For our tenth installment of our cross camp diary junior rider Evan Clouse tells us about getting used to new routines and the European race experience.
Close started his 2015-16 season back in Gloucester with a top 10 ride, and followed it up with a win at Cross of the North and a podium at both Kings CX and the Rocky Mountain Cyclocross Championships earlier this month. Now in Europe, he finds himself in new new surroundings.
by Evan Clouse
8,133 kilometers away from home in a foreign country. New countries, new cultures and a whole new different style of racing. Many people will call it “being Euro.” I call it a long half hour of pain.
No matter how much you read or think you know, it still doesn’t amount to being on the start line of a European race. Lining up next to sixty hormone enraged teens aiming for one thing—to win.
We drive to the little town of Diegem, only about five kilometers from the Brussels airport. Between the constant airliners flying over and the old castles, the race makes an awesome atmosphere. And an unusually dry winter here meant the track itself was pretty dry aside from a couple of deep mud sections before the finish.
One of the constant things you try to adapt to here is to routines. It’s one of the toughest things to master especially being an American. That includes at the races.
As we always do, we do a few laps and a warm up and we head to the start. After getting a face full of cobbles in Namur, I fully realized how crazy a European race start is. A few hundred meters into the course it makes it’s way into a tight S turn. Being Europe and a different style of racing, the Europeans turn on their instincts and dive bomb the corners, which sent me and another American off our bikes. Once again back to the whole idea about routines—expect to be knocked off your bike. In the states, if you chop someone or make contact everybody gets upset and wants to avoid it at all costs. Here, you’re on a battlefield and no one is on your side.
Another aspect of racing here is that every course is different. From the dunes of Koksijde to the deep ruts of Namur each course is truly an experience. And no matter how tough and technical you think your home course is, imagine three times more mud and it’s on steroids.
For it’s part, Diegem offered a little more American-friendly course with fast grass sections and a good bit of pavement. After a long sand pit came the barriers which most chose to hop, and there’s a short staircase to the finish. Even still, in the states most of us get used to battling in the top five. Here, most of us are battling just to stay in the top fifteen or twenty.
Although the racing has not been the best results wise, one of they keys to becoming a good racer over here is experience. And it doesn’t just come with a couple races. You need to experience this full ride we call Europe.
“Getting beat” is a light term for saying “getting pummeled”—for me literally. But racing in Europe is one of those things that breaks you down, and makes you come back stronger to show your not just another body on a bike. You’re here to race your bike and have a hell of a time doing it, and to show that just because your not European doesn’t mean you can’t perform to a world class standard.