’Cross the pond: How European cyclocross pros spent their week in the United States

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How did the Europeans who came over to the the U.S. for the Las Vegas and Iowa City World Cups — and, in some cases, Wisconsin as well — spend their time in the States? We caught up with a few of them last weekend to ask about their time in the U.S. Here’s what they had to say:

Ian Field (Great Britain), Hargroves Cycles

It’s different, but to be honest [the trip has] been smoother than I thought it would be. I don’t know if I’ve been lucky or what. We drove down to Heathrow on Saturday, stayed in an airport hotel, flew straight to Vegas on Sunday. The jet lag wasn’t too bad. I had an okay race in Vegas. I would have been happier if I had held on to 19th. I was 19th the whole race on my own, and then I got caught with a group of five with two to go. And it was a super long race anyway. So I was like, “Ohhhh!” But I ended up 24th, which isn’t so bad for the first race of the year.

I’ve done the East Coast twice before: Gloucester, Providence, Nittany, Charm City. But I’ve never done Jingle Cross. I did Vegas for the first time last year because of the World Cup. [Jingle Cross] is probably one of the harder courses on the World Cup. I’d say it’s similar to like — not quite as technical — but similar to Milton Keynes, with the constant up and down.

You always get a good reception from the American fans. They absolutely love it, and support everyone. It’s great to have — everyone’s treated as an equal here, man or woman, no matter what team you’re on. It’s like, this is your parking, this is your time, we’ll cheer for everyone. It’s great.

In Las Vegas, I didn’t do any betting. To be honest, I didn’t do much. I walked up and down The Strip the first night to stay awake. I had a look at some of the hotels. And that’s about it. You’re only there basically three days, and one day is course practice and one day is the race. So it doesn’t leave much time to do much.

[Iowa] is like something out of a film. Everyone seems super friendly. I went for a ride and it’s really nice countryside, so I like it. Everyone’s super chill. It’s so different from Vegas.

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Ian FIeld (Hargroves Cycles). Photo: Balint Hamvas/Cyclephotos.co.uk.

Tom Meeusen (Belgium), Telenet-Fidea

It’s been good. We are now one day here in Iowa and I like it here. We just went for a spin on the gravel roads here. It’s a nice neighborhood and I’d like to spend more time here. It’s as green as Belgium, but it’s a little bit warmer. It’s a lot of different things we had the last weeks, with the races in Wisconsin by the Trek factory. Those were dry and Vegas was something else and here is something else again. It’s exciting. I’m glad to be here [in America] again. The [Iowa City] course is a little like Koppenberg or Ronse when it rains. Maybe Valkenburg, even. I just enjoy going with the bike here, you can see a lot of the neighborhood, I think. It’s good enough to be with the bike here, we don’t have to have a party. That’s for other times.

Tom Meeusen focused before the race.
Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea). Photo: Eugene Kim.

Niels Albert (Belgium), Sport Director, Crelan-Vastgoedservice

Today we saw a track here in Iowa and, when you have a track like that in Belgium, you have 15,000 people. The place is amazing. You have a hill, running, accommodation, parking, everything is there. I think the place is perfect. We saw a nice track at the Trek Factory in Waterloo. A really nice place. We saw Vegas.

Sometimes [the fans approach me] but I am a few kilos heavier, and I was wearing my sunglasses because the weather was really nice the last days. So sometimes they recognize me, but sometimes not. People ask, “Niels, can we take a picture? Very nice to see you here! And to have the team here and the World Cup here!”

The girls went for shopping in Vegas, but me? No. The time is too short. For us it’s a really heavy trip physically. Because we come, we fly to Chicago and there we had a meeting with SRAM. Then from SRAM we go to Waterloo. From Waterloo we have a flight to Vegas. In Vegas we’re there for three days, then after Vegas it’s get packed up and we have a travel day to here, four hours flight and four hours drive. So yesterday at 12:00 in the evening we are here in the hotel.

We go to the parking, make arrangements. Go to the shop for some boots, because it rained. We go to the supermarket for some water, some food, some lunch, something else to eat. The guys get massage. I do an interview. At 7:30 we go out for dinner at an Italian restaurant.

[On race day] it’s breakfast, eating, go to the race, we race. After the race everything must be packed in boxes again, and on Sunday we leave and we go back to Belgium. So you don’t have time to — it’s just work, work, work.

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Niels Albert (Sport Director, Crelan-Vastgoedservice). Photo: Balint Hamvas/Cyclephotos.co.uk.

Helen Wyman (Great Britain), Kona

Iowa’s amazing! The riding here is amazing. Really beautiful riding. Loads of twisty-turny roads and it’s really gorgeous and not much traffic.

We went to the hippy shop, the New Pioneer Company. Loads of vegan stuff and homemade stuff and gluten-free stuff. All these vegetables and Amira [Mellor, UK Cyclist] is like, “What’s this? What’s this?” And some of it I didn’t even know what it was. It’s really cool and it’s all locally-sourced produce.

We’ve been [in Iowa] a week. We’re staying with friends just north of the city. The [Jingle Cross course] is really Euro, it’s the most Euro American course I’ve ever ridden I think. It’s pretty tough, it’s got lots of hills. The weather’s actually a bit too hot, but Friday night it was super muddy. It was really cool.

The descent is really Koppenberg-like, it’s even a bit steeper on some of the corners. And there’s just plenty of climbing, and quite a lot of technical stuff that isn’t cornering, which is really Euro. That’s something you don’t get in America very often. So it’s really cool.

Helen Wyan (Kona). Photo: Balint Hamvas/Cyclephotos.co.uk.
Helen Wyan (Kona). Photo: Balint Hamvas/Cyclephotos.co.uk.

Eva Lechner (Italy), Clif Pro Team

In Vegas I was still really jet lagged for the race, the difference was that last year I came one day later and I didn’t feel the jet lag. I guess it was too short to get tired. This year was one day more and my body was feeling it. It’s a real cyclocross [in Iowa]. It’s pretty big here, because there are more races, amateur races. In Europe it’s usually only the pro riders and that’s it. It’s a bit different for sure.

Eva Lechner at the start.
Eva Lechner (Clif Pro Team). Photo: Eugene Kim.

Ellen Van Loy (Belgium), Telenet-Fidea

This is what we’re used to in Belgium. This is cyclocross, the mud and the climbs and the stairs. But, for me, thank God they changed some lines and it’s a little bit more dry. We can ride totally next to the mud line, so — I thought it was a slow race, but it’s become not a fast race, but not that slow. For the total lap sometimes it’s a bit faster sections and it’s good to have a bit of speed back. Not just continuing to pedal in the mud.

So far it’s amazing to be here. We had a wonderful training camp, a wonderful stay before Iowa, and here, it’s a busy week, but I’m glad to be here. The group is great and we laugh a lot. The atmosphere is perfect for me.

We didn’t get out in Las Vegas, we didn’t take the chance. It was too busy flying from Vegas to here. Yesterday we had a chance to recover and I took the chance. So further than the rest, we didn’t do any sightseeing.

[Fans] were pushing me, making me push harder. They weren’t laughing at me, they were yelling some things and I said, “Hmmm… Now I have to push.” [Heckling.] I don’t think they mean it negative, it’s a positive pressure.

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Ellen Van Loy (Telenet-Fidea). Photo: Balint Hamvas/Cyclephotos.co.uk.

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