Euro Cross Academy: Keeping the fun in racing

'I guess sometimes in life, the thing you need or want the most is right under your feet,' writes Kaya Musgrave.

Photo: @cyclocrosss

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During the next two weeks, riders from the Euro Cross Academy will be writing exclusive blogs for VeloNews as they race in Europe.

ECA Journal #2
25 October 2022
Rider: Kaya Musgrave
Hometown: Littleton, CO
Photos: @cyclocrosss

What is my definition of fun?

On the whole, day in, and day out, I bike because it’s fun. As I think about being here in Europe racing my bike with EuroCrossAcademy (ECA), I can’t help but reflect on all the sacrifices I’ve made to get me here. Long hours of training. Keeping up with sleep. Making sure I can race as fast and as smoothly as possible is often hard as a high school kid. Missing school dances, parties, and hanging out with friends is a necessary sacrifice for me so I can do what I love. Ultimately, being able to incorporate enjoyment, amusement, and light-hearted pleasure in my day is what really makes it all worth it.

Upbeat Taylor Swift music plays on full volume as we cruise through the Netherlands and Germany, with the final destination, the Czech Republic. Eyes are focused on the first World Cup of the year, Tábor. But first, we have a 10-hour drive where it’s necessary to keep busy and distracted to not let the nerves creep in. In the US, most of us are used to driving long distances like this, but in Europe, it is uncommon to have to drive so far to race.

After a couple of long early-morning hours, the brakes squeal as we pull into a German gas station. I slide open the side door and hop out to see a picnic table full of sandwich-making materials that the ECA soigneurs have provided. I slap together some cheese, lettuce, and tomato between two pieces of bread and join the rest of the crew for a little debrief on how the drive is going for our teammates in the other van. As we eat our lunches, some of us confer on how cool it is to have just passed current world cup rock star, Fem Van Empel, in her van, making the same trek. Maybe even vibing out to Taylor Swift too!

Also read: Euro Cross Academy: Tabor World Cup men’s junior journal

After 20 minutes of stretching, snacking and laughing, we reluctantly hop back in the van and continue our journey. Throughout the ride, I complete a week’s worth of English class and nap. The other girls do a variety of movie-watching and schoolwork.

At some point, mid-doze, the time crawling by, I awake to the pungent smell of nail polish, smiling faces, and plenty of giggles.

We crowd into the back seats and begin artfully painting our nails, belting out a Swift fave:

“And you’ve got a smile that can light up this whole town…”

Kaya Musgrave chats with a teammate. (Photo: @cyclocrosss)

It’s the fun, lighthearted activities like this that keep our anxiety low and the fun factor high as we roll down the Autobahn, cars whizzing by in the passing lane at dizzying speeds. Unfortunately, the bumps and cracks in the road make for a bit of outside-the-line painting.

Fortunately, we have a tiny manicure stick with a pointy end to clean up our lines. This stick is essential to making our nails look presentable. But, through the chaos of all the singing and laughing until our heads ache, we lose the stick.

Finally, reaching our quiet little hotel in Tábor, alongside the Lužnice River and walking wearily into the hotel lobby, I feel something in my shoe. It’s the manicure stick that we had been so desperately looking for!

I guess sometimes in life, the thing you need or want the most is right under your feet and you never know it until you step right in it.

At some point during the race weekend, I begin to reflect: maybe it’s these little ironies, with healthy doses of laughter, joy, and fun that make it worth all the sacrifices.

(Photo: Kaya Musgrave)

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