Aspiring pro racer, Jeremy Durrin, a regional favorite around New England and a promising talent for the future of American ‘cross and road racing, has settled in Belgium for the last 8 weeks of the season to test his mettle in the Big Show, as all aspiring pro’s have to do at some point, if they’re serious. Durrin is adapting to the stresses and strains of travel, racing world cups, living without peanut butter, and all of the other usual adaptations American riders go through when making the transition to European racing.
Rather than offering race reports and the like, we thought it would be fun to ask a few more in-depth questions of Jeremy, every week or two during his trip, to get a feel for what Euro-racing is really like, beyond the fact that it’s “different”, and to see how he adapts, and what he takes away from the experience, week to week.
So follow Jeremy in the Durrin Chronicles here for the rest of the European ‘cross season, and learn some new Flemish words, some tips for holding position against those aggressive Belgians, and maybe some snacking advice for the next time you find yourself in Oudenaarde.
Q: What new food did you try this week?
The first thing that I wanted to try was the Belgian style waffles. The first trip to the supermarket I grabbed a package of waffles and a jar of Speculoos. Post ride snack is a waffle smothered in speculoos and heated up in the microwave for 30 seconds. Delicious!
Q: What new Flemish or Dutch word did you learn this week?
“Lekker ding”, meaning tasty thing. I love to use it for most new foods that I try. We also say, “Wow that girl is such a lekker ding”… Not sure if they like being called that though.
Q: What is the biggest difference between U.S. and European cross racers?Agression and professionalism. Every rider is willing to risk everything to move up one place. The starts are very aggressive and you have to be able to hold your own in order to keep your position. Every rider also is very professional with their own crew that comes to the races to support them and help them with everything. They all have there own camper vans with tents, trainers, and everything you could ever want.
Q: What is the biggest difference between U.S. and European ‘cross courses?In a few sentences, the easiest way to explain the difference between the two is that Europe is just way more challenging and physically demanding. The technical sections require much more driving of your body in order to stay upright; there is only one good line through the corners and you have to think a lot about what is coming up next. Now that I have raced in Europe, the US courses are just an easier type of technical. There are more corners in the US and a lot of explosive acceleration changes, but the European courses have a much greater variety of technical sections. At Scheldecross you had to go through a very long and technical sand section with lots of corners, and then transition into fast grass sections with a very long stair case and move into slick muddy corners. The physical toll that course took on my body was more than any double weekend in the U.S.
Q: Who is better technically, Euros or Americans? How so?
With the little experience that I have, I think that the Americans are very technically sound at the courses that we race on. That’s why when the Europeans come over to our courses they are not always winning and running away with the race like they do when the Americans go to Europe. There is a big difference in technical courses from Europe to the US. I think this deserves its own full article; it’s hard to explain the difference in a short response.
Q: Do you make more in American prize money or European start money contracts?
I have not made any start contract money thus far, but I was able to take home a cool 300 euros at the World Cup in Igorre Spain. That is the most money I have ever won in a single day bike race. I am working on start contract money and will let you know how that goes. So much of the money gets pre-allocated way in advance, so its tough to come in late and ask for money when you’re not a top runner!
Q: Is it hard to breathe with all that cigarette smoke on the race course?
It’s funny, there was one section at Overijse when you are at the top of a brutal climb and you are suffering like a dog breathing in the sweet smell of cigars, which I strangely enjoy the smell of. But yeah, the smoking here is ridiculous. All the overweight, drunk, obnoxious smoking Belgians are very good at casting immediate judgment when you dab in a section or are far off the back going slower than their beloved Sven.
Q: Do the fans treat you—as a new American racer—like a sports star, an imposter, or what? Are they nice?
I have had a few different experiences so far while at the races. Before the races you get treated very well with people coming up to you and asking for fan cards and taking your picture. During the race is a little different depending on where you are in the race. At Scheldecross I was getting a lot of cheers for trying to ride some sand sections that were very challenging, but I was told that the fans at this race were unusually nice. The next day at Overijse, some of the fans liked to yell out “GO SVEN” or “GO STYBAR!”. Not sure why, but they seem to think it’s really funny to call you by the good guys name. But overall I have had a very positive experience with the fans thus far.
Q: This week I learned___________and I am totally going to apply that at home next year to help me__________.
This week I learned that technical sections that I used to think were hard, are now put into perspective after racing these races over here. In order to be competitive here you need to not touch your brakes in areas where you think you can’t go that fast, but everyone else is going even faster through very sketchy corners. I know now that you need to be racing on the edge in order to be competitive. If you’re not almost losing control out of corners, your not going fast enough. Riders here know how to ride ruts and corners here, I am still just learning how to make it happen.