Grit. Determination. Perseverance. Focus. Passion. Desire. Bulldogedness.
These words come to mind when I think about Behind The Stare: The Pulse & Character Of Professional European Cyclocross. These attributes sum up both the riders profiled in the book and the author, Geoff Proctor. This book was a long-time in the making and the research and attention to detail that went into it are obvious.
As someone who has spent a great deal of time racing in Europe, I’m impressed with how well Proctor immersed himself in the lives of the top European and North American racers who are racing and training in Belgium. This is not an easy thing to do. The cyclocross community in Belgium is welcoming but it is also guarded – Proctor’s ability to break down barriers is a testament to his passion for the sport and the recognition that he really does know and understand European cyclocross. The insights provided by the likes of Sven Nys, Bart Wellens, Erwin Vervecken, Jonathan Page and Ryan Trebon provide the full picture and spectrum of what it is like to live, breathe, eat and sleep cyclocross in Europe.
There are reasons why it is hard for North Americans to make the big step that Page did. There are reasons why some racers want to commit but really can’t take that extra step. There are reasons why some racers always seem to come out on top and others are always just one pedal stroke behind.
There’s the training. The family support. The sponsor pressure. The self-doubt. The fear.
All of this is what Proctor brings to the page. With the use of literary and musical references, you’re taken on a journey with the author. He lets you into his soul we learn what keeps him driving around Europe, leaving his family for extended periods and pursuing his passion. Proctor’s writing style combined with the candid honesty of the riders, managers, coaches, spouses, trainers, and fans really takes you onto the race course.
Chances are high you’ve never been to a cyclocross race in Belgium or anywhere else in Europe – but with Behind The Stare, you have that chance to experience it all. No other book about cyclocross takes you into the Nys family home, has candid honesty from Vervecken and his wife about his “off season” or gives you the roller-coaster that is being a Belgian cyclocross racer who is one day on the top of his game and the next day questioning his training and desire.
This is a book that works for athletes and non-athletes – really – we get to understand what allows some folks to come out on top and what holds others back. Cyclocross racers, road racers, mountain bikers, bike fanatics, sports fans, people who want to know what it is that motivates and drives people to pursue a life of sport – this is the book for you. In fact if someone asks you to explain cyclocross – simply hand them Behind The Stare.
I should note that I read and provided feedback to Proctor on his very early edition of Behind The Stare and I was hooked then. I’ve been urging Proctor to get his book published – and I’m very happy to see it available. It is a good read. An honest account of cyclocross racing in Europe. There is no sugar coating. It tells like it is and brings you very close to getting to know the top riders of the sport and in the process, helping you to understand what makes European cyclocross so darn contagious.
(To order your copy and start reading, visit Behind The Stare.)