Three steps to get ready for cyclocross season
Cyclocross is a tremendous way for bike riders to stretch their competitive seasons and get a good jump-start on fitness for the following season. The intensity of cyclocross racing provides a workout that’s very difficult to replicate – even with standard interval training. During the fall and winter, the temperature drop means that most athletes turn primarily to indoor trainers, and for many, the self-motivation to push to the limit becomes a constant issue.
If you’ve come to the end of a long racing season - be it road riding, mountain biking or triathlon - it’s wise to take a break of at least a couple of weeks before commencing your cyclocross training/racing. During this time, look to back off the intensity and consider eliminating structured workouts altogether. Just get on your bike and ride at a recovery pace and you’ll feel a lot fresher when a couple of weeks are up.
However, don’t let this recovery period go much beyond two weeks. You don’t want to lose too much of the high-end fitness you’ve developed through the prior bike season.
Here are a few ways to prepare for the cyclocross season.
1. Specific cyclocross practice: Due to being so technique-reliant, it’s absolutely essential that you get on your cross bike for a skills practice or training race once per week. There are many skills to focus on, such as dismounting and mounting quickly without losing too much momentum, and running and jumping obstacles with the bike.
2. Power intervals: It’s important to include race-pace interval workouts in your training program. For example, ride for about 45 seconds to the base of a short, steep hill or staircase then dismount, shoulder the bike, and sprint up the hill or staircase. Remount the bike and accelerate back to race pace in about 10-15 pedal strokes. After each interval, spin easily back to your starting point and start the next interval. Aim to complete 4-8 of these intervals in a continuous set.
3. Get in long miles early: It’s inevitable that the weather will get worse and your training will become more race specific (with shorter workouts at higher intensities), so for that reason, while the weather is still warm enough, bank some long endurance rides. When it’s colder and darker, you won’t have as many opportunities - and less motivation - to ride for 3+ hours, so get in long miles early in the cyclocross season.
Do some research and find out about your local cyclocross series. If you want to see significant performance gains next season, it’s crucial that you don’t let the improvements you made this year slip away due to inactivity or a lack of focus. Besides, getting dirty in cyclocross is super fun and you’ll definitely meet some cool, like-minded people in the process.