After a one-year hiatus, the EuroCross Academy (ECA) returned to Belgium this week, with 10 junior riders from the United States embarking on a nearly three-week race to gain their first European cyclo-cross experience. .
As in previous years, Cyclingnews runs a blog from the camp, with runners contributing throughout their Belgian adventure. Natasha Visnack writes a fourth part of the series. The 18-year-old from Bend, Ore., Placed 11th at the Pan American Junior Girls 17-18 this year and finished 33rd in the junior division of the Namur World Cup earlier this month.
As I slid face-first in the Namur World Cup 180 degree race, my mind was blank. My bike tangled with my legs as the crowd around me cheered (or heckled?) In a mix of French, Dutch and Flemish. The thick smell of cigarette smoke and rich mud met my nose as I tried to get to my feet, slipping again as the Luxembourg girl I was chasing scurried away. I felt embarrassment and shame realizing that I was wasting time.
This failure was not an isolated event. Throughout not only my race in Namur but throughout this trip, I regularly failed. Whether it was crushing myself until my legs turned into a patchwork of green and purple, or receiving my rejection letter from my dream school that night, I’ve learned that I was not selected for the Dendermonde World Cup. I have faced many rejections and failures.
However, staying down is not an option. As soon as I reached the bottom of the hill, I straightened up and went back up. My mind cleared as I attacked the apartment, determined to put the recent crash back into the past. On the next lap, as I hurtled down the same steep, bumpy hill, I stopped to formulate a plan. Then I managed to come down with my weight in my heels.
As an American running for the first time in Europe, the chances of defeat are plentiful. Here, the competitive terrains and the intensity of the lessons are a big challenge. For the most part, accidents are numerous in Belgium, a place where an accident could be equivalent to one or two places less.
As a high school student in the middle of the college application process, the chances of rejection letters are also plentiful. Even those not in the application process face setbacks in Europe, minds torn between school and cycling in an environment that makes us obsess over the latter. Even the most dedicated students can struggle under the weight of following a school thousands of miles away.
For American student-athletes, building resilience is essential to our success. Every accident, every rejection letter and every mistake we make on or off the bike gives us a choice. We can either take our failures at rest or adapt our approach. Instead of brooding over our failures, we need to adapt, find new ways to get off the slippery slopes of our lives.
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