It’s mid-summer and the hash tag #crossiscoming has been prominent in all my social media news feeds. Let’s face it, ‘cross IS coming. And pretty quick too. My traditional season opener is the last weekend in August…CompEdge ‘Cross @ Blunt Park in Springfield, MA. This race has a special meaning for me as it’s the race that introduced me to cyclocross. It was my first cyclocross race…ever.
Last season was a very good season of cyclocross racing for me. Sure, I’m still finishing near the bottom of my masters category, but that’s ok. My skills have improved, my training has improved, and yes, my overall results have improved a little bit too. I ventured out to some of the bigger races. I even competed in the Cyclocross National Championships. The highlight of the season for me was finishing 11th overall in the NYCROSS.com Cyclocross Series in the Masters 45+ category. This was a huge improvement over past years overall finishes in the 20’s.
This year I scrapped mountain bike racing to fully focus on cyclocross. I did, however, race the Wilmington/Whiteface 50K the beginning of June. On July1, I 100% transitioned to cyclocross training. I’ve designed pre-season and in-season training plans for myself, that fit in with my work schedules. In just 3 weeks I can already see myself faster. I’m working hard on sustained efforts…let’s face it, cyclocross is a 45 minute sprint. An equally important improvement that I’ve also made is my diet. Smaller portions with more protein and more greens (salad). In other words, I’m eating healthier and not overeating.
Here is my planned cyclocross race schedule for 2017:
- Aug 27 – CompEdge ‘Cross @ Blunt Park – Springfield, MA
- Sep 3 – BCA Cyclocross – Pittsfield, MA
- Sep 9 – Rochester Cyclocross – Rochester, NY
- Sep 10 – Kirkland CX – Clinton, NY (NYCROSS Series)
- Sep 29 – KMC Cyclocross Festival – Thompson, CT
- Sep 30 – KMC Cyclocross Festival – Thompson, CT
- Oct 7 – Uncle Sam Cyclocross Gran Prix – Troy, NY (NYCROSS Series)
- Oct 8 – Uncle Sam Cyclocross Gran Prix – Troy, NY (NYCROSS Series)
- Oct 14 – Gran Prix of Gloucester – Gloucester, MA
- Oct 15 – Gran Prix of Gloucester – Gloucester, MA
- Oct 22 – Salt City Cyclocross Spectacular – Syracuse, NY
- Oct 23 – Salt City Cyclocross Spectacular – Syracuse, NY
- Oct 28 – Saratoga Spa:CX – Saratoga Springs, NY (NYCROSS Series)
- Oct 29 – Wicked Creepy Cyclocross – Bennington, VT (NYCROSS Series)
- Nov 5 – Cider Cross – NYS CX Championships – Lafayette, NY
- Nov 11 – Northampton International Cyclocross – Northampton, MA
- Nov 12 – Northampton International Cyclocross – Northampton, MA
- Nov 18 – Supercross Cup – Suffern, NY
- Nov 19 – Bethlehem Cup – Delmar, NY (NYCROSS Series)
It is a pretty aggressive schedule, but for me it’s mostly about the love of the sport, race as much as I can, and enjoy it. I don’t take vacations throughout the year like most people do. I save the majority of my time off for September through December…for cyclocross.
Cyclocross season is here, and I can’t tell you how excited I am. Fall is my favorite time of year..both on and off the bike. For me, cyclocross is more about having fun than having a great result. But there are a few things that I incorporate in my training the will make you a better ‘cross racer. And, while important, it’s more than just putting in mile/time on the road bike with some intervals mixed in. There are some ‘cross specific activities that you can and should incorporate into your training.
3 things that will make you a better ‘cross racer
- Practice your starts. Starts are important..very important. If you have a bad start, most of the field will be ahead of you within seconds. You can do this on a dirt road or a field. Start with one foot clipped in and one foot on the ground. It doesn’t matter which foot..whatever is comfortable. Look down the road (or field) and burst off the line as hard and fast as you can (without being reckless). Practice getting your unclipped foot clipped in and sprint. Sprint for about 20-30 seconds with a full recovery (4 to 5 minutes) between efforts. Remember that you are not only sprinting, but you are clipping in and looking where you are going. Do 5 or 6 efforts.
- Run. I know, but I don’t like running either..at least I didn’t. However, the more I run, the more I actually enjoy it. Most of cyclocross is on the bike, but as you know, there are times that you can’t be on the bike. That’s when you are running..whether it be the barriers, a run-up, sand or too much mud. Get your body used to running. Don’t worry, you aren’t going to be training for a marathon, but you are training to run, nonetheless. Mid to late August, find yourself a nice quiet place and ease into your running. Just an easy jog for 15 to 20 minutes. As you get use to running you can increase you speed. Just don’t try to do too much too soon. After a few weeks, you should incorporate cyclocross specific terrain running. Find a “terrain appropriate” hill and simulate a run-up..with you bike in tow. You should run one day a week throughout the season as part of your training. Again, the run should be for 15-20 minutes.
- Race simulation. Find somewhere that you can simulate a race course. It doesn’t have to be a long course, but somewhere that has a variety of cyclocross terrain. Practice your cornering. Practice your dismounts and remounts. Practice riding in sand (if available). Practice shouldering your bike and running. And practice putting in hard efforts..race pace efforts. Yes, I mean intervals. Start just like the start of a race..one foot on the ground, sprint for 30 seconds and then ride a hard effort for about 3 minutes. Each “lap” should include all the other skills that you are practicing. Then do it again..and again..and again…
There is one other very important part of cyclocross training and racing that I didn’t mention…Rest! When ‘cross season is in full swing, you will be racing just about every weekend, and in some cases both days of the weekend, and in some cases two races in a day. You need rest. Once racing gets busy, you should easy back on you training and make recovery a priority. To use a cliche, listen to your body.
And remember to have fun!
Cyclocross is no longer right around the corner. Cyclocross season is here. I opened my cyclocross racing this past weekend with a two race weekend..Saturday August 27 in Cazenovia, NY and Sunday September 28 in Springfield, MA. Early ‘cross racing is great because it gives you a chance to shake out the cobwebs, stretch your cyclocross legs and see just where you’re at before your series races and bigger races start.
I never go into a cyclocross race with any expectations but to have fun. Of course I have goals (stay on the lead lap!?!), but always have fun. This weekend was fun.
Sunday’s race in Cazenovia was a new race at a new venue..RedBarn20. The course had a little bet of everything. Fast sprints, a little climbing, some singletrack trail, run-up, steps, etc. A little bit of everything you might see on a cx course. While I didn’t finish on the lead lap, I did feel pretty good for my opening race of the cx season, and managed to finish 9th.
Sunday brought me to Blunt Park in Springfield, MA. A late August race that the Cyclonaut Racers has put on for several years. This race is a little special for me, Blunt Park was the first cyclocross race that I every did..back in 2009. And now I race more cyclocross than anything else. The Blunt Park race is a very fast race, partly due to the course and partly due to the fast New England Masters that are there every year. This course always has naturally sandy spots, singletrack trail, tight turns, natural barriers and a triple man made barrier. With a pretty big 45+ Masters field, I just wanted to ride as hard as I could and hold on to the lead lap. Four of us did have a pretty good “race withing the race” fighting for position for 4 of the 5 laps. I did finish on the lead lap, and I ended up 27th, losing the sprint at the finish by about 1/4 of a wheel.
Overall, it was a great start to what will be a very full cyclocross season for me.
At a spectacular venue at Lake Cunningham Park in San Jose, CA, Murphy Mack and SuperPro Racing in conjunction with USA Cycling will be hosting the UCI’s Masters Cyclocross World Championships this January. The event, to start on January 22, 2016 will be the fourth time in a bit over two years the venue will see cyclocross racers.
San Jose’s Lake Cunningham Park, just 10 miles from San Jose International Airport (SJC), first featured cyclocross racing on December 14, 2013, with the “San Jose Supcat presented by Cyclocross Magazine” race, and will feature a warm-up event on December 12 as part of the SuperPro cyclocross series…
Full Story: 2016 & 2017 UCI Cyclocross Masters World Championships Comes to San Jose, CA
The NYCROSS.com Series wrapped up Sunday with the Bethlehem Cup at Elm Ave Park in Delmar. This is another great venue that the guys ar NYCROSS have for the Series. It’s fast, it’s grueling, it’s muddy and it’s a great time.
The “really fast old guys”, as you know I like to call the master’s categories, are as fast as ever on this course. The start is at about the 1/2 way point of the lap, on a long-ish, flat stretch of pavement that leads to weaving through the trees and the fields. I actually got off to a good start until we reached the finish line to go into the first full lap. That’s pretty much were I settled in for my typical positioning. I ended up finishing 17th place, -1 lap. I always want to finish on the lead lap, but with this group, that isn’t going to happen all the time.
Thanks to everyone that puts on the NYCROSS.com Series! It’s great to have such a quality Series right here in our backyards.
Next to the Uncle Sam Race in Troy, the Saratoga SPA:CX cyclocross race is probably the ‘cross race that I enjoy the most. It’s a fast and also challenging course in Saratoga Spa State Park. It has fields, and sand, and off camber, and mud, and singletrack. It is such a fun course to race on. I feel like I always ride well in Saratoga, and that’s one of the reasons that I look forward to this race every year.
This year, I might have had, my best ride of the ‘cross season at Saratoga. While I still finished way down the line, I did finished on the lead lap, which is always one of my goals going into the race. I rode hard and consistent and felt strong. When it was over, I knew that I had raced as hard as I could. And it was the first ‘cross race this season that I didn’t feel a little discouraged. I finish in 11th place and felt great doing it.
And here is the first lap of the Master’s race…yep, I’m somewhere behind the guy with the camera.