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Cyclocross

Into the fray: U.S. ‘crossers head to camp

Now that it’s the holiday season, millions of Americans are travelling home to relax with family and friends. There is one select group of Americans, however, who will be doing just the opposite: leaving home and hearth to fly across the Atlantic and compete against the world’s best cyclocross racers in the damp and chill of northern Europe.

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Proctor’s Euro Cross Camp remounts in Belgium

By Neal Rogers

Trebon in Hofstade.

Trebon in Hofstade.

Photo: Graham Watson

Now that it’s the holiday season, millions of Americans are travelling home to relax with family and friends. There is one select group of Americans, however, who will be doing just the opposite: leaving home and hearth to fly across the Atlantic and compete against the world’s best cyclocross racers in the damp and chill of northern Europe.

For the fifth year in a row, American national cyclocross team coach Geoff Proctor is holding his Euro Cross Camp, a 14-day race program that offers elite, under-23 and junior men a total of 10 days of racing at the sport’s highest level. (No elite women are attending this year’s camp, and in Belgium junior men are only allowed to race twice a week.)

Riders arrived on December 20, with the first race scheduled for December 22. The two biggest events will be the December 26 World Cup in Hofstade, Belgium, and the GVA series race held in Loenhout, Belgium, on December 30. On the camp’s Web site, Proctor warns riders to “Be prepared for cold, dank, dark weather.”

After mentoring with U.S. national road team director Noel Dejonckheere in the summer of 2003, Proctor, a high school English teacher from Helena, Montana, who raced the world ’cross championships in the mid-90s, organized a two-week camp based out of Dejonckheere’s “USA House” in Izegem, Belgium. Attendees of the 2003 camp included Jeremy Powers, Andy Jacques-Maynes, Erik Tonkin, Carmen D’Alusio and Gina Hall.

Proctor’s original mission, to provide Americans with as much world-class experience as possible heading into the late-January world championships, hasn’t changed.

“It all comes down to trying to create opportunities,” Proctor said. “I’m trying to do my part and give back a little, but it’s hard, I am only one guy.”

Staff at the Euro Cross Camp includes Proctor and Dejonckheere, four mechanics, three soigneurs and Dejonckheere’s wife, head camp chef Els Delaure. Riders usually share rooms with either one or three others, and are required to fix their own breakfasts and lunches, with Delaure preparing nightly meals that double as team meetings.

In addition to covering round-trip travel to and from Brussels for themselves and their bikes, riders must pay $125 per day, which covers nearly everything a rider will need: airport pick up and drop off, all transportation to races, room, shower, linen, food, mechanic support, massage and arranging start money. The only costs not covered include junior Belgian race licenses, various race entry fees, phone charges and spending money for the odd trip to the grocery store.

Attendees of this year’s camp include 2006 national champion Ryan Trebon, 2006 national junior champion Danny Summerhill and this year’s Crank Brothers U.S Gran Prix of Cyclocross under-23 series winner Jamey Driscoll. All three have already been nominated to the U.S. national team for the 2008 UCI Cyclocross World Championships in Treviso, Italy, January 26-27.

In all, eight juniors and six espoirs will join Trebon and Tristan Shouten, the only other elite rider.

Elite men’s nominations to the world championships will be announced on January 14 following the next two rounds of the World Cup. Both Trebon, the winner of the USGP series, and recently crowned national champion Tim Johnson will receive automatic selection. Proctor said he expected last year’s world championship silver medalist Jonathan Page and Powers to earn nominations, with one remaining spot to be determined.

“It’s too bad Jonathan Baker broke his collarbone [at the NBX Grand Prix, in Warwick, Rhode Island, on December],” Proctor said. “He would have certainly been in the running for that last spot.”

Johnson, Powers and Johnson’s wife Lyne Bessette will also be racing in Europe, based at a private home.

Though Proctor is the national cyclocross team coach and Dejonckheere is the national road team director, the Euro Cross Camp is privately run and not affiliated with USA Cycling, meaning camp selection is solely at Proctor’s discretion.

Proctor uses his role as technical director at the USGP series to determine which riders would best fit into the demanding camp. Once at camp, top performances will weigh heavily in both selection for, and preparation for, the world championships.

“The world championships really aren’t the best time to try to get experience,”
Proctor said. “It’s better for these guys to come to a certain comfort level, learning the riders, the courses, and the magnitude of the level of competition.”

Proctor points to Summerhill, who earned silver at last year’s world junior championship, as an example of how his camp can develop a rider.

“Danny is a guy who just loves ’cross,” Proctor said. “I want to help him as much as I can. He relishes in that European exposure and I believe his success is a testament to the camp. That silver medal showed the comfort level he gained having spent two camps with us.”

Proctor said another camp benefit for young riders is the opportunity to show Dejonckheere their stuff. Both Summerhill and recently crowned under-23 national champion Bjorn Selander met Dejonckheere through the Euro Cross Camp and subsequently were picked to ride for the national road team. Summerhill was the top American at this year’s world road race championship, in seventh.

“I am just a big believer in the whole ecosystem model,” Proctor said. “The more we have good programs in all disciplines of the sport, we’ll see more cross pollination like we’ve seen with Selander and Summerhill, and even guys like Tim Johnson and Ryan Trebon.”

Selander, a first-year espoir, opted not to attend Euro Cross Camp this year, preferring to save himself for road racing next year, and instead will focus on his final two years in the under-23 cyclocross category.

Also absent, for the first time in four years, is Proctor’s family. Instead, they will join him in Italy at the world championships, and the family will take a week’s vacation afterwards.

“As they say, I have a lot of skin in the game,” Proctor said. “There is a certain amount of sacrifice that goes into this. This is my vacation time, I have a real job, and it’s not easy to leave your family for the holidays.”

Instead, like the riders at camp, Proctor will spend Christmas and New Year’s far from his family in a foreign land, in cold, dank, dark weather. His trip to the world championships, however, is already assured.

For more information, visit www.eurocrosscamp.com.


2007-2008 Euro Cross Camp Roster
Elite Men
Ryan Trebon, 27, Kona-YourKey.com, Bend, OR
Tristan Shouten, 26, Planet Bike, Sheboygen, WI

Espoir Men
Jaimey Driscoll, 22, FiordiFrutta Elite, Jericho, VT
Danny Summerhill, 19, Clif Bar Development, Englewood, CO
Nicholas Weighall, 21, Rad Racing NW, Mill Creek, WA
Mitchell Peterson, 21, Devo, Sandy, UT
Carson Miller, 19, Fred Meyer, Bend, OR
Brady Kappius, 21, Clif Bar Development, Littleton, CO

Junior Men
Steve Fisher, 18, Rad Racing NW, Lynnwood, WA
Gavin Mannion, 17, Hot Tubes, Dedham, MA
Eric Emsky, 17, Rad Racing NW, Fall City, WA
Andrew Llewelyn, 18, Papa Johns, Louisville, KY
Clayton Omer, 18, Papa Johns, Louisville, KY
Jeremy Ferguson, 18, Team Spine, Rocklin, CA
Zach McDonald, 17, Oberto/Redline, Bainbridge Island, WA
Ian Terry 17, Rad Racing NW, Seattle, WA

2007-08 Euro Cross Camp Schedule
Dec 20 – Arrival
Dec 22 – Laarne – Juniors/U-23/Elite
Dec 23 – Balegem – Juniors
Dec 23 – Zeddam C1 (Holland) U-23/Elite
Dec 26 – Hofstade WC – Juniors/U-23/Elite
Dec 27 – Tourhout C2 – Elite
Dec 28 – Loenhout GVA Series/C1 – Juniors/U-23/Elite
Dec 29 – Middlekerke C2 – Elite
Dec 30 – Diegem SuperPrestige/C1 – Juniors/U-23
Jan 1 – Baal GVA Series/C1 – Juniors/U-23
Jan 1 – Petange C2 (Luxembourg) Elite
Jan 2 – St Niklaas C2 – Juniors/U-23/Elite
Jan 3 – Departure