Friday, October 15, 2010

Housing for bike racers

Apart from vacation rentals, hotels and cycling-friendly bed and breakfast places, Belgium also has establishments that cater exclusively to foreign bike racers. Many different types exist and they all explicitly or implicitly attract or restrict themselves to a subgroup of racers. Cycling specific accommodations are most popular with the 18 and up crowd.

Here are three examples. More information can be found on the web.

USA House in Izegem is the best known in this country. It is run by USA Cycling and is located inside a residence occupied by a Belgian family. It has shared rooms and single rooms as well as a mechanic's shop and mechanics support. It provides both long term and short term accommodation. The latter is often in the form of camps. It operates year round, in summer serving road racers and in winter hosting camps for cyclocrossers. Access is for US racers through a USA Cycling selection. There are camps for nieuwelingen, and national team trips for juniores and U23's. Some juniors and U23 take up season long residence there.

USA House provides state of the art accommodations and racer support. It also comes with easy entry into all levels of competition. The main drawback of USA House is limited access by USA coaching selection only. Other weak spots former residents have remarked upon include high price, strict house rules, a set schedule, isolation and less than optimal location with respect to popular riding routes.

Izegem house, from USAC website

Cycling Center located in Oostkamp is run by Bernard Moerman, a local with a small staff that includes a bike fitter and a team doctor. CC has pro team affiliations and it caters to racers of all ages. It also has strong US connections and lists Ben Sharp, now the USA junior team coach, and Barney King as its ambassadors. CC has a long list of previous CC members, most of whom hail from the US, but there are Canadians, Israelis, Mexicans, South Africans, Swedes, Swiss, and even Belgian racers who stayed there. Gregg Germer, who now runs the Chainstay is listed as a former resident. Although CC is close to Bruges, it is in a less than optimal location in my opinion. In addition to lodging CC provides advice, support, and coaching, but residents are generally quite independent and come and go as they please.

Cycling Center, from their website

The Chainstay, located in Oudenaarde is run by Gregg Germer, a former US racer from Texas and his wife Holly. The Chainstay's key advantage is its location and cultural openness. The Chainstay has both long term and short term accommodations for the road and cyclocross season. It has an affiliation with the Flanders racing team and some residents race with the team during the season. The Chainstay has a well equipped bike room and a van that can be used by residents to travel to and from races. Residents at the Chainstay have a very high degree of independence and they are expected to take care of their own cooking, cleaning and bike maintenance. The Chainstay has a very international crowd, mostly U23's and Canadians, Israelis and Britons take up long term residence here.

The Chainstay from website -I slept here

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