Here are five things you can do now to make sure your cross season includes maximum possible podium time.
It’s time to break out the skinsuit and let the cowbell ringing begin. Photo by Tyler Frasca.
Cyclocross racers are the triple threats of the bike racing world. You need fitness, skills, and a well-tuned bike. If just one piece is out of place, the whole game plan can come unraveled. To help assure that doesn’t happen, we talked to multi-time U.S. national champion Tim Johnson and Jamis Cyclocross Team’s Ben Jacques-Maynes, who passed these basic tips. Do them now to make your upcoming races the best they can be.
Practice Makes Perfect: Time to get those basics back in order. Even if you’re a seasoned racer, clinics are a good chance to assess and strengthen weaknesses. “If you’re a skier or golfer, you’d never have an issue with taking a lesson,” says Johnson of Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com. “Find a cyclocross clinic in your area and give it a shot. There are plenty of free clinics taught by local riders and paid clinics by some of the more accomplished pros are on offer.”
Run Around: Run the barriers, says Jacques-Maynes. “Start with 10-20 min jogs, then progress to hill or stair runs, and then get some practice hopping on and off the bike at speed. I work on this technical skill all the time, because I’ll see more gains from training the runs and transitions than from pedaling more.”
Running and negotiating barriers is critical to cross racing success. Photo by Tyler Frasca.
No Pain No Gain: Cross specific intervals are a surefire way to get your body in race ready shape. “If you have limited time, you will see the most gains from high intensity intervals at or around your threshold,” says Jacques-Maynes, referring to a metric that roughly means the hardest all-out effort you can sustain for one hour. “Don’t just pin it though. Step back and forth into anaerobic efforts and then recover at a high aerobic effort. I have two workouts that I do: 30-30′s which is a 30 seconds all out sprint followed by 30 seconds of recovery, and over-under efforts, which are 15 minute threshold efforts with 20-second sprints every 3 minutes. These workouts hurt like crazy but you’ll be putting the hurt on others come race time.”
Playtime: There’s a reason why a sport that revolves around mud bogs and loud cowbells is something you look forward to. That’s why you don’t have to be uber serious all the time, Johnson says. “It’s okay to relax and just ride for the joy of it. Go hit your local ’cross practice track to remind yourself how fun cyclocross is. Don’t always stress about training.”
Cyclocross races are best enjoyed with a healthy dose of humor.
Don’t Come Unglued: If you really want a competitive edge, tubular tire/wheel set-ups are a must. They allow you to run lower tire pressure (meaning better traction and a smoother ride) without the fear of getting a pinch flat, which comes with traditional clincher tire set-ups. But running tubulars also means you need to learn how to properly glue tires — or hire a capable mechanic to do it for you. If you are going to do it yourself, Jacques-Maynes recommends using 1-2 tubes of glue per wheel. Yes, that’s 3-5 layers. Also make sure you use high quality glue.