When the summer months wind down and fall approaches, my clients start getting excited about the cross season. If I notice that a client, at the end of the season, is getting a bit bored with their cycling training, I start to introduce cyclocross training. It mixes up the training and brings new life into their workouts.
Cyclocross racing started in Europe, giving the roadies an opportunity to train during the winter to keep their fitness up. Cyclocross, or CX, is now a recognized cycling discipline and has its own national and world championships. CX racing and training are done in the mud, the rain, the sand, up hills, down hills, or even in the snow in the northern states. CX training consists of strength training, running, interval training and training on local CX courses. I remember this statement from the first time I was introduced to Cyclocross: “One hour on a CX bike is equal to three hours on the road.” This is actually more of a feeling of being on the road bike for three hours rather than actually substituting three hours on the road bike.
Cyclocross races are laid back and fun. You might receive a beer hand-off or the devil may be there to heckle you. I have seen folks race in their tutus or crazy socks or even wear a moose on their helmet. There are some racers who are very serious about cross, but then aren’t we all serious about our racing?
To race cross, you have to have skills. If you don’t have skills, you’ll find yourself face down in the mud or dirt, which is the motivation for learning them! The skills you learn will benefit you whether you race road, track or crit. Where do you think Peter Sagan learned his skills — and that man has skills?
One year my son’s goal was to become Txbra Champion (Texas Bicycle Racing Association) of the year. At that time, it was a numbers game, and you had to do all the races (road, track, and cyclocross) to become the state champion. My husband took my son to the CX races, and he would always come home talking about one junior who was so good. The following week I took my son to the cyclocross race, and I saw barriers on the side of a hill. All the other juniors and masters would hop off their bike, carrying it over the barriers — except for this one junior. He would bunny hop over each barrier while riding uphill, without losing speed. It was impressive. I asked his father how he learned to do that. His father simply stated that he practices every day, jumping his bike on the curb and off the curb over and over again, several times a week. To get good with your skills, you must practice, practice and practice some more.
YouTube has loads of videos demonstrating how to do cyclocross skills, and I have included several of my favorites. Many thanks to Global Cycling Network, Kris Westwood and Canadian Cycling Magazine for some great videos on cyclocross skills.
The skills are:
- Mounting and dismounting (getting on and off the bike) — https://youtu.be/Fq0ruTYPPaM –
- Carrying your bike over obstacles
- Running through a sand pit — https://youtu.be/rpvUo4YJpa4
- Running through a mud pit — https://youtu.be/jVEhrGjjGIw –
- Shifting Gears
- Cornering — https://youtu.be/65CCvuJnxyM
- Bunny hopping over obstacles — https://youtu.be/N8wPgeP4cpM
Why race or ride cyclocross? I have seen roadies who had an OK season, but not a great season, do the local cross season and come back to the road season so much stronger. Cyclocross teaches you how to push yourself to another level. The races last between 30 to 60 minutes, and they are one big interval. On your bike, off your bike, running, climbing, etc. — one big interval.
One caution: Cyclocross does not and should not replace the hours in the saddle for the road. If you are a roadie and plan on racing the spring season, you will still need to get your hours in on the road. I have seen folks come back to the road or track after cyclocross season with increased strength, and I have also seen athletes who gave up their weekend road rides for cyclocross season and ended up in a deficient.
During the spring race season, I tell my clients to race one weekend day on cross and spend the second weekend day on the road bike, unless they are planning on competing at CX Nationals.
The Georgia Cyclocross season starts 10/1/17 and will run through 12/2/17. Go to http://georgiacx.com/gacxschedule/ to check out the races, times and locations.