4 Key Cyclocross Skills to Bring to Your First Race

So you want to race cross?

Yes! Here are 4 cyclocross skills to bring to your first cyclocross race! You’ve heard of this thing called cyclocross and you want to give it a try but don't know where to start? Fortunately, you are in luck because here at FasCat we have four cyclocross skills you can practice to bring to your first cyclocross race.

The 4 key cyclocross skills are:

1. Starts

2. Cornering

3. Dismounting and Remounting

4. Obstacles Let's go thru these cyclocross skills in detail one by one:

1. Starts 

Unlike a criterium or road race where the sprint is at the finish, in cyclocross, the race starts with the sprint! Here are 5 pro tips: Choose an easy gear so you can get a quick pop off the line. Then once you are off and clipped in, work your way down the cogset to wind up your sprint. Different terrain will require a different gear so practice on or near the actual start line.

Get a hard enough gear to allow you to complete at least three to five pedal rotations before needing to shift but not one that is so big you can’t get the pedal moving. Start with your dominant foot clipped in (the foot you kick a soccer ball with) Pedal position: Have your clipped-in foot positioned at the 2 o'clock position so that you maximize the amount of pedal stroke you get in on the initial push.

Keep hammering if you don't clip in right away, you'll get it eventually.   Seated start: Start in the saddle with one foot the ground for balance. Get in the attack position a la Lars van de Haar (little guy, 4th from the left below). When the ref blows the whistle simply push down with your dominant foot while simultaneously pushing forward off the ground with your unclipped in foot. Finally, relax and concentrate; you got this! Prepare to have fun! If you'd like to dig into our tips for the PERFECT cyclocross race start,

click here to read this training tip.

2. Cornering 

A cyclocross race course is full of twists and turns. During your warmup inspect the course before your race and spend time practicing the corners. Keep in mind: Look where you are going, not at the ground in front of you. In a corner look at the exit point and keeping your eyes “soft” and relaxed so that your weight is balanced around your center of gravity. Tape to tape! Or "Outside, inside, outside". Read the terrain and choose the best line. Start your turn from the furthest to the outside you can be (tape), cut into the apex of the turn (inside) and exit the turn as wide as possible (outside).

Cross courses are wide for a reason and this allows you a lot of room for one to carry their momentum as much as possible. Momentum and long turns in cyclocross and your best friend. Steer with your body. Your hips and shoulders are what will steer your bike, not your hands/handlebars. Try practicing this by holding on to the handlebars loosely and using your weight to determine where the bike will go.

3. Dismounting and Remounting 

Getting on and off your bike is a fundamental component of cyclocross. Smooth and fast are key and the best way to achieve this is to practice. As these movements can be pretty shocking to your system, be sure you are warmed up before you proceed and pay attention to the following:

We did two photo training tips with BikeRadar that breakdown Dismounting and Remounting that we suggest reviewing.

Use a portable barrier like a CrossPropz for barriers.

Practice, practice and practice some more! Just like taking batting cage practice or going to the range in golf – you gotta get several hundred reps per season. Finding a local grassy park, getting at least 30 minutes as a warm-up, and then jumping on and off the bike really make a difference in your confidence and cyclocross skills.

4. Obstacles such as Run-Ups and Sand 

When faced with intimidating obstacles like a steep hill or a sand pit, remember to simply get off your bike and run! Momentum is your friend and by keep moving forward you'll go much faster than trying to ride the obstacle. If you'd like to learn more about running for cyclocross, read this training tip all about how to run for 'cross!

If you want to continue up-ing your knowledge game in CX training, click here to browse our directory of 'cross tips!

And, if you are looking for a training plan to prepare you for your first race, check out our 6 Weeks till Cyclocross plan! It will include all of the skills and drills mentioned above!


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About Frank Overton

Frank founded FasCat Coaching in 2002 and has been a full time cycling coach since 2004. His educational background includes a Masters degree in Physiology from North Carolina State University, pre-med from Hampden-Sydney College. Frank raced at a professional level on the road and mountain bike and currently competes as a "masters" level gravel and cyclocrosser. Professionally Frank comes from medical school spinal cord research and molecular biotechnology. However, to this day it is a dream come true for Frank to be able to help cyclists as a coach.

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