How to Peak for Cyclocross Nationals

US Cyclocross Nationals is about 8 weeks away (depending on when you are reading this) and there is still time to train 'get faster' for the State and National Championships. I like to use the Performance Manager Chart to have athletes peak for cyclocross nationals. The "PMC" is a chart in TrainingPeaks that provides a 10,000 ft aerial view of an athlete's training volume and coinciding 'form'.

As I design an athlete's daily training plan, I use the PMC to massage their form to be the best possible it can be at cyclocross nationals. What is the Performance Manager Chart, you say? Its the graph generated from the athlete's power data and projected Training Stress Scores (TSS) you see below. Way, way back in 2004 when myself and group of coaches and sport scientists were developing this performance model, I nicknamed it "TSTWKT". But I digress.... To set up your performance manager chart read these instructions in a tip we wrote here.

This year Nationals is before the Holidays so the opportunity for training that stand out for the master cyclocross athlete who brings the bacon home, 9-5:

#1 the 4 day Thanksgiving Break.

Unlike 2017, there is not a second block of vacation time over the Holidays to double down and train. Therefore the 4 day Thanksgiving break is quintessential for training to peak at States and Nationals. If you've been racing nearly every weekend, I highly encourage you to plan a 4 day "personal training camp' to raise your form for the end of the season races.

In the Performance Manager Chart above you are looking at a 42 year old master cyclocross athlete's previous and projected training data [with a 60 hour a week careerMonday through Friday + family & kids, mortgage, etc... ]. The solid line through October 14th represents his training data: training load and form. The dashed lines after October 14th represent the projected training volume from the athlete's day-to-day training plan I have designed in TrainingPeaks. Note the rise in CTL from the 4 day Thanksgiving training block!

Race 'n Recover till Thanksgiving:

The athlete's training load (chronic training load/CTL) will remain in the low 60's from a race 'n recover style of training until Thanksgiving. Preference will be given to recovery and having good form for his weekly races. In order to maintain his training volume we are only racing on Sundays so he doesn't race too much and burnout. I modeled out his performance (and know from experience) that if he/we were to race both days in November he'd run out of base, motivation and form by December to the point of not being able to put in the hours before nationals.

1. The 4 Day Thanksgiving Training Block:

Once this athlete hits Thanksgiving, this is where we'll move the needle upwards (his CTL) with a 4 day training block. Following Thanksgiving we'll begin the athlete's taper. In order to earn that tape the Thanksgiving training block will need to provide a sufficient overload. The Thanksgiving training block not only contributes to nationals but has the added benefit of improving the athlete's form for his State Championships 1 week later.

I like to kick off the 4 Day Thanksgiving training block with a good 'ol fashioned sweet spot interval workout. To make the interval CX specific I'll have perform a 'burst' every 2 minutes during a 10 minute sweet spot interval. The 5 reps ( x's 10 minutes) equals 50 minutes and is specific to the length of their cyclocross race.

After the Tryptophan Sweet Spot Ride on Thanksgiving I'll have the athlete follow a Fatigue Dependent Training Plan Design and continue the block with a TEMPO and Zone 2 workouts/rides. In total the 4 day block + a 75 minute ride the following Tuesday equals a 13.25 hour stout training week well timed before nationals.

2. Taper and Peak:

Following the 4 Day Thanksgiving training block athletes will have between 17 - 19 days before Nationals. taper* down into Nationals. When executed properly [decrease in training volume yet maintaining cyclocross intensity] the athlete will have + TSB for their final races of the season like the State Championships in addition Nationals. Doing well at States is a great confidence booster heading into Nationals.

Even though the athlete is tapering it does not mean they are doing short easy rides; on the contrary: they are doing high-end, sharp, cyclocross specific intervals like Tabatas. With that, I am still decreasing the athlete's training load from 66 down to 53 on race day for a training stress balance of + 29. A TSB of +29 is super fresh which I've found to be crucial for cyclocross racing and furthermore, peaking for nationals.

This performance manager chart is one example out of many possibilities to plan a peak for cyclocross nationals. However the coach and athlete arrive to the start line in Louisville on race day, a peak performance will rely on the the Thanksgiving training block and a race n recover style of training before that. Want to follow an age based training plan so you can peak in six weeks at Cyclocross Nationals? Try ours designed with the exact key elements of this training tips. $49 Six Weeks to Peak for Cyclocross Nationals.

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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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