Wednesday 14 August 2013

Preparing for the Cross Season

August – summer days, holidays, barbeques, a bank holiday to look forward to, preparation for cyclocross.

Old timers will know all this already. Hopefully. But if you are thinking about starting 'cross or coming back to it after trying it last season, some of this may help.

It’s always a bit strange to be thinking about January and it’s mud, rain and snow and ice during the summer. But for those wanting to get stuck into ‘cross this winter, perhaps for the first time, now is that time to start preparing for riding and racing in foul conditions. ‘Cross is very technique, and equipment intensive and some time spent now will pay dividends later in the winter.

Get your bike sorted now – recable, replace worn parts, reglue tubs. All of your cross bike will take a battering as the weather worsens and getting things sorted now and will save you mid-season and most likely mid-race malfunctions. It’s surprising how fast a seemingly functional ‘cross bike can grind to a halt after a few rides and races if it starts from a point of disrepair. Tubs that were glued last season need checking and most likely reglueing, bottom brackets and headsets regreasing and drivetrains replacing.

In ‘cross, technique can make the difference between winning and losing. For those of us not at that the sharp end of a race, it is still crucial. I’ve known super strong riders on the road come to a cross race and languish near the back as their oof-road technique and in particular on/off the bike technique is lacking. Whilst fitness is clearly important, you will lose minutes per lap if you cannot smoothly negotiate the obstacles on the course – time that you will never make up no matter how hard you train.

To that end, get out on the ‘cross bike. Where you can do longer rides in the woods that involve carrying and other technical sections, or at the very least find a playing field and practice cornering, jumping on and off and picking the bike up at speed. 10 minutes several times a week at this time of year will make a big difference when things get tough in December. Do it in your garden even, if you have one big enough…

I made a couple of videos last year to give people the basics:

Dismounting and remounting -

Barriers and carrying technique -

Fitness in ‘cross is all about short, sharp efforts as the races only last up to an hour maximum. Later in the year, short sharp training in the form of intervals is usually standard fare for regular ‘cross riders, either on simulated ‘cross circuits outdoors or on the turbo trainer. But at this time of year, you need to be looking at building your base fitness for ‘cross with some longer ‘threshold’ type efforts – the kind of effort where you are breathing heavy but not gasping. Long climbs in amongst a road or off-road ride are good for this – as reported elsewhere, I had the ‘luck’ to be on a recent family holiday to the Pyrenees where the quiet roads and cols were perfect for this type of training. Nearer to the season start introducing shorter, harder efforts as ‘cross is very intensive from the gun.

Above all, enjoy your ‘cross – it is a very friendly, accessible and relaxed scene. Come on your mountain bike if you haven’t a purpose built ‘cross bike and ask questions of those around you. You’ll soon find you’re hooked and thinking of cold winter December days, even in August…

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