Montana State Junior Nathan Phillips has embedded himself in EuroCrossCamp to document the inner workings of the camp that has had a pivotal role in developing American cyclocross talent. Nathan’s second entry, explores the chaos of a cyclocross-race-laden week in Belgium and gives a taste of life in the pits. Missed day two? Read about Euro ‘cross chaos and Diegem.
The day begins with a calm breakfast as riders and present staff chat about the day before. People filter in and out of the kitchen finding what they wish to eat from the house’s large stock of goods and foods. The Camp’s Soigneur, Chris De Vos, aka “Fox,” tells a few tales of past road riders who have stayed at the house over the years. “If only these walls could talk,” he laughs along with Elite racer Troy Wells, Geoff Proctor and U23 Zach McDonald.
Behind the table is a well-kept living area with couches, a small library and a television. U23 Danny Summerhill sits, reflecting on something, while fellow U23 rider Josh Berry occupies the opposite couch, taking in both the television and the conversation at the table. As I sit down beside Josh Berry, several riders pass between the dining and living areas to grab their bikes for the morning ride. I ask Josh if we can do a short Q&A, and he agrees, citing the slower day as a good time to have an interview.
I ask Berry how the experience at the Camp changes the way he races in other disciplines. “I think it helps with strength, cornering, and all those skills. Racing in Europe has been mentally huge from the first day of camp.” He also mentions the few worries he has about his teammates back home racking up the base miles for road season while he charges through the mud in Europe. Although he expresses concern, his demeanor suggests he is not too worried about it.
My next question is one that all high level cyclocross racers face; is or will cyclocross be your main discipline? “My focus is going to the Olympics… If cyclocross were an Olympic sport, I’d be focused on cyclocross.” The time trial is Berry’s strengh on the road, and until cyclocross moves into the Olympic games, he believes that road will be his primary focus.
Pairing the next two questions together, I ask, “Is success in Europe only measured by results, and if so, is a podium in the United States or a top-twenty in Europe better?” Berry thinks carefully over his answer. “Success is definitely measured in results, but here it’s different… just being over here is a success.” The second part of the question comes with a bit more difficulty, but his answer is short and to the point, “Top-twenty!”
I move to the last few questions for a bit of fun, and so Berry can begin the rest of his day. Quickly we rattle off: favorite pre-race music, “Miley Cyrus mixed with Lady Gaga,” favorite part of the camp so far, “Troy Wells, the most entertaining,” and his favorite rider, “Lars Boom.”
Before lunch, each rider has his own agenda. Troy Wells and Brian Matter do the math for the divided start money, as McDonald laughingly questions them when his cut isn’t big enough. McDonald discusses “shrowping” with Berry at the table-essentially, “really shredding the corners.” I ask if McDonald was implementing this technique while racing in Diegem yesterday.
A few more riders head out for their rides, as Proctor and Summerhill meet in the large mechanic’s shop to have a meeting out on the road, occasionally the best way to find peace as everyone works to keep the house running smoothly. A mechanic heads out the door with one of Jeff Bahnson’s bikes to give it some personal attention over the lunch hour. It is truly a dedicated staff that the Camp calls on to keep everything in order.
I sneak in to the dining and living area before dinner to catch the last twenty minutes of the team meeting for the day. Snapping a few photos, I stand in the corner listening to the issues brought up by the riders. The majority of the conversation centers on the race tomorrow in Loenhout. A lot of attention is placed on fighting for positions in Europe. Proctor tactfully suggests ways for the riders to not give up room to the European racers, “A lot of us have problems not being the nice guy.” The riders share each other’s experiences, and the meeting is concluded with a viewing of last year’s race in Loenhout.
The evening finishes up with the team dinner. Mechanics work into the evening finishing bikes and gluing tubulars. They will have a short night before the commute early tomorrow morning, and it all begins again.