americans to Europe to race there, but it goes both ways. Those guys bring and spread the knowledge they've gained when they come back to the US."
Below is a roster and schedule of races for this year's Euro 'Cross Camp. Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for a blog from the camp and additional features.
Euro Cross Camp VIII Roster
Sean Babcock, 28, (Kona)
Ryan Knapp, 27, (BikeReg.com)
Ryan Iddings, 27, (Redline)
Mitchell Hoke, 23, (Cliff Bar Development Team)
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