A One-Man Mission Of a European Rider in US Cyclocross
Ritchey-supported rider Gosse van der Meer is spending the first part of his cyclocross season racing in the United States rather than in Europe. Here's the story in his own words.
My name used to be but since I stared racing cyclocross in the United States, it turned into "Goose." Lots of people are cheering and shouting ‘’GOOSE GOOSE GOOSE GOOSE GOOSE’’ when I pass by and the speakers are announcing me as ‘’Goose fender Meer.’’
[Above photo - From a crazy muddy one in Fayeteville to the podium of the C2 in Jingle Cross. Pic by: Adam Mesa]
Instead of starting my 8 full-time cyclocross season in Europe, the corona pandemic opened up a unique chance for me to go over the USA to race. Since I am combining my professional racing career with academics, I can’t just go away from home for a few months. However, due to covid my studies all became online - and a laptop with internet is all I need.
After getting a travel visa to come to the US as an athlete, I flew to Boston the second week of September. Since then, it has been one giant road trip all over the Northeast and Midwest US to compete in cyclocross races here. In one month, I’ve visited almost 20 states and I am just more than halfway finished with all of the races. I am currently ranked 30 in the UCI ranking as an Elite, which is the highest I’ve ever been.
Being here on a one-man mission in a sport that you can’t do alone, I knew it wouldn’t always be easy. But the American cyclocross community has welcomed me with open arms. The Jamfund team is helping me a lot, host families offer me a place to stay between the races, and amateur racers are helping me in the tech-zone during my race after they’ve done their races in the mornings.
I chose to race as a privateer after being a contracted rider for five years. This means I have to do almost everything myself, without a team to support me. After the muddy World Cup in Fayetteville, I was working for almost four hours in the evening trying to get the everything ready for the next big race - washing clothes, washing bikes, repairing and changing the worn-out parts…because the next day there was another ten hours scheduled in the van to drive back to Iowa City for Jingle cross. The night race of Jingle Cross was on the menu for Friday. Saturday would be the C2 race and Sunday was the World Cup. Combine that with the weekend of racing in Waterloo and the mid-week World Cup in Arkansas, and I did six UCI races in nine days.
So far, the season is going really well in the US. Only one time I didn’t finish in the top-10 of a UCI race here other than the World Cups. Before heading into the last weekend of the US CX racing series, I am third in the overall rankings! And after the final two races for this series, I made the overall podium!
A big difference between the races in the US and the racing in Europe can be found in the courses and the way the riders are racing. In the US, many of the races are mass-events - two packed days of racing with big amateur fields and many starters. The courses therefore are adjusted to fit these needs.
In European UCI races there are often no amateur races - only Elite and Junior competitions. The courses are more technical, which makes racing more individual and less tactical. Because the courses are less technical in the US, it is harder to make a difference. In the top of the elite fields, we can all ride our bikes really fast, and in the US you’re often racing in a group. This makes racing more dynamic and tactical than it often is in Europe. In Europe you often go as fast as you can for one hour and see how many riders were faster. In the US, you have to be patient with your powers and always very sharp. If the group breaks, you want to be on the good side of the break. If you miss it, you want to be able to still make the jump to be back in the mix for the good results.
Long story short: American cyclocross is less technical but more tactical. European cyclocross is less tactical but more technical.
Racing bikes and travelling all over the US has been one giant adventure for me. Professional cyclocross is big business in the Netherlands and Belgium. There are far more good riders than available pro-contracts in Europe, and this affects the way the scene is. Professional cyclocross is business and this big group of riders are all battling for this small number of contracts.
Here in the US, there is a lot of passion in the sport, huge fields in the amateur races, and elite racers who come and hang out with each other in the parking lot after the races. The coolest thing so far about racing in the US are the fans! There are far less than what I am used to in Europe but the crowds here are getting rowdy! They cheer everyone on, and by now they know who the Goose is and it is just awesome.
Being so far away from home for so long, coming to the US racing scene and the fans adopting me is what is giving the Goose some wings to fly in the races!
Thank you American cross fans!