After a successful weekend in Canada defending his U23 Pan Am Championship jersey, Gage Hecht hoped a plane over to Europe to post up at the USA Cycling house in Sittard, the Netherlands. He is there to prepare and test his mettle against the best at the Telenet UCI Cyclocross World Cup in Koksijde, Belgium on November 24th. With its relentless sand sections, the Koksijde track is arguably one of the most challenging cyclocross courses in the world.
Gage raced this past weekend at the Flandriencross round of the DVV Trofee in Hamme, Belgium where he finished 20th in the U23 race. Gage will return to the US following the World Cup. Teammate Lance Haidet is at home in California attending classed and training hard to prepare for US Nationals in December.
Do you recall your first cyclocross race in Europe? My first cyclocross race over here was at Koksijde, Belgium in 2014. While it was a part of the World Cup event, the junior race was not technically a World Cup. It went really well. I won my race. It’s a crazy course. I’ve never done a race that was so challenging.
Are there any competitors you met on your first cyclocross trip to Europe with whom you are still racing against today? There are a few that are still going strong. Jens Dekker and Eli Iserbyt are two that come to mind. Interesting to think about.
From that first race in 2014 to competing in 2019, what has changed and what has remained the same? What I expect out of myself as a racer has changed. I have greater goals and higher expectations. I think gradually the courses have changed slightly. More challenging in some ways. Unfortunately, some of the staff at the USA Cycling house have moved on, but I’ve enjoyed working with the new staff tremendously. I have to say it has been nice to have the USA Cycling house based in Sittard, the Netherlands.
With the expansion of international racing in the US (Jingle Cross, Trek Cup, etc.) do you feel US courses are more or less on par with some of the more challenging European courses?. I think that the US World Cup races, especially Iowa City, have done a good job with course design. However, I feel many US tracks are designed with fear of making it too much of a power course. Designers add in too many turns to break up power sections which ends up making the race much less exciting because of the constant speed limiters.
When you train and race in the Europe is there anything you change — or maybe the question is, what do you look forward to when you train and race in Europe? There’s not a lot of changes I make. I try to take advantage of everything the area we are staying has to offer. The training really can resemble the conditions we see at the races, so it's really good to train here.
Do you think a US racer can have success in Europe without living there full time during the season? I don't think so. Not until racing on American is as difficult as racing in Belgium. It’s a big change to compete on the same level with these guys when you're not exposed to these difficult courses, this harsh weather and the best competition in the world every weekend.
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Team Schedule (Tentative)
Rochester Cyclocross – Rochester, NY
Jingle Cross World Cup – Iowa City, IA
Trek CXC World Cup – Waterloo, WI
Fayettecross - Fayetteville Arkansas
US Open of Cyclocross – Boulder, CO
Cincinnati UCI Cyclocross - Cincinnati. OH
Silver Goose - Midland, ON
Pan Am Games - Midland, ON
UCI World Cup, Koksidje, Belgium
Ruts N Guts CX – Broken Arrow, OK
USA National Championships – Tacoma, WA
UCI World Championships – Dubendorf, CH