In my part of the world the sun is setting a bit earlier and the nights are getting chilly. I’ve seen a few leaves that have changed color, too. Yep, it’s August and fall is almost here. That means cyclocross race season is nearly upon us!
Here are our Ten #secrettraining Cyclocross Training Tips for August:
and remember you can buy our#secrettraining August Training plan here for only $39.
1) Skills practice: It’s time to practice all of your cyclocross basics. Unclipping from your pedals, smooth dismounts, even smoother remounts and quick clicks back into your pedals are all very important. You also need to learn how to efficiently lift, carry and set down your bike. There are plenty of great videos on YouTube about these skills, but the most thorough video I have come across was done by Jeremy Powers and Sam Smith and you can find it here .
Time spent learning and practicing these basic skills will pay dividends on race day. While others are fumbling around trying to get back on their bikes, you’ll be sailing riding away to fame and glory!
2) Cornering: In this video they mention cornering as a cyclocross skill, but this is so important I wanted to dedicate an entire paragraph to it. Cornering your bike is the most important skill for cyclocross racing. You could have the VO2 max and power of a Pro Tour rider, but if you can’t steer your bike smoothly and carry speed out of every corner you are wasting tons of energy and losing time. To become better at cornering, go to a local park and ride around everything. Trees, benches, rocks, playgrounds, ditches, etc. Do it over and over and over again at various speeds. I can’t stress this enough. One fun way to work on cornering is to do figure 8’s on your bike. Do small sized 8’s to large 8’s. Try to get to the point where you can hold the same line with speed and without touching your brakes. Do it over and over and over again. And, when you’re done…do it again!
3). Bunny hopping: If you can’t bunny hop over a curb with speed and confidence now is the time to learn. This is a very easy skill to obtain if you just dedicate the time to learn how to do it. You do not need to be able to bunny hop a cyclocross barrier, but you should be able to bunny hop a curb. Again, go to YouTube for some lessons.
4) Starts: You should be able to start with speed and efficiency. This means accelerating off the start line and clipping into your pedal quickly. Practice this often. You can do this while out training. When you are at a stop sign or red light, pretend when the light turns green it’s a race start. Having a bad start because you can’t clip in quickly can be very frustrating. Practice now so on race day you’re not left behind at the start line!
5) Start sprints: Once a week you should do some start sprints. Start with 4 and add more each week. This is what I’m talking about:
6.) Wheels + Tires: By now you should have your race wheels and training wheels set up and ready to roll. Tubulars are best for racing. Tubeless is great for training. If you can only get one set of tubulars and you race in an area that could potentially get muddy then glue up a mud tire. My favorite is the Clement PDX. It goes on straight, is super durable and works in mud, snow, sand, wet grass and more. If you need a one-tire quiver the Clement PDX is the way to go.
7.) Tire Pressure: I can pretty much guarantee you are not racing with a low enough tire pressure. Tire pressure is based on several factors:
Your tires. Some tubulars have stiffer sidewalls allowing for lower pressure.
The course. Smooth grassy courses can allow for lower pressures without the risk of flatting. Rough and rocky course require more pressure. You also need to factor in who you are and what your goals are. Wout van Aert could care less if he cracks a carbon fiber rim during a race. He is going to run the lowest pressure possible if conditions call for it. For the rest of us a cracked rim could mean hundreds of dollars in repairs so keep that in mind when you’re airing up your tires.
Rider skill level: Are you a smooth rider who tends to never flat? Well, you can likely use less tire pressure. Are you are rider who seems to dent rims and slash tires like it’s a disease? Yep, you guessed it. Add more pressure.
The conditions: Muddy, slick, icy = low pressure. Hard, fast, rocky = more pressure.
I know what you are thinking? For crying out loud just tell me what pressure to use! I wish it were that simple, but I’ll try to make it easy. Take your bike with race wheels to a local park where you do your cornering practice or race simulation training. Bring your pump and tire gauge. Start with 25 psi in front tire and 26 psi in the rear. Do a few hot laps. Stop and drop the psi to 24 front / 25 rear. Do a few more laps. Stop and drop the psi to 23 front / 24 rear. Do a few more laps. Stop and drop the psi to 22 front / 23 rear. Do a few more laps. Stop and drop the psi to 21 front / 22 rear. Do a few more laps. Stop and drop the psi to 20 front / 21 rear. Do a few more laps. Stop and drop the psi to 19 front / 20 rear. Do a few more laps.
By now you should have noticed and increase is traction at the lower pressures. You may have also noticed when you got the pressure really low it felt a bit less stable with the sidewall occasionally folding over. Perhaps you felt the tire bottoming out on the rim, too. That is a bit too low for you because you risk damaging the tire and rim. Play around with the different pressures. Find your sweet spot. Trust it and go with it on race day.
8.) Dial it in: Your bike should fit and perform flawlessly. If it does not then pay a professional fitter or mechanic to make it better.
9.) Race simulation: Try to do some race simulation once a week. Most racers do this on Wednesdays. This could be in the form of a local practice race after work on Wednesday evenings or doing hot laps at a local park with a small group. Regardless, go hard and be aggressive. This is great training time. Don’t waste it. So if you are looking for how to plan a week out now here is what I might suggest.
Here is what a typically week might look:
Monday: off (get your life in order so the week is dialed!).
Tuesday: Start practice ride. See tip #5 above
Wednesday: Race simulation ride or VO2 Max intervals if you cant do the race simulation
Thursday: off or easy ride (maybe a commute to and from work)
Friday: run day – no jogging rather cx specific run sprints!
Saturday: race or fun/hard ride.
Sunday: Zone 2 – good old fashioned aerobic endurance, flat terrain, chill.
Oh, and don’t forget your planks!
Did you stumble upon#secrettraining a bit late? Don’t worry, just start following the plan in August and modify the calendar to catch up. Make a plan and stick to it. Need help? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
About Brandon Dwight: Brandon was a professional mountain bike racer from 1999 – 2001 and professional cyclocross racer from 1999-2007. He is a four-time U.S. Masters National Cyclocross Champion. For more than a decade, Brandon has provided thousands of people with cyclocross skills and training advice. He lives in Boulder, Colorado with his wife and two children.
Copyright 2018, Secret Training
Every month there’ll be a new#secrettraining plan built upon the previous month(s) that puts to practice exactly what I’ll be preaching about here. If you’re just discovering#secrettraining and we are already a few months into the program, don’t worry. You can jump right in and we will help you get up to speed as quickly as possible. Remember it’s all about quality, not quantity.