The training races in Clinton, MT were always some of my favorite racing of the year. Low key, pretty flat, and everybody was raring to go early in the year. Yesterday at the Euro Cross Camp they had a team training race. Ryan Trebon, a staple of American cross racing the last few years (and multiple Euro Cross Camp participant) came over to join in the fun. And the racing seemed just as fun as those Clinton races...but a lot more muddy.
The racers pulled out from the house just before noon and headed to the course that Geoff had set up earlier in the day. In true Euro Director Sportif style, Geoff gunned the engine and passed the racers on the way to the course at Mach II. Great Fun. Also along for the ride was Lyne Lamoureax, a sportswriter from North America who covers cycling all over Europe. She also runs the website Podium Insight.
Geoff had ridden over and set up the course in the morning. It was going to be run down along the canal just on the edge of Izegem, and it was a classic Beligum day from my limited experience here. Wet...just a damp, wet, snowy and somewhat muddy track, with an ultra thick fog hanging in the air. I loved it. From a photographers point of view, it couldn't be much better. During the couple of warm-up laps, a couple of riders fell, and were instantly soaked. The whole ground was a puddle it seemed like.
The riders lined up for the start. It was the first cross race I had ever seen where all of the riders were starting on the front row. The race was to be 30 minutes. The winner of each division (elite, U23 and junior) would get excused from house chores for a day, with the overall winner getting a signed Sven Nys poster.
Ryan Trebon got the whole shot, with Zach McDonald on his wheel and Ryan Iddings close behind. The riders flew around in the mud, through the trees, up and down muddy hills and 30 minutes later, with a bike throw, Zach McDonald took the victory over Ryan Trebone. Though truth be told, in true training race spirit, it seemed though most riders were taking different routes throughout the whole course. I'm not sure any rider rode the same line for each route. The highlight of the race for me was when Bjorn Fox flew over his bars in a particularly muddy section and slid for what seemed like 20 feet. He bounced right back up (as juniors are apt to do) and said, "Wow...took a wrong line there."
The riders didn't hang around too long afterward, not wanting to cool down, and headed back to the house. About half the crew got their bikes power-washed by the mechanics and then headed out for a training ride. Todd Anderson (former Missoulian, and mechanic at Open Road in the early 90's) jumped in the Team USA wagon and drove while I hung out the passenger window shooting for the first 2k. Danny Summerhill spent half that time riding wheelies for me through the slush of the small Belgium backroads.
Back at the house I hung out for a while as riders washed clothes, watch videos on the internet, and ate food. When the first half of the training ride group got back, we headed into town for pizza, pastries and coffee...led by Ryan Trebon. Ryan is the best leader through crowded streets you could ever hope for. He's so damn tall, that he's easy to follow.
While gaining valuable racing experience in Belgium is the main goal for most of these riders, learning how to train and recover like a professional are also part of the program. The Euro Cross Camp has to be an amazing experience for these folks. I'm just a peripheral element to the camp, and it's an amazing experience for me.
For more photos from today, hit this word to jump to the site.
photos by: tomrobertsonphoto.com
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