This Kerstperiode, nine U.S. Junior cyclocross racers are in Europe to race with the EuroCrossCamp program run by Geoff Proctor. During the next few weeks, the young athletes will be sharing their stories and experiences in rider diaries written while they are in Belgium.
by Ryley Mosher
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Living in Belgium, it’s quite the experience. When I first received the email from Geoff, with the invitation, I immediately burst into tears. Racing in Europe has always been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. I could not believe that what I had always longed for was starting to come true.
I thought that I had an idea of what this experience would be like going into it, but it’s like nothing I had imagined.
This was my second trip to Europe. I had gone three years earlier to watch Worlds while on vacation with my family. I remember what the atmosphere was like—it was amazing just watching the race.
Now three years later, I am over here living the dream. While lining up at Diegem, the sound of hearing names like Sanne Cant and Evie Richards (my role models) being called up was unreal.
The atmosphere at Diegem was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I live for the roar of the crowd, and hearing it go crazy—at night, under the lights of suburban Brussels—was amazing. The Diegem course was quite special too because some of the barriers lining the course are electronic. Also, you had to ride through a little alley that didn’t have much light.
It was a special feeling, to say the least, to race with such a thick crowd surrounding you while racing. The crowds and fans in Europe have no compare to American cyclocross fans. Cycling over here is a huge part of the culture. There are bikes everywhere. It’s amazingly crazy.
Yesterday, we rode the train into Antwerp and at every train stop, there were tons of bike racks, all completely full. While walking around the city, you had to look out for bikes more than cars since there are so many people riding and commuting.
It was very interesting to me how while we were riding on the bike path, almost everyone was on bikes, unlike in the States. At home, it’s most common to see runners or walkers rather than bikes.
Since there is such a dominant bike culture here, this could be a reason why the Euro racers are so dominant. They grow up with bikes constantly surrounding them and being a huge part of their life. Most children in Belgium ride their bikes to school rather than take the bus, while in the States, it’s much more common to ride the bus. They are just exposed to bikes more here.
In Belgium, you could walk down the street and ask someone if they know who Sven Nys is, and they will all say, “Yes of course.” Whereas in the States, most people don’t even know what cyclocross is. Living where cycling is so common has a huge impact on your life as a cyclist.
Living over here for just a little over a week has had a huge impact on my view of cycling. It has shown me how much passion so many people have for cycling. Thousands of fans will line up to watch the race out of pure love. As a racer, I feel connected to all of these people in a way because we truly love cyclocross. In the States, we may not have as many people who race or know about cyclocross, but we do not lack passion. We all truly love cyclocross.