With temperatures in the single digits and snow in the forecast, it'd be easy to assume Oregon's cycling season has ended.
In fact, cyclocross was invented for such conditions, and this weekend two of the biggest 'cross races of the year will be staged in Bend's Old Mill District on the hilly and technical course behind the Deschutes Brewery.
Bend's 15-year-old Lance Haidet is one of the many scheduled to race both Saturday's Union Cycliste Internationale race (an international-level 'cross race, sanctioned by the sport's world governing body) and Sunday's Cross Crusade series finale (the final event of the Northwest's premiere cyclocross series).
It's been a busy 'cross season for Haidet, who rides for the California-based Bear Development Team. Aside from consistently finishing inside the top 10 while competing against the Northwest's best 'cross racers—most who are more than twice his age—the Summit High sophomore traveled to international-level races in Cincinnati, Louisville and, most recently, Los Angeles, in an effort to rack up valuable points, gain experience and get exposure. His focus and hard work (and that of his family) has paid off.
In late November, Haidet was one of only a handful of top juniors tapped by U.S. race officials to attend EurocrossCamp—an elite group of 16 American 'cross racers, from juniors to elites, who will represent the U.S. during the most competitive and frantic two- week stretch of the Belgian cyclocross season. While his peers lounge through Christmas break eating mashed sweet potatoes, opening presents and re-watching holiday favorites with family, Haidet will slog through the frozen Belgian mud as thousands of rabid, slightly inebriated, locals cheer on him and his compatriots. Sounds fun, no? Either way, it's a hell of an opportunity for a rising star looking to test himself against the world's best.
"It's pretty much just riding and racing and hanging," said Haidet. "They say it's really cool."
The "they" are those American luminaries who have attended the camp in the past. U.S. national champ Jeremy Powers is a EurocrossCamp alum, as are Bend 'cross and mountain bike superstars Ryan Trebon and Barry Wicks—both have enjoyed more than a decade of success as paid cycling professionals. The intensive training and racing camp, it seems, is a pretty good predictor of future success.
It's also a big eye-opener (and one with an almost equally large price tag attached; see below for more on Haidet's local fundraising event or visit Haidet's gofundme site, gofundme.com/5gdyfw). The schedule is frenetic—five to six races in just 14 days.
Yet, while cyclocross is decidedly the fastest growing segment of U.S. bicycle racing, it is still only a fraction of the scale of the European scene. Take Jeremy Powers, who for the last few years has dominated the U.S. circuit. He struggles to crack the top 10 in European races. But he and the rest of America's best, like Trebon, make the trip across the pond anyway in the hopes of a big breakthrough.
"It's racing at that next level," Haidet said of competing in Europe. "It's a big jump." But rather than lead the race from the gun, as he is accustomed to doing, Haidet added that he'll experience racing from the back of the pack as most of the other international juniors have more points than the American racers, and are as fast or faster. But if all goes well, Haidet will be one of the six junior EurocrossCamp-ers to be chosen to race in the two World Cup races—the sport's biggest stage.
There will be other obstacles, though, aside from finding top race form. The travel, money exchange, and all the other various cultural barriers that can cause savvy adults to stumble make for even taller hurdles for a 15-year-old. Luckily, Haidet—and his 15 'cross camp teammates—will have plenty of support along the way: two directors/coaches, eight mechanics, two massage therapists, one chef and six vehicles.
Haidet is certainly deserving of such a taste of the pro life. He's finished as high as second this season while racing in the UCI junior elite category (locally, he races against the elite men, and has finished as high as fourth). This past weekend in L.A., Haidet managed fourth on Saturday and third on Sunday while racing against the best juniors in the country.
And his goal for this weekend's UCI race in Bend?
"I'd like to win," Haidet said without hesitation.
Saturday: Deschutes Brewery Cup UCI C1
Racing starts at 8am; elite women and men start at 2:15 pm and 3:30 pm, respectively.
Deschutes Brewery, 901 SW Simpson Ave.
Sunday: Cross Crusade, series race No. 9
Racing starts at 8:40 am; elite women and men start at 1:15 pm.
Deschutes Brewery, 901 SW Simpson Ave.
Third Annual CXmas Party
6:30 pm Thursday, Dec. 5
Bowen Sports Performance, 225 NE Lafayette Ave.
Featuring "The Art of Cyclocross" exhibit, a Q&A with professional 'cross racers and a silent auction and raffle. Food and drink available. All proceeds benefit the CXmas junior fund, helping Oregon juniors attend the U.S. cyclocross national championship race in Boulder in January.
And also here:
Lance Haidet's EuroCross Camp Fundraiser
5-7 pm Saturday, Dec. 7
Little Bite Café, 2762 NW Crossing Dr.
Enjoy food and drink while bidding on stunning cyclocross images shot by some of Oregon's best photographers. Proceeds help offset the Haidet family's expenses.