Written by FasCat Cyclocross Coaches

Layering Apparel for Cyclocross Racing

Layering apparel for cyclocross racing obviously includes your bib-shorts and your jersey…ain’t no one racing ‘cross naked this fall if we have our say in it. Beyond your team kit, things can get tricky when choosing apparel for ‘cross racing.

Layer layer layer, but always focus on your core.

Your core temperature is the first thing that dictates the temperature of your extremities. You can put 4 pairs of shoe covers on, but if core temps are dropping, you may have trouble keeping your feet warm.

If you want to layer like a pro, start with your base layer.

The best base layers are specifically designed to wick moisture away from your body which may help temperature regulation should you get too hot during your warm-up.

Chose the style of base layer to match the temperature and consider these four:

  1. Thin sleeveless tank top (55 – 70F)
  2. Short Sleeve Top (40-55F)
  3. Longsleeve thermal (25 – 30F)
  4. Even thicker longsleeve thermal with turtleneck and windstopper front (below 25F)

Experiment and adjust to your preferences and race experiences.

Next, have multiple vests and arm warmers of different thicknesses.

Most racers will pair bib-shorts with knee or leg warmers, many athletes put too much focus on thermal jackets instead of vests and arm warmers.

As a cyclocross racer, your primary goal is to get your body warmed-up while not getting too sweaty. If you sweat through your bibs and jersey 25 minutes before your race, it will be extremely difficult to stay warm during your race. Using vests with arm warmers for allows you to unzip the vest and/or roll down the arm warmers as your warm-up gets serious.

Are you looking for a structured six-week training plan custom built for cross racers? Check out our $49 cyclocross intervals plan here!

Invest in 2 – 3 pairs of gloves that balance warm and dexterity.  Gloves are one of the most important contact points for cyclocross racers. We recommend finding and testing three pairs with varying thickness to ensure that you have options on race day.

In cyclocross racing, your hands are probably on the hoods most of the time, but you’ll also be shouldering the bike during run ups. Crossers use their hands much differently than road or MTB racers. Do not underestimate the need to test your glove set up before it’s 20 degrees and snowing.

As a general rule of thumb (pun intended), if temps are over 40 degrees, you can probably go without gloves. 25-40 degrees and we’d recommend racing with a lighter pair of gloves, and if it is below 25 degrees you’ll probably want the thickest pair of gloves that don’t limit dexterity.

Once you are racing and your heart rate is 180 bpm or higher, 35-40 degrees will not feel that cold. What’s tricky is executing a well-timed cyclocross warm-up and getting to the start line without freezing your ass off while you wait for the gun to go off.

If you get wet during the warm up and go to the start line wet you are doomed! This includes getting super sweaty from a trainer warm up.  There are two ways to stay dry

Have a change of clothes to change into after the warm up.  Those sprinter vans? Yeah, now you get their utility because you only have 10 minutes in-between a good warm up and the cyclocross race start. Change your base layer if you are sweaty, and bibs too if you’ve been slaying a trainer warm up.

If you rode the course and it was wet or warmed up in the rain have a new pair of socks, shoes, bibs, jersey… everything so you start the race DRY with a warm core.

A gore tex jacket and warm up pants are nice to inspect a muddy wet cyclocross race course because you may be able to stay dry except your socks and shoes.  So bring a dry pair!

If at all possible, bring a friend to your race who can meet you at the start so that you can wear WAY too much clothing to the start and toss it to the sidelines with about 1-minute to the start.

Optimal layering for cyclocross means that you’ve completed your 45-60 minutes of all out racing without ever thinking about the outside temps during the race. If this is something that you can accomplish on a regular basis this fall, you’ll know you’ve figured out what to wear for cyclocross racing.

Browse all of FasCat’s $49 cyclocross training plans!

Nutrition for Cyclocross Racing

Nutrition for cyclocross racing can be challenging given the high-intensity nature of cyclocross races. Nutrition mistakes during and around cyclocross racing are one of the most common ways to sabotage your form on race days this fall. You’ve put the training time in, your tires and bikes are dialed…so here’s how you can avoid blowing your hard work by making common nutritional mistakes.

Monday – Friday:

If you are racing cyclocross on Saturday and Sunday for consecutive weeks, the bulk of your training during the week will be focused on recovery and secondly, on getting your engine ready to run high-octane on the weekend. Due to the intensity of cyclocross, your first focus after a race weekend should be finding the right amount of carbohydrate to recover and maintain muscle glycogen. We recommend doing this by consistently maintaining moderate carbohydrate intake during the week.

Avoid cramming all your carbs into the “oh shit I’m racing cyclocross tomorrow” Friday night meal. NEVER eat 500 grams of carbohydrate in one sitting, your body is only able to store a finite amount of carbohydrate as muscle glycogen after that carbohydrate will be stored as fat. Ever heard of pizza-legs? Yeah, it’s a thing and pizza legs don’t win races.

FasCat Recommends: choose low-glycemic and ideally gluten free carbohydrate sources (like rice and quinoa) for midweek meals to avoid spiking blood sugar and inflammatory foods like white pasta and bread.

Don’t skimp on the carbs. Cyclocross racers frequently train, warm-up and race at high intensity. It’s easy to view the stress you’re putting on your body as “puffy-ness”, but before you cut carbs altogether, remember that you’re recovering from exercise that drains muscle glycogen at a much higher rate than other endurance events.

FasCat Recommends: Find a diet that works and stick to it. Puffy-ness will come and go, but it’s important to have patience and set vanity aside in favor of optimizing nutrition for recovery and then racing.

Skip the spicy foods too close to race weekends. We’re huge fans of hot-sauce and ordering Thai food that’s way too spicy to enjoy, but we’re not making that call on Thursday or Friday evening.

FasCat Recommends: Your best option is going “full monk” and sticking to the most boring diet you can think of during cyclocross season…but if you absolutely MUST eat a spicy meal, do it early in the week.

Race Days:

If you’ve had solid recovery early in the week and maintained some intensity midweek, you should be building on the form that you’ve built in the summer and from previous races. Having a week that sets you up for racing on Saturday and Sunday is tough…don’t blow it by making a dietary mistake.

Timing is everything. Not eating enough and/or not timing your pre-race meal correctly is a common mistake for cyclocross racers. Many athletes experience terrible stomach cramps during and after cyclocross races. This is commonly referred to as “cross-gut”, but this can happen for a variety of reasons, all of which are individual to the athlete.

FasCat Recommends: Part of your journey to being on the podium every week is figuring out what foods do and do not work for you on race day. Racers who’ve put in the “10,000 hours” already have this figured out. If you’re on the way to that level, the best thing you can do is record what you ate on race day and when you ate it. We recommend a small to medium portioned carbohydrate meal 3 – 4 hours prior to your race start. After the race, add to those notes and over a season you may see patterns develop. Follow the good patterns with diet, abandon the bad ones, but give it time.

You ate something during your race. The truth is that your body is pretty inefficient – after digesting foods, you’ll only be able to utilize around 25% of the calories you intake. This means that if you consume 100 calories during a cyclocross race, you’ll only be able to use 25 of them…and only AFTER you digest the calories.

FasCat Recommends: Many cyclocross racers carry one gel with caffeine as an emergency backup during races. You may get through the first 30 minutes of a race feeling flat, if you can find a gel that works well with your stomach during intensity, this may benefit you during the last few laps of a race.  It is also important to remember that carbohydrate intake takes 15 – 30 minutes. Anything you eat in the 2nd half of the race won’t really help glycogen depleted muscles during your race.

Eating the wrong stuff immediately after your race. As much as we like to bro-down after races, drinking that IPA right after your race is never going help recovery as much as something without alcohol! Finish your race and drink a mexican coke, have a hot chocolate. ~150-200 calories will cover your needs at this point. 30-45 minutes later, focus on getting a well-balanced meal that includes 30-40 grams of protein.  We like a healthy portion of chicken fried rice or a chicken burrito which is easy to find if you are on the road.

Optimal nutrition for cyclocross racing probably doesn’t sound like a lot of fun at this point, but you’ve done all the hard training, keep your nutrition boring and simple and you’ll reap the reward when you see the results sheet!

Cheetah getting aero and running

How to Warm Up for Cyclocross Racing

At the start of every cyclocross season, athletes ask us how to warm up for cyclocross racing. It’s a great question, and we’ve seen very few athletes be able to get up off the couch and perform a great cyclocross race start without a great warm-up. Here are a few tips that you can use as a guide to finding a more effective cyclocross warm-up, and a higher spot on the results page.

Consider the weather as you plan for race day:

We can’t change the weather – if we could we’d make sure it’s 45 and raining for all cyclocross racing this fall! Aside from pre-riding the course and course inspections (we’ll save that subject for another training tip), be sure that you have a good place to warm-up planned ahead of time.

If the weather is inclement and your team will not be bringing a tent to the race, do whatever you can to warm-up on a trainer out of the elements. While everyone needs to know the race course well, there is no sense in warming up outside in poor weather.

If the weather is not an issue, some riders like to warm-up out on the roads near the race course. This is easier to do if the race is in your backyard and you know the area, however, if you are racing out-of-state or at a new venue, it’s worth scouting the area for a section of road that allows for a predictable 30-minute warm-up.

There are no trophies for “never riding a trainer”, and if you’re serious about having a great race, the turbo-trainer will likely be the best way to warm up for your cyclocross race.

Timing your warm-up for maximum benefit:

Warm-ups for cyclocross racing need to be timed so that the warm-up is completed roughly 10-15 minutes before your race starts. Timing is the secret to a great warm up! Based on our experience, timing your warm-up to end at the perfect moment is an art form, not a science. Little things like proximity to the race start and keeping an ear open to the race announcers (in case the race is delayed) will help you understand when to start and when to finish your warm-up.

Before starting your warm-up, make sure you have everything race ready before you begin the warm up! Tire pressure, clothing, water, gear so that you can go immediately to the staging area after the end of your warm up.

FasCat’s suggested 30-minute cyclocross warm-up:

  1. Begin with 4 minutes at 60% of your FTP
  2. Move on to 9 minutes at 72% of your FTP
  3. Interval #1 is a 3-minute effort at 80% of FTP
  4. Spin for 30-seconds
  5. Interval #2 is a 3-minute effort at 90% of FTP
  6. Spin for 30-seconds
  7. Interval #3 is 3-minutes at 100% of your functional threshold power
  8. Spin for 2-minutes in zone 2, 72% of FTP
  9. Interval #4 is a 30-second sprint at 140% of FTP
  10. Spin for 1-minute in zone 2, 72% of FTP
  11. Interval #5 is a 30-second sprint at 140% of FTP

Finish with 5 minutes of zone 2 while timing your lineup.  All together it looks like this:

Experimentation for the future:

When you review your race, think back to the first lap and ask yourself, “was I properly warmed up or not?” If not, was it because you warmed up too much or too little? These are both great questions to ask when thinking about what changes to make for future racing. The goal is to have the warm-up dialed after 3-4 race weekends, and once you feel good about it, work on repeating your warm-up every weekend!

Questions? Comments? Add them below or email frank@fascatcoaching.com! Frank is the head coach, founder and owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO. To talk with Frank and/or a FasCat Coach about your warm up (and cyclocross racing & training) please fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire or call 720.406.7444 to set up a Coaching Consultation. Otherwise start here, experiment, revise and dial in your cyclocross race warm up!

The Perfect Cyclocross Race Start

The cyclocross race start is unlike the start of any other discipline of cycling. Cyclocross race starts are unique because athletes need to have their best sprint at the start of the race, rather than the finish.

I’ve written about starts before in “Cyclocross Skills to Bring to Your First Race”, but here I’m going to expand on what it takes to have a perfect start in a cyclocross race.

In other cycling disciplines, the start can be intense, but most races do not require an all out sprint at the beginning of the race. In cyclocross racing, every athlete needs to be ready to go from a standstill to an all out maximum 2-3 minute sprint/anaerobic/vo2 effort.

If you’re cringing in pain when you read that, there’s no way for us to sugarcoat it: cyclocross race starts are hard. Our recommendation is to embrace the pain and refine your technique with these four tips and leave your competitors in the dust!

1. The Line-Up

The line-up at a cyclocross race start can’t be overlooked and will play a critical role in the success of your race. Start by choosing a good starting gear based on how you’ve practiced race starts as well as the race course.

If the start is on pavement, choose a larger gear than if the start is on grass or uphill. Experiment a time or two during during your race warmup to figure out what’s the best gear choice!

The secret to a quick start is to choose an easier gear to pop off the line quickly. Pay attention to the referee when he or she gives you 30 seconds notice. The whistle may go off any time after that! When the ref blows the whistle simply push down with your dominant foot while simultaneously pushing forward off the ground with your un clipped in foot.

Start from a seated position with your non clipped in pedal leveled out. Once you are clipped in, sprint out of the saddle with your hands on the hoods.

During cyclocross race starts, nearly every rider we’ve seen uses a hand position on the hoods. This may seem obvious to some of you, but starting with your hands on the hoods makes it a lot easier to execute the seated start while also giving you easy access to your rear shifter as you accelerate.

2. The Start

When the race starts, you need to be ready for a near-maximum effort in order to ensure good positioning for the rest of the race. This type of start is a bit of an art-form and requires you go as hard as you can without completely blowing up after the first 5 minutes…which is easy to do.

Know the course! Every start is different, and getting the holeshot may or may not be that important depending on the passing opportunities each lap offers. In addition to understanding where to pass during the first lap, think about what you’re good at. If you excel in corners, you may be able to make up a few positions without using raw power to move up. Anytime you can use skill over power to pass in cyclocross – DO IT!

3. Practicing Cyclocross Race Starts

Practicing your race starts can be done on every single training ride! At the stoplights and stop signs during your ride, practice your race start by working on clipping in smoothly. Count down 3, 2, 1 at the stop signs or wait for the green light and GO!

As you would at a race, start in the saddle, pick the right gear and work on clipping in during the first pedal revolution for the most pop off the line. Ideally, you’ll work up to clipping in perfectly during the first pedal revolution 10 out of 10 times.

Based on our experience, getting in 100 reps each week for 4 weeks before the season starts is a good goal that will set you up for getting the hole shot all year long!

4. Race Start Training

From an imaginary start line in a park or at your local cyclocross course do 5 x 20 second race starts focusing on: gear selection, starting position in the saddle, clipping in smoothly and accelerating as hard as you can for 20 seconds. This is an all out, full gas, maximum effort.

Cyclocross race starts are a critical skill to develop if you want to perform your best this season. We believe that following these recommendations will set you up for success – as well as getting better call-ups as the race season progresses.

Questions? Comments? Add them below or email frank@fascatcoaching.com!

Frank is the head coach, founder and owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO. To talk with Frank and/or a FasCat Coach about your cyclocross race start (and cyclocross training and racing) please fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire or call 720.406.7444 to set up a Coaching Consultation. Otherwise, practice practice practice!

Jeremy Powers Running Stairs

Cyclocross Run Training Preparation

Walk Before you Run.  Coaches love this expression and never could it be more true and beneficial for cyclocross athletes.  Send any cyclist out on their first run since the last cyclocross race and I guarantee they come back wicked sore!  Here are 5 ‘trainings’ you can do year round especially in May, June and July to prepare your legs for cyclocross specific running.

Five Elements of Cyclocross Running to Undergo before you Actually Run:

#1 Hiking: a great way to train with the family, bring some balance to your cycling and accentuate lateral side to side movements that occur off the bike in a cyclocross race.  I have all my athletes go on at least one hike before they take one run step.

#2 Yoga: Yoga stretches and opens up your hips which will really take a beating if you don’t prepare before the cyclocross season.  When you incorporate yoga into your training the running will have less of an impact and you’ll recover better so that you can get back to on the bike intensity without being whacked. Here is a 22 minute quad and hip stretching yoga routine.  No excuses not to do this!  We also recommend YogaGlo’s Cycling Series (YogaGlo also sponsors a bad ass Cyclocross Team).

BUY a six week sweet spot cyclocross training plan HERE that has all five of these movements and summer sweet spot training for cyclocross.

Jeremy leading this group up the stairs at the 2015 Hoogerheide World Cup. Photo Credit: Molly Hurford / Aspire Racing

#3 Strength and Mobility: this is the traditional gym work that all cyclocross athletes should integrate into their pre season cyclocross training. Squats and hip thrusts are my two favs – its all about glute activation! Activate the glutes, run stronger and pedal more powerfully.

#4 Footwork: Picture in your head football players running thru tires.  High steps, light on the feet, quick quick quick.  Actually what’s better for us ‘crossers is the ladder run where you are placing your feet inside each box and moving thru the ladder with quick, short steps as fast as possible. Watch HERE (hokey video and music but the content is spot on).  This is the essential footwork that teaches short quick steps (not full strides) that will ‘save’ your legs in the cyclocross racers.

#5 Plyometrics: Explosive Movements for jumping on and off the bike, jumping over barriers and giving you legs the ability to sprint, not just run.  My favorite plyometrics for ‘crossers is the single legged split squat jump + box and depth jumps.

Once you’ve done your homework (the above five) you are ready to run in a cyclocross specific manner.  Read about that style of cyclocross run training HERE.

And don’t forget your sCX Skills! Sign Up for our Jeremy Powers Cyclocross SKILLS Camp, August 25 – 27th in Boulder, CO.

Can’t make it to camp? Buy our Cyclocross Summer Sweet Spot Training Plan that includes the movements described above + all the sweet spot training you should be doing for cross training this summer.

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

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Frank is the head coach, founder and owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO.  Talking the talk and walking the walk is one of FasCat’s Core Values and you may find him hiking up Sanitas, doing strength and conditioning at REVO Physiotherapy and Sports Performance and going to the YogaPod. To talk with Frank about your pre-season cyclocross training please fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire or call 720.406.7444 to set up a Coaching Consultation.  Otherwise do your homework as described above!

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FasCat Cyclocross Camp

Cyclocross Skills to Bring to Your First Race

So you want to race cross? Yes! Here are 4 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 cna 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 them 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 you 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 using your non clipped in tippy toe on 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 un clipped in foot.

Finally, relax and concentrate ; you got this! Prepare to have fun!

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 not your hands Hips and shoulders and wear you look steer the bike, not your handlebars.  Try practicing this by holding on to the handlebars loosely and using your weight to determine where the bike will go.

Attend our Aug 25-27th Cyclocross Skills Camp!

3. Dismounting and Remounting – Getting on and off you 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 skills.

4. Obstacles such as Run Ups and Sand – When faced with intimidating obstacles like a steep hill or a stand 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.

Now go out practice but don’t forget your training!  Here are two cyclocross specific training plans for $49 we’ve put together for you to have a successful cyclocross season:

“6 Weeks to Cyclocross” : For the athlete that wants to incorporate some cx specific run and interval workouts

“Race ‘n Recover” : For the athlete that has already started racing and wants to balance recovery with hard mid-week interval training

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

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Frank is the head coach, founder and owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO.  To talk with Frank and/or a FasCat Coach about your post season break (and goals after) please fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire or call 720.406.7444 to set up a Coaching Consultation.  Otherwise practice practice practice!

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Jeremy Powers cyclocross running

Cyclocross Running

To Run or Not to Run for Cyclocross Racing. That is the question.  Cyclocross specific running is the answer.  Yes, you should train for the run in cyclocross, but in a cyclocross specific manner.  Cyclocross running includes short, explosive deliberate ‘sprinting’, just like what happens in a race. Run training for cyclocross is not a 30 minute (or longer) ‘jog’ especially if you are not a runner. It may be if you are…. more on that later in the training tip.

We checked in with National Champion Jeremy Powers to ask about his cyclocross running and here’s what he said, “Start slow and build a base, don’t go out thinking you’re Prefontaine. Build a base like anything, then add intensity. Train for what you’re actually going to do. No need for 1 hr runs when you run maybe 10 to 20 seconds all out in a cx race.”

Jeremy leading this group up the stairs at the 2015 Hoogerheide World Cup. Photo Credit: Molly Hurford / Aspire Racing

Here are 4 progressive 30 minute cyclocross running workouts to perform once a week this summer before the season starts.

BUY a six week sweet spot cyclocross training plan HERE that has these weekly run workouts balanced around sweet spot training specific to cross >> exactly what you should be doing this summer.

These cyclocross runs start gradually and become more advanced by integrating a cyclocross skill in week 3 and beyond.   We’ll describe the workouts first and then go back to the preparation you should do in training before converting your cycling legs into cyclocrosser legs.

To quote JPows Cyclocross Coach John Verheul of JBV Coaching, “For the majority of American races (Jingle Cross’ Mt. Krumpet is probably an exception) there are no long runs where you can gain or lose a lot of time. So the focus is less on being a strong runner, and more on not spending a lot of energy on the run. Dismounts, remounts and proper carrying technique are elements you should incorporate into your running drills once your legs are used to running for ‘cross.”

Cyclocross Running Workout # 1

Ride your bike to a grassy park with a hill and/or stairs (see image above). Be in your running shoes. Ideally this is a 10 – 30 second hill or 25 – 45 stairs.  This is the core workout the next 3 workouts will build off of.  So finding a hill or set of stairs is super important!   If not then we are talking about a grassy park.

Stretch first, do some jumping jacks, burpees, and single legged leaps. Above all warm up.

Begin with a slow 5 minute ‘jog’ (yes I know I said no jogging).   Now you are warmed up and ready to run specific to cyclocross,

From the bottom of your hill or stairs run up fast just over cyclocross race pace.  Focus not on full strides but shorter steps. Tap tap tap, accentuate your footwork.  Repeat 3 -5 times walking downhill/ down the stairs inbetween each run up.

For the off the couch cyclist (hasn’t run since last cx season or in over 6 months), start with 2 sets (3-5 stair repeats) for the first week.  This workout would be in week 1, just once a week.  Short ‘n sweet.

Jeremy Powers running his way to victory at the 2016 US National Cyclocross Championships

Cyclocross Running Workout # 2

Perform  Cyclocross Run Workout #1 but instead of 2 sets we’ll go four.  The first 2 at cx race pace (from workout # 1).  Then the 2nd two FULL GAS, sprint, as hard as you can. Still maintain your footwork but faster.  They key is running UP, as that’s where a lot of cyclocross courses force you to run.  This workout would be in week 2, also just once a week.

Cyclocross Running Workout # 3

Now, let’s integrate your cyclocross bike into the workout so we can practice the all important skills of dismounting and remounting.  From here on out all your cyclocross run workouts will include the bike and a skill. We call them “2 fers” – two aspects of cyclocross at once, which is so much of what cyclocross is.

Perform Cyclocross Run Workout # 2 including a 30 minute Zone 2 ride. But now you are going to ride into the run section (hill or stairs) dismount and run up carrying your bike.  You are in your cycling shoes now whereas before you were in your running shoes. Depending on the run up you are either shouldering or ‘suitcase carrying’ your bike.  Ride your bike down easy  and recover for 1-2 minutes before the next set.

For workout # 3 we’ll do 6 sets (progressing from 2 > 4 > 6).   Do half the sets suitcase carrying and the other half shouldering the bike.  The key here are short runs on the order of 10 seconds where you are running fast, always concentrating on your footwork.   Run as fast as cyclocross and even faster to amplify the physiological adaptation from running.  For shouldering, really pump your left arm to help propel you up the hill or stairs.  This workout would be in week 3, but you can perform it twice a week along with another cycling workout to make it a “3 fer”.

Cyclocross Running Workout # 4

By now your legs are acclimated to the intensity of running specifically for ‘cross so we can hit it harder.  All running should be in short bursts, full gas, with primo footwork, faster than the races, carrying your bike.

8 sets (3 – 5 run up per set): warm up on the bike for 30 minutes in Zone 2

Sets 1-2: These are your warm up sets (Cyclocross Workout # 1), focusing on dismounting smooth, timing carrying the bike, running under race past up the hill/stairs in short small steps, not full strides

Set 3 & 4: Ride into the dismount easy, focusing on timing your dismount, carrying your bike smooth and running up deliberately and controlled, not full gas, more like tempo. BUT half way up, hit the gas as go as hard as you can!  Tap tap tap, short steps like Adri van de Poel (and of course Jeremy Powers). Here, footwork is so important: by running short steps you don’t load up your legs and suffer as much when you get back up on the bike.  Think of these short steps like your cadence: spin a higher cadence and easier gear.  See Footwork training below.

Sets 5 & 6: Just like sets 3 and 4 but as hard as you can from top to bottom.

Sets 7 & 8: Ride into the dismount section with some speed and run up as hard as you can. Focusing on everything as before but at the top remount and accelerate back up to speed, ride around the to bottom and hit it one more time.  HUP HUP!!

4 Elements of Cyclocross Running to Undergo before you Actually Run:

Our bodies are adapted to a single plane pedaling movement. Send any cyclist out on their first run since the last cyclocross race and I guarantee they come back wicked sore!  Here are 4 ‘trainings’ you can do year round and especially in June and July to prepare for the Cyclocross Workouts 1 – 4 described above.

Hiking: a great way to train with the family, bring some balance to your cycling and accentuate lateral side to side movements that pedalling a bike.  I have all my athletes go on at least one hike before that take one run step.

Yoga: Yoga stretches and opens up your hips which will really take a beating if you don’t prepare before the cyclocross season.  When you do incorporate yoga into your training the running will have less of an impact and you’ll recover better so that you can get back to on the bike intensity without being. Here is a 22 minute quad and hip stretching yoga routine.  No excuses not to do this!  We also recommend YogaGlo’s Cycling Series (YogaGlo also sponsors a bad ass Cyclocross Team).

Strength and Mobility: this is the traditional gym work that al cyclocross athletes to integrate into their off season cyclocross training

Footwork: Picture in your head football players running thru tires.  High steps, light on the feet, quick quick quick.  Actually what’s better for us ‘cross is the ladder run where you are placing your feet inside each box and moving thru the ladder with quick, short steps as fast as possible. Watch HERE (hokey video and music but the content is spot on).  This is the essential footwork teaching short quick steps (not full strides) that will ‘save’ your legs in the cyclocross racers.

Plyometrics: Explosive Movements for jumping on and off the bike, jumping over barriers and giving you legs the ability to sprint, not just run.  My favorite plyometrics for ‘crossers is the single legged split squat jump + box and depth jumps.

 

Speaking of skills: John, Jeremy and Frank invite you to consider our Jeremy Powers Cyclocross SKILLS Camp, August 25 – 27th in Boulder, CO.  We’ll be working on teaching you the correct dismount and remount skills and performing some of these run workouts during the camp!  In any case good luck (!)and holler back if you have any questions or experiences to share with your run training for cyclocross.

Can’t make it to camp? Buy our Cyclocross Summer Sweet Spot Training Plan that includes the workouts described above + all the sweet spot training you should be doing for cross this summer.

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

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Frank is the head coach, founder and owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO.  Talking the talk and walking the walk is one of FasCat’s Core Values and you may find him performing these workouts up the 5280 Stairs at the Valmont Bike Park. To talk with Frank about your cyclocross training please fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire or call 720.406.7444 to set up a Coaching Consultation.  Otherwise run run run as described above!

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Cyclocross Interval Workout Power Data

Cyclocross Interval Workout for the Pre-Season

by Frank Overton, August 1, 2015

Here is an introductory cyclocross interval workout you can perform before the racing starts (in August) that’s just the right amount of cyclocross specificity and volume:

Zone 6, Over / Unders: 5 x 30 seconds ON, 1 minute OFF

Make these 30 second intervals cyclocross specific by ACCELERATING HARD at the beginning of the interval.  Practically a sprint pushing wattages > 200% of your FTP.   Ideally perform these as a standing start with one foot down to practice your cyclocross starts and hammer!  As you accelerate out of the saddle, smoothly shift down until you are up to speed.  This should take 10 -15 seconds at which point you should ‘settle’ into the interval by sitting down, pedaling hard > 150% of your FTP.  With 5-10 seconds ‘to go’ in the 30 second interval, kill it, by not slowing down and pushing hard out the saddle  – as hard as you can go.

Take 1 minute of recovery and repeat.

The total volume of intensity is 2.5 minutes (5 intervals x’s 30 seconds) which is not that much anaerobic volume.  I.e. introductory.   Perform this interval workout once a week working your way up to two sets (5 minutes) then 3 sets (7.5 minutes) and finally 4 sets (10 minutes) – with a 5 minute set break.  For example 2 sets would be:

Zone 6, Over / Unders: 2 sets of 5 x 30 seconds ON, 1 minute OFF; with 5 minutes RECOVERY in-between sets

Make this workout a ‘2 fer’ by also practicing your cyclocross race starts.  As mentioned, begin each interval at an imaginary start line with one foot down. Accelerate as hard and as fast as you can simultaneously working on clipping in smoothly.  Your first race of the season will thank you.

I recommend performing these on a shallow grade hill so that you can get more raw power out of your legs.  See the Strava file from this workout here.

These intervals only take ~ 7 minutes per set so you can still get a fun ride with your peeps and/or some TSS after you’ve completed the structured portion of the interval workout.  It’s the preseason after all and depending on where you are at with your training, more training (riding > miles > minutes > kiloJoules and best of all TSS) is encouraged.

Finally, in cyclocross  skills pay the bills so consider our Jeremy Powers Cyclocross SKILL Camp, August 25 – 27th, 2017 in sunny Boulder, CO.  Good luck (!)and holler back if you have any questions or experiences to share with this interval workout or similar training.

Can’t make it to Camp? Try one of our 6 Weeks Cyclocross Training Plans that includes the Over/Unders workouts described above + all the skills and off the bike training specific to cyclocross,  all laid out in a weekly calendar format for optimal recovery and performance.

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

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Frank is the founder and owner of FasCat Coaching in Boulder, CO. Walking the walk and talking the talk (FasCat Core Value # 7), Frank and the cyclocross athletes he coaches, perform this workout once a month in the Summer before cyclocross season.  To begin your cyclocross training and coaching, you can email frank@fascatcoaching.com  or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a Coaching Consultation.

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Cyclocross Training & Racing 11.11.03

When I sat down to write this article about the training benefits of cyclocross racing I couldn’t help but reminisce about a picture that hangs above my desk. This truly epic ‘cross race brought back memories of an incredible day. The picture was taken in 1998 from the Boulder, Colorado “Jailhouse” Supercup put on by Chris Grealish. The bike I’m carrying was brand new at the start and completely trashed at the end.

Cross is like a really hard criterium without the coasting

I came in 2nd that day in the Cat 3 race and forever became addicted to the joy and pain served up in the “hour of power”. Cyclocross is one hour of racing wide open, all out, guns blazing. A typical power output profile from a cross race resembles the power output from a fast criterium but with much less zero time. Instead of just short bursts of neuromuscular power, longer anaerobic efforts, and drool inducing VO2max efforts, cross has all of that with threshold intensity as filler. Cyclocross demands such a wide range of your training zones that it’s no wonder why it is a great way to stay in shape in the off season and even expand your limits as a racer.
So without going on and on about training for cross, get out there and see for yourself! Racing cross is the best form of training for cross. If you need structured workouts try five all out one minute intervals with one minute of rest in-between. Also work on your acceleration by performing 10 to 20 standing start sprints of 10-20 seconds in length with an equivalent amount of rest. If you have time spend another day riding “tempo” for 15-45 minutes in a nearby park where you can practice your dismount, remount, and bike handling skills.

But now back to that picture
As I’m writing I’m still mesmerized by that epic day. The conditions that day were atrocious, the mud was slick as snot, and it was cold. A swift moving snowstorm had blown in overnight dumping 3-4 inches of snow. It was so cold I drove the 2 miles to the race.

I warmed up for maybe 5 minutes and despite that short amount of time, I still felt that special somethin’ in the legs.

You never know what might happen

On the start line I saw the familiar faces of stronger competitors so I had no expectations. Even though I was scared of the conditions, I distinctly remember being really fired up to race. I kept saying to myself, “you’re a mountain biker, they are roadies, you have the advantage”. But I had no idea of what was about to happen.

When the race started I had a huge surge of adrenaline and I sprinted all out until I was completely winded and in the “pain cave”. From there on out the chaos and the noise disappeared. It was just me, myself, my breath and the mud. I pedaled furiously out in front sliding around with a clear view of the lines in the mud just trying not to crash. On the first run up the hill in the picture I could feel the energy of the crowd that was full of my teammates, friends, and my future wife. The race announcer was actually cheering me on so I ran harder.

Over the course of 45 minutes I kept going as hard as I could despite the freezing cold, the pain, and the aforementioned mud. I crossed the line sooo glad the race was over but ever since then I’ve wished I could repeat that race, those powerful sensations and have another incredible race.

The Aftermath

Ever since the Boulder cross race in ’98 I’ve been on a mission. I have kept going back to that special place in my head trying to wrestle mind over body. I have hardly had any luck with cyclocross: in 2000 I snapped my finger like a pencil and as a result I have a commemorative titanium plate as a souvenir.  Season over.

In 2001 I pulled my soleus muscle in my calf on a run up. Result: season over. In 2002 I limped through the season as pack fill. But I tell ya what: each year I got in some great training and I pushed my limits farther than I ever would in a road or mountain bike race. I came out of the off season flying and every now and then I have that “special” race. And cyclocross is the reason why. So get out there this winter and suffer! You just might surprise yourself and uncork that special race that makes it all worthwhile.

Frank Overton
Copyright © 2008 FasCat Coaching – all rights reserved.

Frank is a USA cycling certified coach and category 1 road racer. He can be reached at frank@fascatcoaching.com 

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