Euro Cross Camp: Joe Dombrowski Interview

Dombrowski on his way to winning Schooley Mill 'Cross

Those that raced cyclocross this past season in the Mid-Atlantic already know Joe Dombrowski. The eighteen year old Haymarket Bicycle/HomeVisit rider could be found in the front group of most MABRA races he entered this year. He usually finished on the podium and captured some impressive victories along the way.

While most of us have hung up the ‘cross bikes for the season, Joe is spending his second consecutive Christmas in Belgium racing bikes against the best cyclocross competition that the world has to offer. As an invitee to Geoff Proctor’s Euro Cross Camp, Dombrowski is living in the Team USA House—along with a group of U-23 and junior racers, as well as a handful of elite riders—and competing in up to nine races in 14 days.

We caught up with Joe to see how his second season is progressing, learn a little more about racing in Belgium and get some insights into life at the Team USA house.

How was your travel to Belgium? I saw where Jeff Bahnson’s bikes didn’t make it on the same flight as him. Any similar issues for you?

The travel was rough. Belgium was getting snow that they haven’t seen in years. I spent 14 hours in the London airport, which made for a total travel time of 37 hours without sleep. Jeff and several others were missing bikes, wheels, and various other pieces of luggage.

Take us through a typical day in which you are not racing. When do you wake up, train, eat, etc. How do you spend the downtime?
The Euro Cross Camp wheel stash.

Geoff comes by each room and wakes us up in waves. Juniors first, U-23s next, and Elites last. He wants us to be on the same schedule on non-race days as we are on race days. I usually get up at 8:30.

Training starts after breakfast. It doesn’t get light here until 9:00, and we usually are on the bikes around 11:00. After training, I just try to keep the legs up and get a nap in if possible. Els [Delaere (House Directress and Head Chef)] cooks a delicious hot dinner each night.

With another year of racing under your belt, is there anything about Euro Cross Camp that is easier than it was in 2008?

I came into this year’s camp with a better perspective on the level of racing. It’s a bit of a shock when you first start doing big races here; this is definitely not a forgiving place.

Guys at the camp are racing juniors and U-23, right? Do you all travel to the race together? What’s the pre-race routine like?

The camp is mostly juniors and U-23s, but we do have three Elites as well though. Each group travels to the race together, and comes back together. If it is a late race, usually we are on the rollers in the morning keeping the legs loose. If the race is earlier in the day, we will grab breakfast and jump in the van and go to the race.

Usually we can get back from our race in time to watch the Elites race on TV. Continue reading “Euro Cross Camp: Joe Dombrowski Interview”


An Interview With The Swiss Dude: Valentin Scherz

Valentin Scherz

Valentin Scherz, winner of the Capital ‘Cross Classic and the MAC Elite Championship series, is an 18 year old fast man from Switzerland that spent the past couple months going toe-to-toe with many of the top U.S. riders. Scherz (Pro Cycles-Scott-Newwork) took some time for a short interview on how his Capital ‘Cross Classic race went down, racing in Europe compared to the U.S. and his plans for future visits to the U.S.

Thanks for reading.

How did the Capital ‘Cross Classic course conditions and race compare to a typical European race?

Scherz: The conditions here are more or less the same as in Europe. In my country, Switzerland, the courses are known to be very technical, hilly and difficult, as yesterday or in Southampton. In the rest of the Europe—Belgium, Holland, Italy, France—the fashion is now fast courses, more like the most of the races here. So the riders are more riding together and there is more suspense. Until two weeks ago, the weather conditions were warmer here than in Europe in October. But now, the weather is the same.

Scherz was on his own from the gun, Sunday

The level of the riders is my big deal now! I think I progressed a lot this year. But I don’t exactly know where my level will be in Europe. I think that in the UCI C2 or C1, the level here is the same as in Switzerland. And in the regional races, like yesterday, it’s the same as in the regional races in my region too. So the competition level is good enough here for me.

That was an impressive ride. How did you feel about your performance? Did the day play out the way you expected?

Scherz: Thanks. I was feeling pretty good yesterday during the race. My technique and my ability to ride in the slippery turns were good, which is really important for me. I tried yesterday to ride every lap better than the previous one. In fact, the day played out better than what I was expecting. I was expecting a hard race. I spent the two previous days visiting Washington, walked a lot, stood up for long stretches, etc. I did one week of rest without training two weeks ago and I did only slow rides last week.

On Sunday, it was difficult for me to get ready before the race, to go out of the car to warm up, check the course etc. The conditions were the worst it could be: not cold enough to have frozen ground, but enough to get your feet freezing in the really cold mud. So I was not feeling 100% on the start line. But everything always changes just after the start-shot: you become a warrior and give all that you have. And then you see how fit you really are! My feelings on the bike were great, and the legs were good. Continue reading “An Interview With The Swiss Dude: Valentin Scherz”

Bicycle Film Festival Interview: Chris Carraway

The Bicycle Film Festival hits DC this weekend. It features movies touching all corners of bike geekitude including a first look at “The Cyclocross Meeting” to get you in the right frame of mind going into Sunday’s MAC finale at Reston. Take a looksee at the trailer and we will meet back here in two minutes and twenty-four seconds.

Now that you’ve watched that, watch this. Here’s the trailer for the festival. It’s good. The YouTube comments are even better. [You can click here to see them.] Lots of “hipsters on track bikes” talk. Isn’t that redundant?

BFF DC Producer Chris Carraway. Muddied up and ready to go.

In any event, the festival has more than that to offer. The full schedule of films and events is here. I spoke with BFF DC producer Chris Carraway to get the details. Chris races for NCVC and also authors the blog, Ride It Like You Stole It, where you can find even more BFF information and trailers.

What is the Bicycle Film Festival? How did it start? What is its mission?

Carraway: In 2001, Brendt Barbur, Founder and Director, was compelled to start the Bicycle Film Festival after being hit by a bus while riding his bike in New York City. Instead of being deterred by this experience, it inspired him to create a festival that celebrates the bicycle through music, art, and film. Now in its ninth year the festival is held in 39 cities worldwide. 250,000 people are expected to attend this year.

The Bicycle Film Festival celebrates the bicycle in all forms and styles. If you can name it—Tall Bike Jousting, Track Bikes, BMX, Alleycats, Critical Mass, Bike Polo, Road Cycling, Mountain Biking Recumbents—we’ve probably either ridden or screened it. What better way to celebrate these lifestyles than through art, film, music and performance?

This is the first year the BFF has come to DC and we’re all collectively saying “about time!” The screenings are Saturday at the Navy Memorial Theater which is located at 701 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington DC. Continue reading “Bicycle Film Festival Interview: Chris Carraway”

AFC: The Doc: The Interviews

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Pat Blair at Urban Cross

Adam Driscoll and Patrick Blair (Adventures for the Cure) usually get interviewed on this site because they are fast guys finishing at the top of their fields each week of the ‘cross season.Blair is always battling for the top step in the 3/4 race and sometimes jumps in to the elite race for a little more pain. Driscoll, in his first year in the elites, is a mainstay on the podium, nipping at the heels of the top three finishers every race.

Driscoll at Rockburn

Driscoll will be the first to tell you he is still learning the CX game. He hasn’t been racing that many years and was handing it to the cat fours only two years ago. The first time I remember seeing Adam was in 2007 at the Ed Sander Memorial race. He was leading the C race when he had a mechanical with about a quarter lap to go. Second place was charging hard but Driscoll didn’t panic. He picked up his bike and got his sprint on. I think he ran that finishing stretch, shouldering the bike, faster than most could ride it. He held off second and took the win. He then fixed the bike, lined-up, and podiumed in the B race.

With that flavor of toughness and persistence it is not a surprise that Driscoll would conceive a plan to ride his fixed-gear across the country. Along with Blair and Jesse Stump, the trio set out in 2006 to ride their bikes across the continent, raise awareness for diabetes and support a host of other worthy causes. So why the fixed-gear angle? As Adam—who is a Type-1 diabetic—puts it, “everybody knows somebody that has ridden their bike across the country, but not many know of somebody doing it on a fixed-gear bike.”

So how did the trip go? Luck has it that you can find out for yourself. “Adventures For The Cure: The Doc” will be screened tonight, December 3, at Bicycle Stations (2204 14th st NW). Show starts at 7pm with a screening of a short documentary on the 2009 Lost River Classic. Don’t show up late, word has it the shop can seat around thirty folks.

Although not officially part of the Bicycle Film Festival, the AFC movie is a nice kick-off for a weekend of all things celluloid and bike. For more information on the festival, check back here tomorrow and also go here:

If you can’t make it to the screening, the AFC documentary is available for purchase at

Recently, I chatted with Adam and Pat about the movie and life on the road with your single-speed bicycle. Here’s what they had to say.

In fifty words or less (and, yes, I’m counting) tell us what the movie is about.

Patrick Blair: Three guys riding across the country on fixed-gear bikes! The mission is to make a difference while having fun biking across country and fixed gears makes it more of a challenge. Submission: sing karaoke in every state they visit! [40 words]

Adam Driscoll: An award winning documentary which covers a group of three cyclists in summer of 2006 as they bike 6,500 miles across the country on fixed gear bikes to raise money and awareness for American Diabetes Association and Kupenda for the Children. It also shows us attempting to do karaoke each state we bike through and you experience how bad of a singer I am. [63 words. Good thing we aren’t doing this interview on Twitter.] Continue reading “AFC: The Doc: The Interviews”

HoCo2xCx Podium & Pie Interviews

The CXHairs Team Bike At Schooley Mill

The Howard County Double Cross weekend took place November 21 and 22. Schooley Mill Cross, a new race, featured long power sections and some muddy climbs. Rockburn Cross featured the same exciting single-track sections, punchy climbs and technical turns as it has the past three years.

For these interviews, I tracked down podium finishers that have yet to grace the cyber-pages of In The Crosshairs for their racing prowess. This way we get a couple more voices in the mix, with different takes on some of the same old questions. I also included sixth place finishers at Rockburn because those folks won pie. And if you win pie, you deserve to be recognized.

I think the highlight of these interviews is the great discussion on race starts and the hole shot. Pay attention to what these folks are saying and see if their successful strategy matches up with what you are doing.

Thanks for reading.

What is your pre-race routine?

Rusty Williford (Fulcrum Coaching/WWVC Racing, Rockburn Cat 3/4, 4th place): Same thing every week: Get to the course by 8:30, recon the course until 9, kit-up and hit the trainer by 10, off-the trainer by 10:35 and head to the course for either 1 hot lap or a few starts.

Andreas Gutzeit (HPC List, Schooley Mill Masters 3/4, 4th place): I do about two laps of the course, mainly looking for good lines. Then I do 30 minute warm-up. Jeff Anderson describes cross racing as a reverse crit. Very helpful for a novice roadie. So now I have taken to practice the start on the course a couple of times and it really served me well at Schooley Mill. I was fourth into the dirt and ended up fourth 40 minutes later.

Brach hits the climbs at Rockburn (Nystrom not pictured)

Chris Nystrom (C3-Athletes Serving Athletes, Elite Masters, Schooley Mill 8th, Rockburn 6th): Arrive early enough to preview the course before the start of the race two slots before my race. Really getting to know and understand the track is key. Pin up the number and get dressed during the race (two prior) and ride the course with a bit more speed before the next race. Ride the trainer and b.s. with teammates during the race just before mine. Red Bull 45 minutes before my start. Get to the line, relax and visualize the start. Remember to have fun.

John Cutler (CycleLife DC, 1st place Schooley Mill Men’s 3/4, 19th place Rockburn Elite Masters): Coffee and a Starbucks egg sandwich (kind of disgusting, yes, but fast). Drive. Listen to NPR or that weird show about parenting. A moment of sheer terror trying to find a gas station with a restroom. Arrive in the middle of one of the races. 20 minutes to get number and get ready to pre-ride. Ride a couple laps. Pretend that I’m actually remembering the corners and lines. Hop on the trainer for 40 minutes. I used to never bring a trainer, but I’ve come around. You can listen to music and zone out. Then Race.

When a race throws a kink in my plans—like a really long walk to registration, one port-potty, a line at registration, a line for the hose, etc.—it really throws me for a loop. I said this last year, but I’ll say it again. NEXT YEAR I’m going all out with the tent, the easy chairs, that little mat for taking of your shoes, the cooler, etc. For two days of racing your post race routine is really important as well. Instead of jumping back into the car while slamming recovery shakes, it can pay to relax, socialize, put your feet up, and commune with fellow racers.

Jeff Trinh (Georgetown University, 1st place at Schooley Mill Men’s Cat 4, 6th place at Rockburn Men’s Cat 4): Coffee and oatmeal for breakfast. When I get to the race site I get dressed and pre-ride the course, making sure to drink plenty of water in between laps. One of the advantages of doing the 9am race is that you have plenty of time to pre-ride, so I like take my time and make mental notes about which lines I’ll pick.

Elizabeth Harlow (C3-Athletes Serving Athletes, Women’s 1,2,3 Schooley Mill 4th and Rockburn 6th): Ride the course a couple of times before the Master Men’s Elite race. Paying attention to anything that may give me trouble. Ride around easy while the men race and then ride the course again close to race pace after the men finish.

Jon Hicks (Winchester Wheelemen, Rockburn Cat 4 5th place): The first lap to get a feel for the flow and the second much slower, looking for objects to avoid. A gel and FRS 30 minutes before the start.

Andrew Welch (Squadra Coppi, Mens 3/4, 3rd at Schooley Mill, 1st at Rockburn): I don’t like to have a lot of down time before my race, so I usually show up just in time to get a couple laps in before the previous race goes out … nothing too fast, just some course recon and easy warm-up. Then I get my number, change kit, and finish warming up … on the road. I have a trainer in my car, but it hasn’t come out all season.  Continue reading “HoCo2xCx Podium & Pie Interviews”