by David Hutton
Crossing the Pond with Euro Cross Camp 2008
For many ‘crossers, the season came to a close last weekend on the frigid knolls of Kansas City. ‘Cross fanatics are already starting to stockpile parts for next year, while others are happily putting the bike away, opting to celebrate the holidays and off season by eating far too much with little or no hesitation.
However, for nearly 20 of America’s top ‘crossers, the season is far from over as they venture to Belgium for Euro Cross Camp 2008 from December 19 -January 3.
Geoff Proctor is the founder of the Euro Cross camp program as well as the National Cyclocross Coach for the select group of American juniors and espoirs. Cyclocross Magazine got an opportunity to talk with Proctor as he shared his mind on the camp, his vision, the future of the sport and the coming Euro Cross camp kicking off this weekend.
The Visionary Mind
“You know you’ve arrived at the kindom hall of the sport when you get here.” The words of Geoff Proctor, an English teacher living in Helena Montana, and mastermind behind the Euro Cross Camp, present a man with a knowledge of words and a passion for cyclocross . Proctor holds an impressive resume himself, but his start in the cycling wasn’t as a junior phenom, or an emergent espoir, but as a college student studying abroad. “In 1986 I was in teaching school in Portugal and that’s when I started bike racing. I was 26 when I first started bike racing”, Proctor said.
His passion for cyclocross started in similarly unconventional fashion. “I’ll never forget, the end of January on a big grainy T.V., I turn on the T.V. and there’s the world championships, I could barely see it.” Proctor explains. “It was Lembeke, Belgium, pouring rain, absolute cowslop epic, and I thought oh my God that’s for me!”
Proctor raced for a team based in Zurich, G.S. Guerciotti, during the 1991-92 seasons. Following his time with G.S. Guerciotti, Proctor took part in three world championships as an elite in 1993, 94 and 96 and began working with USA Cycling in 2001 as a coach. It’s clear to see Proctor’s history is the driving force behind the Euro Cross Camp that he founded in 2003 based at the US National Team house in Izegem, Belgium.
The Experience of Euro Cross Camp
Proctor is faced with the difficult task of compiling the roster of riders each season. As he explained on the Euro Cross Camp blog, the criteria he bases his decision on is:
- my intuition-how the rider is going; my general sense of the rider’s potential for development; where the rider is in his/her development;
- my perceptions-how the rider will fit the chemistry of the camp; how well the rider has planned his/her 2008 season for a strong performance in December and January 2009 (discussed and instilled at the camp and worlds last season)
- results from October and November 2008
- potential for making the Worlds team selection
- past camp experience
The racing isn’t for the faint of heart or riders looking for an easy ride in the Belgian countryside. “The cross races we’re doing, we’re doing the highest level races,” Proctor said. “One of the cool things about the camp is if you have a great nationals you can carry on that momentum, and if you have a terrible nationals you can make up for it there.”
Pitting America’s top talent against the world’s most competitive racing is Proctor’s goal with the camp. He feels his camp can help successfully move today’s U.S. talent to a new level. “One of the goals to the camp is to articulate a seriousness and show kids what it means to be a bike racer and start to indoctrinate them that way for the sport.” Proctor says. “I think the level of seriousness and focus just feeds and grows there, the level is just so much higher.”
The Future of Cyclocross
In looking toward the future, if Proctor is able to implement his camp’s vision, he’ll keep moving the sport in the right direction.
“My camp is actually not officially with USA Cycling; it’s a private camp,” Proctor explains. “I started it, it’s in its sixth year, so it works in conjunction of USA Cycling in terms of goals, the same vision, but it’s not the same entity.” He said. “Their money situation is derived from Olympic discipline, it’s pretty clear that with the economy now, there just isn’t going to be money there so I am trying to find private sponsorship.”
“I think USA cycling is doing its priorities because that’s how it works, so my philosophy is, OK, lets accept that and move forward and see where we can go.” He explained. “I think the camp is just one element of that.”
Proctor’s shared his optimism in the sport of ‘cross and where he sees the sport progressing in the future. “The bread is still buttered on the road, or mountain biking for some but guys are starting to make start money in cross, they’re starting to be in demand, the prize money is starting to get up there so maybe these are just baby steps to someday having a professional ‘cross scene.”
The success through experience Eurocamp provides to American riders is undeniable. As Proctor explained, “[in Portland] last weekend I think there were 14 out of the 18 spots in the men’s events were camp riders at varying points in their career whether it’s Ryan Trebon or Gavin Mannion, they’ve all been to the camp so to me our little system is working by giving them European experience”.
Euro Cross camp 2008-2009: A look ahead
What awaits the riders in the coming weeks is classic European cyclocross racing at it’s finest as many riders are preparing for the World Championships in Hoogerheide, The Netherlands January 31-February 1.
“One of the things your really notice right away is the difference in courses in the challenge, both the conditions and the technical aspects of the courses tend to be quite a bit higher.” Proctor explained. “When I was racing over there in Europe, I remember during warmup laps, my personal goal was can I get around this course without killing myself? Can I actually ride around this course?” Clearly riders have a lot on their plate in the coming weeks.
Luckily today’s camp riders luckily won’t face some courses like Proctor faced. “The biggest difference between Europe and here is dramatic vertical” he said.
“I remember being at a race, Claudio Chiapucchi had just come off a top three at the Tour and I will never forget this race we did that started with a 100-meter run up; there was no riding it,” reminisced Proctor. “Of course we have had the UCI regs come in and make things much more regulated, but that’s just the kind of thing you would see!”
Catching up with Proctor this morning he explained that the camp is already underway. Riders arrived yesterday and took a short spin to watch today’s Lichtervelde race which he explained to be a “class staple of Belgian cyclocross”. U23 Champion Nick Weighall (Rad Racing) took the start as the only American rider but decided to save himself. Team racing kicks off in earnest with most of the team competing in Dec Uitbergen Sunday December 21. Looking ahead the Eurocamp riders will be competing in 10 races in 14 days including the Zolder World cup and the Loenhour and Baal GVA races.
Saturday Dec. 21- Lichetervelde
Sunday Dec. 22- Uitbergen (small national race; most of team competing)
Friday Dec. 26- Zolder WC; OR Beernem (small race for 3 guys not making WC selection)
Saturday Dec. 27- Touhout
Sunday Dec. 28- Diegem Super Prestige
Monday Dec.29 – Middlekerke (Plan B team option; Powers, Trebon, Driscoll racing this one)
Tuesday Dec.30- Loenhout GVA Series race
Thursday Jan.1- Baal GVA Series race; probably only juniors and elites
Friday Jan. 2- St Niklaas C2
Saturday Jan.3- depart
Sunday Jan4- (a few guys remaining on will do St Michelgestel Super Prestige)
Zach McDonald, Gavin Mannion, Eric Emsky, Cody Kaiser, Chris Wallace, Cody Cox, Joe Dombroski, Manny Goguen, Morgan Ryan.
Bjorn Selander, Nick Weighalll, Danny Summerhill, Will Dugan, David Hackworthy, Jeremy Ferguson, Andrew Llewellyn.
Troy Wells, Matt Shriver, Brian Matter
Cyclocross Magazine will be hard at work to keep in touch with Geoff Proctor and the Eurocamp team in the coming weeks as they embark on their stint in Europe. Feel free to check on the happenings of Eurocamp on their web page here.