Even seasoned roadies can benefit from some fun fall racing. Here are eight pointers to help you dabble successfully in cyclocross.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the September 2015 issue of Velo magazine. In it, Grant Holicky of Apex Coaching and pro cyclocross racer Meredith Miller talk to Trevor Connor about how roadies can keep the good times rolling into the fall ‘cross season.
If you race the entire ’cross season, you won’t be taking a break until January, which can be an issue for the following road season. “Pick a time to be done and don’t get tied up in the points race,” Holicky says. Calling it quits in November is a good strategy for many. He notes that even Danny Summerhill, a seven-time under-23 and junior national champion in both ‘cross and road, who now races for UnitedHealthcare, is typically focused on the road season by the time ‘cross nationals rolls around in January.
Take a break
Holicky doesn’t think it’s a good idea to jump right into ‘cross. “Athletes are concerned about taking four days off, but they can actually get a bump from [an extended break],” he says. Make sure you’re rested before you slap on the knobby tubulars. If you race a full ’cross calendar, you should also take another short break after the season to refocus.
Factor in the intensity
If you’re just looking to do a few races but not specifically train for the intensity of ‘cross, you don’t really have to worry, Miller says. But if you do a full cyclocross schedule, the old-school approach of ramping up intensity in January won’t work. Instead, after your break, Miller recommends backing down and focusing on longer rides.
You don’t need to plan a boot camp worthy of the Navy SEALs just to enjoy a few races. Most road cyclists and mountain bikers have been training all year. “They’re going to bring that power to a ‘cross race,” Miller says. There’s no need to get creative with your training.
Develop your skills
Both Miller and Holicky believe that practicing ‘cross skills is the most important thing you can do to prepare for racing. “That can make a real difference and really turn your experience into a good one,” says Miller, who adds that riding with experienced racers to practice dismounts, remounts, and technical riding is key. Holicky says most riders can get that by going to a weekly group ‘cross ride.
Run for it
Holicky also recommends shifting at least some of your focus away from riding and toward running. “Twenty minutes, once per week is all you need,” he says.
Keep the week easy
Holicky says it would be wise to view your races as your training. “Be careful about what you do the rest of the week,” he says. “You can do too much.” While dedicated ‘cross racers will include a lot of intensity in their workouts, Holicky says a bit of sprint work on Tuesday and some threshold intervals on Wednesday may be all you need.
It’s all about the tires
You’ll hear the same conversation in every tent at a cyclocross race: “What tires are you running? What pressure?” Switching up tread patterns may not be an option if you’re running tubulars, but pressure can make a substantial difference. Miller generally runs 22psi but will go as low as 12psi in certain conditions. The low pressures take some getting used to, but they can make the difference between railing corners and flying into a ditch.