Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Road 'Cross the Ocean

I began the season with a goal. Make it across the ocean to race cyclocross in the motherland of the sport, Belgium. Rainy, muddy, brutally honest and terrifyingly revealing, this is where you go to race the best in the world. To be honest, I didn't think I would actually make it. EuroCrossCamp was a long shot. Don't get me wrong, I knew I could do it, but I also knew I would have to improve by leaps and bounds in order to reach the level to make it. Having a high goal to shoot for has always been good for me. In order to achieve this, I think I pushed myself farther, and was more focused than I ever have been.


After the first few cross races I started to believe that maybe, just maybe, I could do it. I did a big fundraiser to make it out to the qualifying races in Cincinnati, Ohio and Louisville, Kentucky. Thanks to a ton of awesome people I made it out, and shocked myself on my performance. I started to think that I could actually make it! On thanksgiving morning, I got the email inviting me to the tenth annual EuroCrossCamp. Thanks to a ton of very generous people: my team IScorp, HED cycling, WCJ Pilgrim, Doug Close, Scott & Angie Rake, Amy Weik-Bonebell, Trek, Enzo's Button, Crossniacs, Ski Hut, Thirst Pagan, people who bought t-shirts, all the generous donations, to those select special people (you know who you are), and of course my parents, I was able to seize this amazing opportunity!


A few weeks later, I left from the airport in Chicago with my friend David Lombardo. Taking the plane to Belgium was surreal without my parents. I didn't really comprehend that I was going to another continent across the ocean, until we arrived in Brussels. The airport didn't look very different, but once Jim picked us up and we got on the road, it was immediately apparent that we were in a very different place.

The roads were tiny, so thin they looked like they were a one-way. There was bike trails next to almost every major road and the ditches were incredibly steep and deep. Everything seemed close together and squeezed in. We got to the house relatively quickly, considering we traveled across half of Belgium. Of course, that is relative as Belgium is very small. After we unpacked our bags, ate lunch and got settled into our room we went on a easy spin- our first ride in Belgium! I couldn't shake the impression that I was in a Harry Potter movie. There were so many hedges and all the yards were extremely well kept. I did not so much notice on the first day, but you almost never see the sun. In Belgium it really does rain, all the time. When there is sun out though, it becomes a big deal.

The riding was fun. Close tight, windy roads, and bike paths with interesting sights and a fair amount of traffic kept us on our toes. Once we got back we settled into the routine that would define the rest of camp. If it is a non-race day we get up at eight 'o clock and eat breakfast. Then we get dressed and go on a ride. We come back and make sure our bikes are in working order, then take a shower, and eat lunch. After that, depending on the day, you're either responsible for the breakfast chores, the afternoon chores, the dinner chores, or it's your day off. After relaxing with your legs up, hanging out, napping, and playing pool for the rest of the day you eat dinner, attend the meeting, and go to bed.

Racing at Namur photo by Matt Shriver
After a few days at camp, getting adjusted and settling into the routine we did our first race, the Namur World Cup. Pretty much the craziest cyclocross course there is! Words cannot do this course justice, other than that it is vertical- when it's up, it is UP and when it's down, it is DOWN. Along with it simply being extreme, the course was muddy (of course). I don't think I have ever had so much fun in a race. Sure, my eyes were rolling back into my head the entire time, but the course was just so cool! I placed 11th out of 30, and fellow EuroCrossCampers Logan and Curtis placed a great 1st and 2nd.


The second race of EuroCrossCamp was the only double race. Four of our juniors, five of our U23's, and our Elite rider did the Zolder World Cup. Myself and two others (it would have been four others but two were sick) did the smaller, provincial championships in Beernem. The small local races in Belgium are very brutal and straightforward. This one was tight, so much so that it reminded me of a mountain bike race. With it's narrow (only five riders instead of eight wide), long start stretch, twisty track, and actual single track with little passing opportunity. I started last row out of forty riders and placed a decent 15th right behind Nick, our top finisher at 14th. Logan placed a great 2nd place at the Zolder World cup.

Fellow EuroCrossCamp kids showing a little USA spirit!

After Zolder/Beernem we started the race every other day schedule. This changed the routine a little bit, and made it quite a bit more difficult for our super staff, Geoff, Jim, and most of all our mechanic Dave.  It made it extremely important to be on top of everything. The next race we did was Loenhout. For me, this race was the most brutal with many long, straight, almost axle-deep-mud-power-sections, and interesting with BMX-style whoops, and a huge flyover. It was also the biggest race yet with about 60 starters and crowds... the crowds! Beer tents, Frite stands, people screaming everywhere!

Josey with a Belgium Fan!
It was really amazing racing with such a big crowd. The start was long, and starting from the second to last row with 60 some riders was tough, but really fun! I had by far my best start yet and moved past over half the pack on the first section. The rest of my race wasn't quite as good, I had a few issues with running into the course tape, but I pulled through for a very muddy 34th place. It was not a bad race by any means, but I was having a tough time in the long mud stretches. Some of the other kids had really great races though! Logan placed 2nd, Curtis 3rd, and Stephen 7th.

Warming up before Loenhout photo by Tom Robertson
 I'm now resting up for the race in Diegem tomorrow, and after that the final race in Baal. This camp has been a methodical whirlwind of experiences so far, and I am amazed by the level of racing and the dedication of the staff here keeping us together. Big shout out to all the people who have helped me get here and have this amazing experience! I will continue to post updates on my Twitter (Bikerboy_weiker) with race reports, pictures and more. Cheers, Josey.
Belgium Tasties
Supporters Club in Belgium


Friday, December 28, 2012

Wrenshall's Weik is biking toward the BIG time

Kevin Pates of the Duluth News Tribune wrote a great article about Josey on December 23, 2012. You can read it HERE

OR SEE BELOW...

Josey Weik has watched the Oscar-nominated 1979 movie “Breaking Away” and, yes, he bears some traits of the cycling-devoted lead character, Dave Stroller, played by Dennis Christopher.
Stroller grew up in a small town and dreamed of riding professionally for an Italian cycling team.
Weik, 16, lives on a 16-acre organic vegetable farm in Wrenshall, is homeschooled, raises pigs and dreams of riding in the Tour de France.

He’s adept at mountain biking, road racing and cyclocross, a unique sport combining road biking and cross country running while carrying a bike. This week Weik is in Vorselaar, Belgium, for Eurocross Camp, a United States development program for elite cyclocross riders that began 10 years ago. He’s the youngest member of the 16-athlete contingent.

“I’m completely dedicated to cycling. It’s my passion. I can go for days just thinking about cycling,” Weik said recently while traveling to Bend, Ore., for a cyclocross competition.
In reality, he rarely has time to daydream.

Weik, an only child, is up at 7 a.m., does some stretching exercises, has breakfast, feeds the chickens on the family farm (named YKer Acres), waters and feeds his pigs (approximately 20), rides his bike, has recovery time, does school work and is in bed by 8:30 p.m. He’s able to train on family land or nearby on the Willard Munger State Trail.

His sophomore classes are split between his mother, Sara, who, for instance, teaches math, and his dad, Matt, who teaches physics. Four years ago Weik chose raising pigs to support his cycling.
“Josey has been very responsible from a young age,” says Matt Weik, who grew up in Brainerd, Minn., competed in Nordic skiing and attended Minnesota Duluth.

“He’s typical of a lot of endurance athletes — he’s dedicated, high achieving and has good athletic ability,” he added. “And he enjoys spending the time needed to train and get better.”

Watching televised coverage of the Tour de France got Weik to ask for a bike at age 7. He now owns three bikes worth about $4,500 each, has a coach based in Boulder, Colo., and enters 60-some races a year. He trains about 6,000 miles annually and receives some sponsorship from ISCorp, based in Mequon, Wis.
Cyclocross is his discipline of the moment, popularized in Europe, where crowds have reached 60,000, with races held in the fall and winter. Junior riders, Weik’s age, compete for 40 minutes on looped courses that have barriers, unrideable hills and stairs, and often muddy conditions and snow, requiring riders to dismount at certain points and carry their bikes on their shoulders (average bike weight is about 15 pounds). Riding speeds average from 16-22 mph.

Interest in the sport in the United States has more than tripled from 2005-11 to nearly 100,000 participants, according to USA Cycling, the sport’s official governing organization.

“Josey has amazing skills for his age,” says Jeanne Fleck, 47, of Proctor, one of Minnesota’s best female cyclocross riders. “He’s not afraid of anything. I’ve seen him crash in a race and get back up and chase the leaders down. He has a good blend of fit and fast. He’s going to be a force in the sport.”

Earlier this month, in the Minnesota Cyclocross Championships, opting to move up to the Pro 1-2 Category, Weik was fourth. A week later, on the road with his dad in the family’s 2008 Dodge Caravan for 1,800 miles to Bend, he placed sixth in the junior men’s division of the U.S. Grand Prix of Cyclocross.

Weik was selected for the 10-day Eurocross Camp in November and has since sought to raise $5,000 for the trip to Belgium, noted as the world’s cyclocross center. While there, he’ll train and race under the direction of coach Geoff Proctor.

“Cycling is something I’ve wanted to pursue, it’s healthy and an adventure, and my parents have allowed me to do this, and they give me time to be a teenager,” said Weik, who is 5-foot-7 and a lithe 109 pounds. “But I work to support myself. Raising pigs is my business and it requires a lot of energy, and it’s very rewarding.”
After returning from Europe, Weik’s schedule includes the U.S. Championships on Jan. 9-13 in Madison. The UCI Cyclocross World Championships, held outside Europe for the first time, are Feb. 2-3 in Louisville, Ky.

Fleck also will compete in both events.

FOLLOW JOSEY
To contribute to Josey Weik’s Eurocross Camp trip, go to his blog at joseyweik.blogspot.com. He will tweet his experiences and results from Belgium the next 10 days at @bikerboy_weiker.
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Monday, December 24, 2012

The first race: Namur, Belgium

After being in Belgium for a couple of days, it was time to race. At five 'o clock, eight bleary juniors stumbled from their beds and began the process of preparing for the first race. For some of them, like me, it was the biggest race yet. I had packed everything the night before, so I started by making breakfast for my self and trying to get my head wrapped around the fact I was going to race against a world level competitive field on arguably the hardest cross course on the circuit.

Three hours later, we walk out of the car having arrived at the course. It's on top of a huge hill in the middle of town, the site of a old fort. Everything is sloped, especially the windy road that brought us to the top. My state of mind turns from a surreal, anxious anticipation to a sort of frantic, hyperactive state of overdrive. Things run through my mind at high speed. Gotta get my bib, do I have my passport? Don't lose the passport. Get your number. Find somebody to pin you number! Quickly, it's time to ride! Get your bike. Dial the pressure. Find some to to ride with. Get on the course. No one is taking care of you now, there is no room for error.

It's just now getting light now at 8:30 in Belgium. I race at ten, so it's time to ride the course. I know this course has a lot of hills and a lot of drops, but I am unprepared for the sheer audacity of its blatant brutality of it. You start up a cobbled climb about a minute and a half long and shift into a down hill/technical section. You go past the pits, then drop off the edge of the world. Then you do it again. And again. And again. With a nasty off camber and the mother of all run ups. I opt to ride my HED Ardenne wheels with Challenge Limus tires. The aluminum braking surface was braking much better and the wheels were solid enough to take hits from the numerous rocks on the course and the tires were the highest traction I had. They hooked up perfect!

I will admit, I was scared for the start of the race. The course was insane, but the real thing was I didn't know what to expect... I didn't know how fast everyone was going down the hills, or up them. I was pretty nervous when I lined up, the last out of thirty to be called up.

The start was going ok until I tried to pass some one up the gutter. It was cobbled and wet so my real wheel skidded. I was dead last up the first hill. I raced hard though and despite losing four spots, finished 11th. Logan and Curtis had great races with first and second place! Congrats to them and thanks to Geoff, Jim, Dave, and all the other Eurocamp staff.

There is a ton of awesome pictures of the race by Tom at:

Tom Robertson Photos of Namur HERE

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Beginning in Belgium.

I arrived in Brussels with David after a nine hour flight with little sleep at 9:00 AM. The Brussels air port was surprisingly painless and we found the baggage claim with our a fuss with plenty of the booth people saying things like

"you here for Cyclocross?"
"Yeh!"
"Very good, what races are you doing?"
"Namur, Beernem, Loenhout, Diagem, and Baal."
"Oh good! I cheer for you eh?"

At the baggage claim we ran into Jeramy Powers (multi time US national champion, best cross racer in the states) and chit chatted for a while, maybe even got on behind the barriers, hopefully it makes the cut.

Once we got our baggage we headed to the meeting area and found Jim, who was driving us back to the team house in Voselaar. I spent a good amount of the drive playing chess with Skyler (one of the other EuroCampers) but I was definitely looking out the window plenty. As we pull on to a road about as small as a bike trail going 80Kph, I ask nervously; "this is a one way right?" Jim chuckles and says "no, this is a two way. See the little shoulders? You each pull off onto those to pass each other". The road was twisty and rural, farms off to the side with horses and muddy fields. Yeh, about the mud. It's been cloudy and drizzling the whole time. Jim says the conditions will almost certainly be the same for the entire trip. "You won't see the sun until you get back to the states or get really lucky". "You brought your mud tires right?"

The drive continued along the small windy road with tiny ditches that looked more like V shaped cut outs. Don't bail into that ditch! I couldn't shake the impression as we passed the farms, houses, and villages that everything was being packed into a small space. Even the trees seemed squeezed into their forest. As we neared the house and started to drive into the little town of Voselaar, Jim started talking. "Now the drivers here don't give you much space, and they don't slow down. Everyone bikes here and they assume if you're on a bike, you're experienced enough to handle it. As long as you hold a straight line though you'll be fine, these drivers aren't stupid. You won't see many cars though and a lot of the streets have bike paths right next to them." We pulled into the house and started unloading.

After eating lunch and putting together our bikes, John Fransisco, David Lombardo, Skyler Trulejilo, Curtis White and myself went on a ride, with Curtis leading us making sure we don't get lost.

As we spin around Voselaar and the surrounding country, I get struck by the feeling I'm in Harry potter of all things. The houses are so quaint and there is SO MANY HEDGES. Every single house has proudly maintained beautiful hedges, and some of them verge on art work. There doesn't seem to be a "bad neighborhood" here. Everyone looks hard working and reputable (or drunk). Everyone's houses look well maintained and every shop and cafe is quaint and fresh. We looped around and took a small dirt road after a Pub, lined with massive trees. We stopped next to a patch of forest. "Look in there man!" Curtis says. "That's the local cross course". I look in and see a snaking, pure dirt, beautiful trail lined with wooden posts and rope. It's muddy and has a few stairs in it, clearly a cross course. "That thing?" I say, shocked. "It looks like its had more work put into it than half the big races I do!" "Yeh man" Curtis says. "The local pub puts on little races here, and all the little kids around here practice on it". We truly are in the motherland.

We continued down the road and find a castle, complete with a moat, in the middle of the country side. It's clearly not a medieval castle, it's full of windows. But it's big and has a real moat. It was awesome!

We got back, ate dinner and did chores, then hit the hay. It was a very busy day so I didn't take many photos. I'll make sure to do a better job of taking pictures today! I'll keep you posted.

Cheers,
~Josey.













Saturday, December 15, 2012

EuroCrossCamp-TV interview

The last couple weeks leading up to my departure to Belgium have been particularly busy. It's crazy how much preparation goes into getting ready for EuroCrossCamp. My bikes have to be in perfect working order, I need three sets of wheels with the right tires glued on, I have to pack my bikes and wheel into a double bike box (Thanks to the Flecks!), book flights, do tons of paperwork, get involved with media outlets, learn about Belgium, get the clothes needed that I don't have, figure out what I'm going to pack, do the dreaded task of learning how to grocery shop, and all the while do some of my most intense training during the weeks leading up to the camp.

The fact that I'm leaving in a few days time has really snuck up on me to. I think it's just now starting to hit me that I'll be going to Belgium to race some of the toughest race courses against the toughest competition in the world. Plus, I'm flying to another continent all on my own!

Kati Anderson from Northland News came out today to do an interview. (see below)

Northland News Story click here

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The lead up to EuroCrossCamp, State, and Bend USGP

First off, in-case you didn’t know, I’m going to EuroCrossCamp to race in Belgium against the best Juniors in the world for two weeks. I (ironically) found out I qualified on Thanksgiving morning. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks getting everything together, fundraising, and traveling to Bend, Oregon to race one last Junior UCI race. Here is what I have been doing:

Two weeks ago was State Championships. I opted to get the toughest competition I could in preparation for EuroCrossCamp so I raced Pro 1/2's instead of Juniors. It was a very competitive field. Some of the competition was Pro roadie for Kenda Gear Grinder, Pat (Patty Cakes) Lemuix; Eric Thompson, a previous podiumer at U23 Nationals championships; Reigning State Champion CJ Faulkner; Chris Fisher; Lance Beuning; Jesse Rients; and Chris (Smithers) Smith.

MN State Championships photo by Sara Weik
The course was very fast and the front of the race was consistently a big group of seven to eight of us. There was lots of tactics and attacks despite Eric driving a brutal pace at the front and Pat’s frequent leg breaking accelerations. A few times a group of three would get off the front, usually the instigator was Pat, sometimes Lance or Eric, and both CJ and Smithers put in their own attacks. Each time I reacted and got my self onto the attackers wheel. I felt great, I had the power to react to the attacks and position myself like never before.




MN State Championships photo by Sara Weik

 One time Eric got away with Pat and myself on his wheel and the other racers behind us were closing the gap. I decided to take the pace making at the front for a little bit to try and stay away, I felt good, but I knew if I did that to many times I would be to tired for the sprint. I followed wheels the rest of the race until the last lap when things started exploding. I stayed at the very front but got chopped in a corner coming into the bunch sprint for the finish and placed 4th. I was very happy with my result and the way I played the race and had a ton of fun racing. Congrats to Pat on the win!



video

Three days later we packed the car with bikes and luggage and headed out on the long drive to Bend, Oregon to do the final UCI Junior race before EuroCrossCamp. CJ, Chris, and Jesse hired us to transport their bikes out for them so the car was packed full (big thanks to them, this enabled me to afford this trip that was not in my budget otherwise). The drive to Oregon was three days long, some parts depressingly boring and others really pretty. We got to Bend on Thursday night and spent Friday relaxing in the hotel and pre-riding the course. It was very different, rather akin to a mountain bike course being technical, bumpy, and little opportunity for passing.

Day one was a lesson learning day. I was a little bit nervous and didn’t quite have my head in the game that morning. I had a bad start and ended up pretty far back and made some stupid decisions that made me crash. This got to my head a little and I got stuck behind other riders too much. I placed 11th, two and a half minutes out of 2nd. It was not my best day but I knew what I needed to do better.

Day two I was focused the whole morning of and did a much better pre-race prep and warm up. I was having a much better start, but couldn’t get into my right pedal. My foot flew off and hit the ground as I awkwardly straddled my bike for a few seconds. I stayed calm though and moved my way up the ranks aggressively until I got onto the back of a group. I attacked and dropped them and realized I could see second, third, and fourth just a little ahead. The last three laps were a blur of pain. Second place got thirty seconds ahead of me and third stayed about fifteen to twenty ahead. Fourth place though, was less than ten seconds ahead of me. David Lombardo caught up to me and we worked together to try and catch fourth place. Towards the end it became clear we were not going to close the gap and we began to worry about each other. David has beaten me in the sprint twice this season, so I did not want to repeat my mistake. I attacked him three times. Three times I dropped him, and three times he caught back on. On the last few sections coming into the finish, we were side by side going as hard as we could trying to be the first one onto the tar. David got ahead of me on the final stretch before the tar, we sprinted and David beat me by a second for the third time this year, beating me for the 5th position and the final UCI point. Despite the frustrating finish, it was a great race (6th is my best finish yet) and duking it out with my good friend David again was a lot of fun.

I’m home now after a very long and boring drive back. I’m celebrating my 16th birthday today. I will put a full post up on what exactly EuroCrossCamp is and what it means soon (which I leave for on the 19th).