This summer, things have not gone as planned, as we live through the fears and stressors of a pandemic and watch cycling events get canceled as a result. Among this year’s cancellations were Montana Cross Camp, Vermont Cross Camp, and numerous U.S. Cycling Regional Talent ID Camps across all disciplines. Thus, many young riders had not only their racing plans, but also their summer camp plans dashed.

Related to this, it’s worth noting that racing, especially cyclocross, doesn’t always go as planned. Perhaps a first corner crash leaves you chasing virtually from the gun. Good coaches teach riders to never, ever give up, regardless of circumstances. Instead, riders should pivot to a “Plan B.” Plan B might be “How many riders can I catch before the finish” or “With nothing to lose, can I ride that feature?”

Megan Barr climbing Krumpit. 2016 Jingle Cross Day 1 Night Race - Elite Women. © A. Yee / Cyclocross Magazine

Finding a challenge during the race: Megan Barr climbing Krumpit. 2016 Jingle Cross Day 1 Night Race – Elite Women. © A. Yee / Cyclocross Magazine

EuroCross Academy, the brainchild of Geoff Proctor, encompasses Montana Cross Camp, Vermont Cross Camp and EuroCross Camp. Because of in-person camp cancellations, Proctor pivoted to run plan B: Summer 2020 Remote Sessions. In Proctor’s words, the sessions aim to “share motivation, expertise, and, most of all, community with participants/viewers looking for weekly support, affirmation, and refinement to their cyclocross training this summer.”

Tempering some of the disappointment, the 80+ athletes registered for Montana Cross Camp and Vermont Cross Camp were automatically re-registered for the remote sessions. Additionally, the online format allowed more aspiring riders from around the world to join of Edinburgh, Scotland was one such addition to the group. Like all of us, she’s been in lockdown mode all spring. The Remote Sessions give her something to look forward to: “With lockdown, the long period without racing, cyclocross sessions or training rides with friends, it’s easy to lose sight of what you’re actually working towards. The sessions remind you why you are training and what you are striving for, which lifts your morale and commitment.”

Ishbel Strathdee training at home, working on skills. photo: courtesy

Ishbel Strathdee training at home, working on skills. photo: courtesy

But how does one keep young riders engaged in an online format?

No doubt, Proctor’s background as a high school English teacher helps. As everywhere, his English classes went fully online this spring, so he has recent experience engaging students from a distance. His successful formula is to: invite inspiring athletes, unify the day’s lesson around a theme, require “funwork” prep (homework, but better), utilize both video and social media and include on-the-bike challenges outside of class.

Cyclocross Magazine was lucky enough to sit in on the Wednesday, July 1 Remote Session, “Discipline,” with special guests, Dutch riders and Telenet Beloise Lions team members, Lucinda Brand and Shirin van Anrooij.

The language of Dutch is an integral part of cyclocross culture. U.S. cyclocross riders who race in Europe become used to racing/living among the sounds of Dutch (or Flemish, the Dutch dialect of Flanders, Belgium). Accordingly, Proctor weaves a bit of Dutch into the remote sessions.

“Stevig in je schoenen staan.” Proctor introduced both this phase and the pros, Brand and Van Anrooij, to the group. Literally, the phrase means to “stand firm in your shoes.” Figuratively, it suggests confidence and feeling grounded. Brand explained that it’s a feeling you would hope to have when speaking out. Van Anrooij added that it’s the feeling you want to have before a race. No doubt, this confident, grounded feeling is born out of “discipline,” the theme of the day’s session. Brand, having just returned from a four and a half-hour solo ride in the rain, cited “riding in the rain” as an example of discipline (doing the work) that leads to confidence: “Stevig in je schoenen staan.”

Young Dutch rider Shirin van Anrooij had a strong afternoon, finishing seventh. 2019 Superprestige Zonhoven. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

Van Anrooji graced Eurocross Academy’s remote session. photo: Young Dutch rider Shirin van Anrooij had a strong afternoon, finishing seventh. 2019 Superprestige Zonhoven. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

In preparation for the class, students had several assignments. One was a writing exercise, exploring discipline in their lives. The other was to research answers to a series of questions regarding the careers of Brand and Van Anrooij. For example, “How many World Cups did Brand win in 2019/20?” It’s likely the Brand and Van Anrooij are already heroes to the young athletes in attendance, but if not, by the time they finished “funwork,” they were well-versed in Brand and Van Anrooij’s achievements.

If you’ve been on a Zoom call (Who hasn’t recently?!), you know that they can get a little boring. Even the best speakers lack a little luster as they sit in their living room with earbuds.

Proctor prevented any inevitable monotony and focused the athlete interviews using video coverage of the World Cups Namur and Hoogerheide. The clip from Hoogerheide showed Brand crashing and chasing back. Meanwhile, Van Anrooij caught the Elite group, followed wheels and stayed with the group. Brand took the win and Van Anrooij had a breakthrough World Cup result: seventh.

After setting the stage by explaining the context, Proctor had Brand and Van Anrooij explain what they were thinking and feeling in the moment. Brand shared the cause of her crash (taking a b-line) and how she “stayed calm” while chasing. Van Anrooij recalled her feelings, “I can’t believe I am in this position.” She also shared that the result was extraordinarily meaningful because she had just signed with the Telenet Beloise Lions and Hoogerheide is only 20 minutes from her home.

Van Anrooij came across as very human. It can be difficult to remember her youth in light of her accomplishments, but she is just 18 years old. For many of the young listeners, Van Anrooij’s rainbow jersey likely makes her seem a little untouchable. However, Proctor focused his interview with Van Anrooij on the discipline it took for her to balance school and riding. She just graduated middelbare school (high school) this spring. Van Anrooij confessed that she didn’t really like school but knows it’s important as she plans to go to university. She explained that school was nine-to-five every day except Wednesdays (students in the Netherlands and Belgium get out of school early on Wednesdays), so during the winter she usually has to train inside because of darkness. Despite a rainbow jersey, the young riders must have felt she was “just like them.”

Removing the barriers between the Americans and the Europeans, making the Euros human, is key to developing young Americans’ belief that they can succeed internationally.

For the second half-hour, coaches Rebecca Fahringer, Roger Aspholm, and Allison Arensman led the class.

Fahringer gave a presentation on nutrition to the group. She emphasized that she does not have a nutrition degree and rather was sharing what she learned by working with a nutritionist, as well as her own experiences. She emphasized “food is fuel,” food quality (micronutrients) and the importance of “being human,” namely, eating 80% healthy and 20% for pleasure. Fahringer was the voice of reason we want young minds to hear. She explained, “Diet means the composition of what you are eating, not calorie restriction. You should be learning to eat for long term health.”

Rebecca Fahringer was the Elite Women's Vittoria Series winner. 2019 NBX Gran Prix of Cross Day 2. © Angelica Dixon

Food is fuel says, Rebecca Fahringer. photo: the Elite Women’s Vittoria Series winner. 2019 NBX Gran Prix of Cross Day 2. © Angelica Dixon

The final segment of the day tied skills with social media. Athletes had been tasked with a weekly challenge: run 81 meters shouldering the bike. 81 meters represented the distance pro riders ran in the Battle of Balenberg hot lap. The athletes filmed their running challenge and posted it to Instagram, tagging it #summercxchallenge and #RUN81. The tags allowed the coaches to gather the videos and provide feedback to each athlete. At the end of the session, Roger Aspholm spoke to running technique, and then he and Allison Arensman reviewed select riders’ runs with the whole group.

Camp participant Ryley Mosher (Boxborough, Massachusetts) explained the challenges make the program more than just academic: “One thing I love about the remote sessions is our ability to push ourselves even when separated. The challenges we get each week mix up my training and remind me what’s to come in cyclocross season.”

Ironically, the same morning that Discipline Remote Session met, the UCI announced the cancellation of the 2020 Trek World Cup and Ireland World Cup. It was yet another blow to the young athletes’ 2020 aspirations.

Because there’s not a lot of good news in the news right now, it’s all the more important for our up-and-coming riders to feel hopeful and engaged. EuroCross Academy Remote Sessions are offering a ray of sunshine in an otherwise gloomy summer. Strathdee concluded: “The sessions are something to look forward to every week. It’s an opportunity to be part of a group of riders and coaches who share the love of cyclocross. The community spirit is great. It’s good fun!”