EuroCrossCamp VII Diary Series – Writing on the Wall and Breakfast with Els

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The riders do their best to train in spite of the weather. © Nathan Phillips

The riders do their best to train in spite of the weather. © Nathan Phillips

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 four? Read about the camp’s protected riders.

by Nathan Phillips

Two rest days in a row have made for an interesting scene here at the EuroCrossCamp. The welcomed days off turn into mixed blessings as Camp members begin to feel anxious about how to fill their time between races. How much time on the bike? Should I go out and explore, or should I simply rest? These are the questions all riders ask, providing me a chance to see some very creative ways to pass the time in Izegem, Belgium.

I’ve considered writing out of chronology, beginning with mid-day, or even the end of it, but writing in a time sequence makes sense because of the way the staff structures the day to day. The Camp runs according to the “Board,” a dry-erase board hanging on an open wall, one of the only walls without prized jerseys and trophies.  Written in several colors, the Board contains information about each day, who will be at the next three races, the master schedule for the riders’ trips home, the word of the day from Geoff Proctor, and a quote from Fox.  From this white board, every rider can easily access almost every bit of planned information they might need.

Everything begins with breakfast. Most riders gather around the table, while Geoff Proctor and Fox plan the logistics for the next race in Baal, Belgium. I have a chance to sit across from Els Deleare and Fox, and ask them a few questions about their labor of love with the Camp. I ask what makes the Belgians so fast, not knowing what to expect, when my answer comes rather telegraphically from different areas of the table.

“I don’t have an explanation.” Els smiles, “some people are in love with it.”

“The water,” Zach McDonald adds in exclamation.

“And the horse meat,” says Jerome Townsend.

“And they’re a lot smarter” laughs Fox.

I always have questions for the staff here, and can’t wait to corner them at breakfast or dinner and grill them about all I can. I’ve been meaning to ask Els who her favorite riders have been over the years, and how she can remember them with such a fast turn around with the Camp riders.

“You always have your favorites. I have very good memories from the first years… the smaller groups, with only five or six riders.” Els downplays her ability to remember riders’ names who have passed through the house.

Trying to ask the previous question about Belgian riders in a different way, I ask what advice Els can give to American’s wanting to find success at the sports highest level in Belgium. “They have to start to come here when they are fifteen-sixteen Juniors, and keep coming. They have to learn to ride their bikes here.”

As she finishes her coffee, I only have enough time to ask her if she enjoys the work she does with the Camp and cyclocross. Her answer is a confident yes, but she gives clarification that it is not always easy. “This is very hard, it takes a lot of energy, so you always have your good and bad days.”

Passing the time with a game of Monopoly. © Nathan Phillips

Passing the time with a game of Monopoly. © Nathan Phillips

Riders disperse from the kitchen and dining room to their preferred form of training. Justin Lindine, David Kessler, and Travis Livermon decide to ride to Roubaix, France. Danny Summerhill and Josh Berry, begin their training with sprints on the street in front of the house, and finish up on trainers. Some brave the wet roads for an hour or so, while others choose not to ride or avoid the weather on rollers. I talk to a few of the guys riding inside, when Summerhill pushes his muddy bike through the door.

“Second day out since I’ve been at the camp.” Summerhill sets his bike up on a trainer. I can’t help but ask why today of all days was a good day to venture out into the weather. “I wanted to get out and work on my sprints. I feel like that’s where I’m getting screwed lately.”

Leaving the pensive Summerhill to his training, I can’t get my mind off the white board in the dining area. I can’t help but see the irony in removing every variable on the way to an event that has an unforeseeable outcome. Plan, plan, plan, and then chaos. Yet, it is this planning, and the eliminating of each variable that makes the Camp so Euro-Pro, a life dedicated to the sport.

The word of the day is Perseverance, one of a series that Proctor has been writing on the board for reflection, and bringing up during the team meetings in the evenings. Tomorrow’s word of the day, mental toughness, get ready for Baal.

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