Building on the confidence of a successful first CX event with local riders and friends, we wanted to test out a full CX retreat (meals, accommodation and riding) with someone with a lot of experience and unbiased opinions. Thus began the search for what would be our first CX guest.

The 2018 CX racing calendar gave us an idea. We were situated between and within a few hours drive of both the Pan-American CX Championships (Silver Goose) in Midland, and the Canadian CX Nationals in Peterborough – events that were a week apart. Also, the preceding C1 Race leading up to Pan-Ams was in Cincinnati, which, based on the very complicated guest-selection algorithm (CX has a thing for algorithms) we had developed, suggested western/eastern based riders would probably want to stay in the Ontario area before Pan-Ams.

Keep in mind that at this point we did not yet have our guest accommodation centre built, so any guests would be staying with us B&B style (we live next to MLAT HQ).

A review of the key factors of first-guest selection:

  • Lots of CX experience (like World Cup, Wold Championship type experience)
  • Be headed to both PANAMs and Nationals
  • Not be a rider with home-base near PanAms and Nationals
  • Not have an entourage (staying in our house)
  • In general, be a nice guy or gal.

Now, I realize I was about to literally cold-call someone I’ve never met and invite them to our farm in the middle of the woods. Under many circumstances (possibly even this one)…a bit creepy, I’ll admit that. But, with these two events happening so close we simply didn’t want to miss the chance to get feedback on what we had to offer, and to be honest, we were pretty excited to share what we had to offer.

Luckily, Michael van den Hamm (@MVDHCX) is a really nice guy, and when I offered to host him for a week, he said yes! (I believe the technical term for this is ‘creeped him out on Instagram’) He already had arrangements for the week before Nationals, but leading up to Pan-Ams what we had to offer fit his plans.

“Uh Julia, the National Cyclocross Champion is going to stay with us for a week before the Continental Championships.” (At this point Michael was “only” a 1-time National CX Champion – more on that, later).

Thus began our preparation to host Michael – reigning National CX Champion, pro-racer with Easton-Garneau Transitions-Lifecare team, experienced world-traveller, coffee connoisseur and very fast cyclist. And, as we would discover (we had heard rumours), a nice guy to hang-out with. No pressure.

The trails were set, we had off-site ride recommendations ready for his daily training goals and the on-site bike shop and a yoga quiet-space available, as needed. The big question was the meal-plan.

Our goal is to maximize local ingredients, incorporating Santosha Farm produce and other regional growers and value added producers. With this being later October, we were harvesting a lot from the gardens. Our default is gluten-free and a quick check with Michael addressed any other dietary preferences. Food is a priority for us, and with the exception of the odd box of Annie’s Mac & Cheese after working in the gardens until 10, we eat very well. But, Julia stepped up and created a meal-plan that was exceptional!

We had a truly enjoyable time of creating a space to support Michael’s training, relaxation, nutrition and preparation for the upcoming Pan American Championships. When the original plan for Michael to head to Midland on Thursday changed to Friday, we took it as a sign that he was enjoying his stay. Our season’s goals had been met.

One of the endearing things about Cyclocross, at least in North America, is the small team and working athlete feel. For many, the work on and off the bike doesn’t stop, with training, travel, keeping up with social media, sponsor obligations and, in many cases, managing your own team’s logistics. It was an eye opening experience for us to see the level of effort required for things that don’t involve training or racing.

A highlight of this was when word came through that one of the mechanics for the Easton-Garneau p/b TLC Team was sick and couldn’t make it to Midland. When the National Champ is staying with you and says his team is short a mechanic before the Pan-Am Champs and Nationals…there is only one thing you do….which you can read about here.

Lessons learned from MVDHCX’s stay – if you care about that KOM you have on your favourite remote backroad loop, don’t invite an elite world cup racer and national champion to stay and train in your hood. Your phone won’t stop with the Strava messages.