We are starting to wind down the road season and some of you may be considering racing cyclocross this fall. Cross is a great way to stay fit and sharpen some of your skills. The training is somewhat more specific however, here are some tips to optimize your training for cross.
CX involves more specific skills than road riding. Dismounts, mounts
and technical abilities are all requirements to excel at cross. At least 2 days a week you should be focussing on some of your skill work. Practice getting on and off the bike efficiently, I ask my riders to consider that fitness is not enough, you have to have polished skills. Practice cornering on different dirt surfaces and going up and down hills on different types of inclines.
2. Interval training
CX requires a rider to be able to generate short sharp efforts in addition to sustained efforts. Remounting the bike and exiting corners or moving to a paved surface ask the athlete to repeatedly accelerate throughout the event. Practice short, intense threshold and VO2 type intervals between 1 and 3 minutes.
In addition to short efforts, CX can resemble time trialing. To compliment the short hard efforts, add in some tempo and sustained threshold intervals between 10 and 40 minutes. If you're building up your fitness still, do 2x15min or similar with 5 or 10min easy between to help you get some level of recovery.
Cross asks you to be able to run in addition to riding. Many cyclists do not come from a running back ground so it pays to spend some time training to run. Things like sprints and hill runs will go a long way towards improving your experience with cross. The longest run you might do in a CX race would probably not exceed 30 seconds so, try doing repetitions
of 30 seconds or less of sprints or hill runs. Since you're sometimes
moving fast, do the sprints at 100% so you can train your body to, literally, hit the ground running.
Many clubs have skills clinics as we enter the fall. If you have the
inclination, these are valuable learning resources. Barring that, mid week training events are useful or consulting with a coach.
Cyclocross is a fun, different way to maintain your fitness in the fall or even build a little fitness. It requires a cyclist to have additional abilities including running and mounting and dismounting the bike. A well thought out, deliberate plan in training will help you have more fun and more success at the races.