Two World Cups and a Waffle: Clara's 2018 Euro 'Cross Camp
There are always two questions friends ask me after I get back from a long block of travel: “did you see any cool places?” and “what delicious foods did you eat?”. Whether I have just returned from a tour of the Midwest or two weeks abroad in Europe, it is always difficult for me to answer with a concise answer. In my experience, traveling for bike racing is often spent with long transfers, busy race weekends, and dining-in at host houses in the suburbs. It always takes a minute to recollect the experiences of the past trip and translate them into a compelling story. But the analysis that it takes to share the special moments of a trip helps me understand and appreciate the privilege I am given to be able to race my bike across the country and abroad. So, without further ado, here is a list and quick recountment of a few of my favorite moments in Europe:
The Races: the Tabor World Cup was located outside the classic medieval hilltop town, in a field surrounded by soviet-esque tenement apartments. The course was unique in its similarities to races in the US: dry, wide and fast, with limited features. I spent the first ten seconds of the race recovering my bike from the carnage of a crash and proceeded to hunt down the rest of the field. I was grateful to have used toe spikes that day and managed to avoid the frustration of the tiny, yet slippery hill that left even the leaders running in place. At the finish, I was 28th, but the experience of the race was much more thrilling than the result.
Koksijde was at the other end of the spectrum from Tabor in terms of cyclocross course. There is no race in the US like it. Dunes of bottomless sand roll from one quick, grassy transfer to the next. Speed over the sand required ultimate finesse at full power. In a large field of sixty five women, navigation around each feature changed with each lap. I placed 33rd at Koksijde, and the technique and skill required to race there leaves me determined to go back.
2. The American WWII Cemetery: On my day off after Tabor, I caught the train to the American WWII Cemetery outside of Maastricht. Located atop a hill, a memorial tower presides over the graves of over 8,000 military remains. I looked across them, feeling the bitter cold and wind sting my face, trying to imagine how only a few generations ago, an entire continent could be sieged by the brutality of such a war.
3. Training in the Kalmoutse Heide: Most of us on the USAC development program(myself and six junior boys) had limited experience training in sand. The tire pressures we would be running for Koksijde would be lower than any other course we had ridden before(I rode 13PSI, which was probably higher than most). Midweek, we met up with Katie Compton and Mark Legg in the Kalmoutse Heide, where both the belgian army and belgian cyclocross teams practice. We chased each other through the forest and sand, and each lap we would take it down another PSI. With the direction and advice of Katie and Mark, we slowly learned how to move the bikes and our bodies through the sand. At the end of the day, we saw the Van Der Poels just beginning their workout, practicing the same loops and lines we had just ridden.
4. Finally, this hazelnut waffle:
The delicate sweetness of a perfect waffle, with the satisfyingly tender crunch of toasted hazelnuts. Heaven.