by Evan Schmitt
EuroCrossCamp IX just came to a close and we recently caught up with a few of the campers in a series of interviews we will publish prior to Nationals. In our third installment, we talk to C3/Athletes Serving Athletes junior rider Sam O’Keefe. Did you miss our interview with Jordan Cullen? Go back and check it out!Cyclocross Magazine: How has your trip been so far?
Sam O’Keefe: Very good. I was sick twice with an upset stomach, but recovered quickly. My favorite thing about the trip was being a part of a culture that is so meaningful to so many people. The riders are completely focused and pro all the time, and the fans hysterical. As a cyclist coming from the US, being in Belgium feels more like being a professional football player. Maybe this trip is a glimpse of the future for me.
CXM: What has been your biggest improvement as a rider?
SO: I’d say my perspective shifted being in Belgium. Before, my focus was on the national scene and I would put a lot of energy into small races culminating in Nationals. Racing internationally focused me on my long term goals, and takes the pressure off of Nationals. At the same time though, I anticipate that the experience of such intense racing will help all the time, even in races I won’t expressly focus on.
CXM: What courses have been your favorite and why?
SO: I had a good day physically and mentally at the Zolder World Cup. The course was not only challenging but also fun to ride. I’d watched lots of videos of the race which made me aware of it’s historical prestige. When I pre-rode the wooded section (fast, loose, turns and a steep uphill through a religious sanctuary – the course lined with monuments) I imagined a video I had seen of Sven Nys attacking.
One difference was that the courses (especially at large races like the World Cup) were designed primarily for spectator viewing. That meant that there were features like steep muddy drops and vertical run-ups, with people everywhere. What made the races in Belgium so cool for me was the spectators and ambiance.
CXM: What has been your favorite Belgian food?
SO: I have to say the chocolate, but the occasional frites aren’t so bad either…
CXM: What has it been like having 13 other riders your age who you can ride with on a daily basis?
SO: Overwhelming, but also a great opportunity to get to know those other guys as friends, talk about the different ways we train, how we eat and afterwards, how we relax. At home, cycling is “my thing,” but at Euro Cross Camp we were all on the same page about how we spend our time. Most training was recovery-based, so there was a lot of time for conversation. One memorable ride for me was getting horribly lost in Izegem (happens all the time) with Stephen Bassett, stopping into a bakery, and eventually getting directions home from a local.