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Across the pond: Euro 'cross camp VI diary
For its sixth consecutive year, the Euro 'Cross Camp will travel to Izegem, Belgium for two weeks from December 20, 2008 to January 3, 2009, with some of America's most promising cyclo-cross talent. Euro 'Cross Camp Director and US National Team Coach Geoff Proctor selected 19 male riders to take on some of the toughest courses and strongest riders abroad and to prepare for the World Championships in late January.
The camp has 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.
Belgium, January 3, 2009
By Zach McDonald
Everyone has heard about the racing, the fans and the overall atmosphere of racing in Europe being quite different from the USA. It is all a challenge to overcome and it takes some time to get used to. However, the biggest problem for me during the Euro Camp is not the racing or the change in environment; it is simply finding something to do during the day to entertain myself.
I wake up at eight and am usually off training soon after. I return to the house somewhere in the twelve to one o'clock hour. Lunch goes by fast and soon I find myself with nothing to do. After the first couple days of the camp, internet gets old and watching the same songs on Jim TV (Belgian MTV) gets unbearable. There are only so many times in a day that I need to hear Womaniser and If I Were a Boy before losing a little bit of sanity.
Last week presented this problem a little more than this week since we had four days without a race. Nick and I were convinced to find a way to help cure the boredom and perhaps reclaim some of our sanity – or at least some of mine. After lunch on the 24th, I grabbed my photo gear we boarded the cruisers and set out to find something to entertain us.
We spun around town for a while but found ourselves quickly loosing interest in most of the places that we went. We just couldn't find a place that we could ride. I was losing hope the longer we rode feeling that I was losing some of the creativity that I thought I had. Luckily, we stumbled upon a dirt bank near a park and swimming pool. There we quickly were able to start carving a berm and started to enjoy ourselves.
We ended up spending a couple hours there sessioning the berm and seeing how low we could lean the bike into it. We tried to get creative with different lines into the corner and different speeds. Nick found a pretty good rhythm in the corner and he got quite comfortable laying the cruiser into the corner. It was pretty impressive.
I set out to try something different. Like every rider who comes the camp, I wanted to come away from the camp with new skills and abilities. Since I had not raced yet I wanted to get an early jump on that train by learning how to foot-plant one of the cruiser bikes. After close to half an hour of work, I was getting some satisfactory results. We continued riding until it got dark and headed back to the house for dinner.
That adventure held me over to the World Cup. Due to the constant racing there seemed to be few opportunities for shenanigans on the cruisers and more motivation for rest. This year, we weren't able to find time for a trip to the mall and luckily we didn't arrive late to any dinners.
All in all, I am very happy with my cross camp experience and incredibly pleased with my results. I am glad that I was able to take away more from the camp than just cruiser tricks. It is always a pleasure to race over here since no matter how I finish I always take some sort of knowledge from the race.
Editor's note: McDonald had one of his best results to date in Europe on January 1. He finished second to Dutchman Corné Van Kessel in the GP Sven Nys.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Zach McDonald
Below is a complete roster and racing schedule for this year's camp.
December 21: Uitbergen