With temperatures continuing to hover in the 90s, it’s hard to imagine that the Colorado road racing season is nearing its end. For some, this means a transition away from the rigors of structured training and racing and some well needed rest. But, for an ever increasing group of die-hards, the slow creep towards fall and winter means only one thing, cyclo-cross. ‘Cross offers a welcomed change of pace from countless hours spent staring at asphalt and allows those competitive juices to keep flowing for a few more months. So with ‘cross season rapidly approaching, here are a few pointers to get you headed in the right direction.
First things first, it’s time to dust off that trusty rig that’s been sitting in the corner of your garage for the better part of the summer. Inspect your frame and components carefully for wear and tear. If your bike needs an overhaul, get it into the shop sooner rather than later. Cables, tires and chains are quick to wear in ‘cross so seriously consider replacing these parts. A quality set of sealed cables will help keep shifting crisp even in muddy conditions. Start to get reacquainted with the fit and set-up of your bike. Bike fit can change over time because of changes in fitness, flexibility or because of injury. To ensure that you’re maximizing your potential on the bike you may want to consider a professional bike fit.
Running, for some of us, is the reason that we switched to cycling. While it is only a small portion of cyclo-cross, it is an area that will need some attention, especially if you haven’t run since last ‘cross season! Don’t think that you have to commit your time to running miles upon miles. The longest run you will see in a race might only amount to a couple hundred feet at a time. Instead, your focus should be on short sprints and leg speed. You need to prepare your legs to hit the ground running after dismounting your bike at 10+mph. Include several short, 30sec-1min, sprint efforts into your running workouts. Including some hill work will also help you better prepare for running up those staircases and over barriers. In the end, our goal is to ensure that our run doesn’t slow down our bike as two wheels are usually faster than two feet.
With that thought in mind, start working on your transitions to and from the bike. Mounts and dismounts may seem simple on the surface but, as many of you know, they take a lot of work to dial in. An entire article could be devoted to just this one area but seeing it in action is best. YouTube can be a great resource for step-by-step videos. Get a feel for the various techniques, especially for carrying your bike while running, and start practicing. Find what technique works best for you and for a given situation or obstacle.
With everything else going on in ‘cross don’t forget that it’s mostly about the riding. As any great ‘cross racer will tell you, starts are crucial. Devote at least a few minutes of each training session to getting off the line, getting clipped in and getting up to full speed quickly. Then be prepared to ride hard for the next 30min-1hr! Integrate one to two days of interval work into your training rides to help maximize your effort at threshold. Most of you will have been building up your riding during the summer, now start focusing on longer intervals in the 10-30min range near threshold with 3-5mins rest between efforts. For those that are just ramping up, start with shorter efforts and build up to the longer ones. Spend another day mixing in some sprint work. This will help with starts, accelerations after re-mounting as well as with passing other riders. Multiple sets of five 8-12sec efforts with various rest intervals will give you the burst of speed you need come race day.