It’s finally here! The 2015-16 Cyclocross season has officially begun! The season kicked off with a hot and humid weekend at Full Moon Vista in Rochester and continued with a slick weekend of racing at Nittany Cross in Pennsylvania. Of course, for most of us the kick-off event of the year will be this week’s Cross Vegas. Hosting the first UCI World Cup on North American soil (and the first outside of continental Europe!) is a big deal for the cyclocross community here in the States, and it is the proper way to kick off another season of mud, sweat, tears and gears.
So whether you like it or not, cross is here (#crossishere) and as summer ticks over into fall it’s time to finish your prep for the season and get ready to hit the season with the engine running hot. For those who haven’t started their cross prep, or still have a bit of time to get ready, here are some helpful tips to make your 2015 cyclocross season a successful one:
1.) Get back to basics: Whether you’re embarking on your first cross season or an experienced veteran with mud coursing through your veins, we all need some time to get back to the basics. Dismounting, remounting, running the barriers (or hopping), carrying and shouldering technique, and even cornering, there are a myriad of skills that are critical for racing. You may think that you’ve already got mad skills, but it never hurts to brush up on your technique (as your prepare for the fall season (even the pros do it!). In fact, proper technique is just as, if not more important than those race-specific intervals. Take a week or two to get back to basics, be diligent about your practice and these skills will be automatic when you find yourself in a state of cross-eyed hypoxia mid race.
2.) Move slow: In the same line of thought, be sure to start SLOW. As you start to practice your cyclocross-specific skills remember to not rush these drills as you knock off the rust. There is no need to try and jump in at race pace in your first ronde of the practice course. In fact, going full gas in practice can do more harm than good. After a season of road or mountain bike riding, our bodies aren’t accustomed to the beating we endure in a race. For example, as we remount, we make many small moves to remount properly on the saddle, often stretching our bodies to the limit. Moving slow will help to prevent injury, allow you to focus on proper technique and even improve your skills. Want to know how to get rid of that double hop in your remount? You guessed it, start (painfully) slow! Once you’ve limbered up and become more fluid, you can pick the speed up until your able to perform those skills flawlessly at race speed.
3.) Dial in your Equipment (Professionally): Taking my own advice with this one! Those who followed along with my 2014-15 season will know that I was the king of rolled tubulars and mechanical mishaps. Before the year kicks off, make any changes to your set up and equipment (i.e. bike fit, new parts, wheels, tire tread patterns, etc.) well in advance of your first race. Your mechanic will thank you for not rushing in at the last minute and preparation will allow plenty of time to adjust to the new features of your ride. Once your season starts, it’s time to focus on racing, not worry about your bike set up.
4.) Get Uncomfortable: Cyclocross is a sport run in gnarly conditions. Cold, dreary days, sleet, snow and ice, it doesn’t matter what the conditions are, the race goes on. It is sport of anticipation and all-around ability. Courses are different each weekend and lines will often change lap after lap. Preparing for every eventuality is your best course of action. As you dial in the basics, find your weaknesses and work on those with the same focus and intention as you use for your strong suits (did somebody say off-camber bump drills?!). As you add these technical tools to the belt of your skinsuit, you’ll also see an improvement in your ability to handle anything that comes your way between the tape.
5.) Be intentional with your goals: In my room I have a chalkboard with a list of goals. Some are daily reminders and others are targets for my season as a whole. But no matter the focus, be it short term or long term, those goals provide a concrete benchmark for my daily practice. Finish on the lead lap of your category race, complete 2 workouts per week before heading to work, make an off-camber turn without falling, or qualify for Nationals in Asheville, your goals can be anything you want them to be. But no matter what it is, think about what you’d like to accomplish and what it takes to get there. Be concrete. Be intentional. Achieve your goals.
6.) Remember the 6 (or 7) P’s: I have a few mantras and quotes that are plastered on that same chalkboard. (“Failing to plan is planning to fail,” is one of my favorites). But at the top of the list is the 6 (or 7) P’s:
“Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.”
I first heard of this one in an article from Matt Roy (husband of Mo-Bruno Roy) and it has stuck with me ever since. We could spend hours discussing proper technique and #protips for cyclocross racing, but at the root of all of this is preparation. And THAT, my friends, is the key to a successful cyclocross season. From practicing the weakest facets of your abilities, to obsessively checking the forecast and packing the right gear for the weekend, preparation will put you on the path to success and achieving the goals on your own chalkboard.
If you have your own tips to share or questions to ask, don’t hesitate to get in touch!
Catch you between the tape!