Whether you’re veteran of the discipline or brand new to it, now’s the time to consider a few training options that will help you out on race day.
Those new to the sport often focus on the running aspect of cross. After all, that’s what makes it different from other cycling disciplines, right? It’s not so much running fitness that counts; rather it is being proficient with your transitions (which do include short bouts of running).
Learning to safely and swiftly dismount and remount the bike will help tremendously. As a percentage of the total race, few if any race courses will require a significant time spent running. On a typical race course you might be on your feet for a grand total of just a minute or two.
While lacing up running shoes and hitting the streets might be good for general “cross training,” it’s not effective cyclocross-specific training.
To prepare for the running you’ll do in cross, you want to replicate how you’ll be running on race day. That might be running up a steep hill, through deep sand, or over barriers and all while pushing or carrying your bike while wearing carbon-soled shoes. Training for these cross situations ought to look different than training for your local 5k or 10k run.
To prepare your running game for cross season try these options during your next cross-specific workout:
Seek out a hill, dismount and get your bike to the top. Earn some bonus training if you shoulder your bike for the run-up, but simply pushing it can work too. About 10-15 seconds would be a lengthy run up, so these don’t have to be huge hills.
Cyclocross in the desert means plenty of sand-riding practice. Sometimes running is a safer and/or quicker option to use in a race, so be sure to practice some sand running. Again, even if it’s just for 10 seconds, running through sand is sure to get your heart rate going. You want to practice quick bouts on your feet! Doing several repeats will help you develop the specific running skill set that you need.
Practice smooth transitions off and on the bike. Smooth transitions become faster with practice so be patient and develop good technique first, before trying to do it full speed. Ride for 30 seconds, dismount and run for 30 seconds, remount and pedal again to repeat the cycle. Repeat this for intervals of five to 10 minutes for some excellent training quality. This will give you frequent transitions on and off the bike and the bursts of running will mimic what you can expect at the races. This is a great way to train specifically for the demands of the races.
Most of your running practice can be done in short bursts and during your cyclocross specific workouts.
Once or twice per week it’s a great idea to include cross skills into your training routine. If you’re new to cyclocross, spend even more time to refine your proficiency with the transitions. What is awkward and unnatural at first will become second-nature with time. Put in the practice and you’ll enjoy the progression.
Cyclocross training doesn’t require big running miles in addition to your riding, but it is critical to spend time on your feet for short bursts during your rides. Link up with some friends or teammates and have fun with some weekly cyclocross practices. This can be a great way to challenge yourself while also pushing your teammates.
Ease into the training and don’t try to cram too much into a single workout. Instead, aim to practice more frequently so that you can recovery rapidly and maintain high quality with your workouts.
TJ Woodruff is a USA Cycling Level I Elite certified coach who holds a B.S. in kinesiology with emphasis in exercise science. He has coached riders to seven mountain bike national championship wins and has more than 18 years of personal racing experience. Since 2005 he has competed as a pro mountain biker and has coached full time. His business, Momentum Endurance LLC, is based out of Prescott.