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Cyclocross begginer

ianspeareianspeare Posts: 110
edited May 2014 in Cyclocross
I'm looking to purchase a CX bike in the next few weeks as an alternative to a second road bike. I have the intention of starting CX races in the autumn, but was wondering what kind of training/riding I should be doing over summer to gain maximum benefits over the autumn/winter season. I have an abundance of canal towpaths, bridleways and former railway lines near me to use.

Does anyone here just focus on CX as their main thing or are most riders from other disciplines that dabble in CX? Also how prevalent are summer cyclocross races/sportives?

Any help is greatly appreciated because it's a completely new world to me!

Posts

  • devhadsdevhads Posts: 236
    I'm not a seasoned veteran only having done one full season of racing. I don't do any other sort of racing, previously did MTB, for pleasure not racing. Don't seem to do much of that now as my cross handles most local trails and no longer have the time to go to any real mountains.

    Having never had a road bike I use my cross bike for training on the road out of race season, just change the tyres or for multi surface riding on cross tyres, pretty much like you have described. Last year I mainly trained for races on these sort of rides, short intense rides on bridleways etc and interval sessions on the turbo. I guess I was trying to replicate race conditions. I've realised that I also need to get in a lot of miles in addition to these intense sessions, hence the road riding.

    What I can't stress more is the need for skills training. Mounting/dismounting, cornering, riding off camber in race conditions, i.e lots of mud, shouldering your bike up steep slopes. This is what let me down last season and come August I'll be finding the nearest steep banks and I'll practice, practice, practice.

    There's loads of much more experienced racers than me on here, so hopefully they'll chip in with some help.
  • mikeneticmikenetic Posts: 486
    Good advice there.

    Most of the time in a cross race (unless you're so good you're out front or dictating the pace with a group) you'll be riding at, or above, your threshold. Working on raising your aerobic threshold and dealing with the discomfort of riding at that pace is important.

    The surface conditions mean you have to be able both to spin with a high cadence and also be able apply a lot of power at a low cadence, especially when you're trying to overcome the dragging effect of mud. If you can find a place to do steep hill repeats/sprints that will really help with developing power and recovery from going over threshold.

    I also find you move about a lot more on the bike as you find grip and balance. You'll end up with more of a core/back/arms workout than standard road riding. Expect to feel sore all over, and probably you'll have the taste of blood in your mouth at the end of a race.

    That sounds brutal, but it's great fun. Honest!

    There are more and more summer cross events, which sometimes substitute sandy sections for mud, and also longer "adventure cross" events like the Lakeland Monster Miles. I did that last year, was really good fun.

    Get stuck in, give it a go. The CX race scene is really friendly, in my experience. Everyone knows they're doing something daft.
  • antsmithmkantsmithmk Posts: 717
    I have only raced in CX races.... I wanted to race yet not have the 'risks' of being injured when falling off!

    The advice above is sound, I will stress a point already made. CX races are full on from the pistol. I mean full on, eyes on stalks, 100% on the rivet full gas etc etc... I could not believe how intense my first race was, certainly I didn't think my heart rate could go that high. You need to train your body to be able to cope in that condition, and do all the skills mentioned above at that intensity. I drilled myself in mounts and dismounts for hours.... First race I went to pieces on that skill! Why???? Because my practice had been too leisurely... I was awesome at dismounts when it didn't matter, bit flying down a bank at 190bpm having ridden at 190bpm for 7 mims.... Totally different kettle of fish!

    I guess what I am trying to get across is that to train, you need to find somewhere you can go mental without risk of hitting a pedestrian etc. Find a hill and a bank, drag a log to the bottom to force you to dismount just before and then do drills up it as hard as you can!

    Enjoy, CX is awesome
  • devhadsdevhads Posts: 236
    Oh yeah, I know that feeling. Wasn't even in a proper race, just a pre season training session under race conditions. Thought I'd nailed it until then. Also found out that the Eggbeaters I'd been practising with all summer were impossible to clip into when my heart was trying to escape my chest.

    I've got that place to train, pinch gates, stiles etc forcing me to dismount. Another useful thing is having that hill followed by about 1/2 mile of flat to get used to trying to get your heart rate down whilst still riding very hard.
  • Monty DogMonty Dog Posts: 20,614
    Firstly a CX Sportive is only good for your general fitness, it'll not really prepare you for CX racing. As others said, if really racing expect to be right on your limit. I downloaded my HR curve from a race and it stayed between 90-95% for the hour so you really need to work on your threshold by doing high-intensity intervals. I often race on feel as looking at your HR can make you back-off!

    For skills try and find yourself a short loop of 5-10 minutes that has a number of features that you can practise on i.e. dismounts/remounts, run-ups, flat-out sprints. Practise your re-mounts lots to make sure you don't land on your crown-jewels :shock:
    Make mine an Italian, with Campagnolo on the side..
  • andypandyp Posts: 8,702
    Practise your re-mounts lots to make sure you don't land on your crown jewels much would be better advice. :wink:
  • Monty Dog wrote:
    As others said, if really racing expect to be right on your limit. I downloaded my HR curve from a race and it stayed between 90-95% for the hour so you really need to work on your threshold by doing high-intensity intervals. I often race on feel as looking at your HR can make you back-off!
    Haha, I always take my garmin but I've never had a chance to look at it during a race. My first ever race my avg heart rate for 45mins was 184.....my max is only 188. As has been said.....it's balls to the wall from the off
  • mikeneticmikenetic Posts: 486
    I switch to FVT assessment for CX races. FVT is the Functional Vomit Threshold. If I feel like I'm going to hurl, I back off. A bit.

    The remount is deffo a move to practice. You need to jump high enough that your thigh contacts the saddle and you slide into position. Obviously, as you tire the danger of only making it to love-spud smashing height increases.
  • tgotbtgotb Posts: 4,714
    mikenetic wrote:
    I switch to FVT assessment for CX races. FVT is the Functional Vomit Threshold. If I feel like I'm going to hurl, I back off. A bit.
    That's wrong. If you're not seeing stars at least once per lap you could be trying harder; you just have to learn to live above the FVT :-)

    Quite a lot of people swap between TT in the Summer and CX in the Winter, and I find them pretty complimentary; both are about managing your own pace, rather than something like road racing where there are too many chances to recover. If you're testing all Summer, doing intervals and short/steep hill reps towards the end of the season seems to help the transition. Don't neglect your running; most races you might only run a few yards at a time, but if you find yourself having to run several hundred yards without having trained for it, you're really going to wish you had (I speak from bitter experience). Track racing is also handy if you're able to do it, both for intensity and for the experience of racing in close quarters which you'll need to hold your own off the start line, and for overtaking in narrow sections of the course.

    If you can, try to find a local group to train with; ask around your local clubs and league. If you haven't raced before, that's the only way you're really going to experience the sort of terrain you'll actually be racing over; it's a lot more improbably off-camber and (when wet) lacking in traction than most beginners imagine. Hammering along bridle paths and farm tracks is great fun, but not actually that useful because you're unlikely to go hard enough, and (unless it's hammering down with rain and slick mud) it's not nearly technical enough.

    Watch the #SVENNESS videos; less for the technical tips (at this stage), more because they're great fun and will get you motivated to go out and train.

    Practice your clip-ins, and remember that in cyclocross the sprint is at the start.
    Pannier, 120rpm.
  • woolwichwoolwich Posts: 298
    All of the above is great advice. I would also add a session a week of something designed to get your body used to a lot of stop start efforts, sometimes called 20-10, under over, tabata etc. Whilst some courses can be ridden smoothly at high pace, others can be 1 hour of hairpin bends and max efforts. If you have only trained for time trials previously it can be a huge shock and you will tire quickly.
    Mud to Mudguards. The Art of framebuilding.
    http://locksidebikes.co.uk/
  • Agree on the effort levels from the gun which for me coming from a Tri / TT / Crit background was a total shock.

    Like another poster above, my average HR for a recent race over 40mins was 198 - my max is 206 so yes, that was pretty much on the rivet.

    Totally agree on the remount suggestions above too. Well worth getting that nailed.
  • tgotbtgotb Posts: 4,714
    I actually think that the importance of remounts is overstated; you can lose a lot more by falling on an off-camber corner, backing off when others are going full guns, or running when others are riding, than you'll ever lose on one dodgy remount per lap. In my view (as an also-ran) the biggest differentiator between the top guys and the also rans is that the good guys ride the technical sections at full tilt, whereas everyone else is backing off.

    Put another way, the leader could easily be 2 minutes per lap faster than most of the field. With one or two remounts per lap at most, that's not where you're losing most of your time.
    Pannier, 120rpm.
  • PuttyKneesPuttyKnees Posts: 381
    I reckon that the difference between the top guys and the rest is that apart from the top guys being fitter, they carry more speed through everything, including barriers. You can lose a lot of time on barriers, particularly if they run into a section that requires you to carry speed (e.g., Derby), but to begin with it's not going to be the difference.

    I can't stand TTs. I find it a totally different experience, almost unbearable. Whilst CX hurts, there's always someone around you to race against. It feels more like a chaingang to me where it's going at your limit and then suddenly you're on the front and in the red for a few seconds! Total pain.
  • Monty DogMonty Dog Posts: 20,614
    As others have said, IMO there's no comparison between TTs and CX racing and it'll certainly highlight your fitness, or lack of it. Getting gridded makes a huge difference to your finishing position, being at the front and getting a clear run at the technical sections often gives the top-10 an unassailable lead - it's a lot easier to pace your efforts when you're in a single-line rather than the middle of a pack fighting for lines. If I've not been racing as regularly or in a non-league event, I sometimes start at the back and see how far-up you can get before the finish - makes it more of a challenge and plenty of chance to practise your overtaking manoeuvres and having to take the more 'technical' lines.
    Make mine an Italian, with Campagnolo on the side..
  • The guy I bought my cross frame from told me "You're never fit enough for cyclocross"...

    Was wondering about running. Having built a up a cheap cross bike at the end of last year I wanted to have a go at a few races this year, just for fun really. It's a long time since I've done any running but it makes sense to incorporate this into training. How much do people do and what sort of sessions are useful?

    Cheers!
  • devhadsdevhads Posts: 236
    ^ He was right!

    I'm sure running will help with general fitness but you're not so much running in cross as struggling up a muddy bank with a bike on your shoulder. I don't run at all, but I do push a heavy wheelbarrow around a lot at work, including up skip ramps. I'm sure that sort of thing helps, short, steep efforts.
  • ianspeareianspeare Posts: 110
    All sounds good. Basically lots of base miles over summer and then towards the end work on more specific skills. I watched a few amateur cx races and noticed that most people were poor at dismounting/remounting, so thought I should turn that to my advantage.

    I'm attending SQTs at Lyme Valley which involve lots of sprinting, so that should serve me well.

    Do most people use eggbeater pedals? What about footwear? MTB shoes?
  • tgotbtgotb Posts: 4,714
    devhads wrote:
    ...you're not so much running in cross...
    ...except when you are. In 90% of races you're just going to be running up a steep bank or flight of steps, but every now and then you get one (this year's Nationals for instance) where most of the field end up running hundreds of yards at a time. Since most CXers (myself included) seem to under-train their running, this is an opportunity for good runners to make up a lot of time...

    I reckon there are 3 sorts of unrideable terrain:
    1. Steps, steep banks etc that the course setter intended to be unrideable. Also hurdles. This is the stuff all newcomers expect.
    2. Technical off-camber slopes, turns etc. Skilled riders will be able to ride most/all of these sections, less-skilled riders may/will need to run bits. Apart from improving your bike handling, a key skill is deciding which bits to run (bearing in mind that some bits may be faster to run even if you *could* ride them).
    3. Sloggy mud-fests. Waterlogged fields and the like. Power is everything, but as the course deteriorates over the course of a race, it becomes progressively harder to ride. A good example of this was the "field of broken dreams" at the Bethlem Hospital course in Croydon; this is normally the fastest part of the course, but at the London Champs a couple of years many of the riders were being overtaken by runners. When you get a course like this, you really wish you'd done more running in your training!
    ianspeare wrote:
    Do most people use eggbeater pedals? What about footwear? MTB shoes?
    Definitely MTB shoes, and you really want to be able to put a couple of studs at the front. You'll be fine with any mainstream MTB pedal system; SPD seems to be most widely used; Eggbeater and Time ATAC allegedly less susceptible to clogging, some reported longevity issues with Eggbeater. I haven't tried Eggbeater myself; used SPD last year, switching to ATAC for next season (with Sidi Dominators, but I'm sure many alternatives are just as good or better).
    Pannier, 120rpm.
  • devhadsdevhads Posts: 236
    Fair point, should have said for the vast majority of the time in local league races you are only going to be running up steep banks etc. As it was a beginners question, and being a beginner myself I didn't really think about the mudfest at Derby. I still would think it relevant to say it's worth practicing running in race conditions. A 10k road run will be the same as a long road ride in terms of usefulness in cross.

    Again, from a newbies perspective, I think the longest I ran in one go all last season was about 30 yards, and that was due to poor skills making me have to dismount rather than ride. In some early season, dry races I only had to dismount for the hurdles.

    Shimano M540s seem to be popular, good enough for Stybar to win the world champs with anyway.
  • PuttyKneesPuttyKnees Posts: 381
    I do some running prior to cx season, not really to improve my times when off the bike but more to mentally prepare myself for the eventuality - when faced with having to get off, I'll do it with a confidence that it won't lose me any time rather thinking "oh drat".
  • tgotbtgotb Posts: 4,714
    devhads wrote:
    Fair point, should have said for the vast majority of the time in local league races you are only going to be running up steep banks etc. As it was a beginners question, and being a beginner myself I didn't really think about the mudfest at Derby.
    The same thing happens at local league level. There was a very early season race in my league where about 200 yards of the course became unrideable within about a lap. In many cases it's worse for beginners; where a steep climb or hurdles are followed by a gentler climb, if you don't nail the uphill remount (which can be quite tricky) it's often quicker to run the rest of the climb than to stop, step over the bike, lift a pedal up etc. I can think of several league races last year where this was the case, aswell as at least one London Summer series race (in bone dry conditions).
    devhads wrote:
    I still would think it relevant to say it's worth practicing running in race conditions. A 10k road run will be the same as a long road ride in terms of usefulness in cross.
    Agreed, but don't limit to 10 yard runs up steep banks; longer runs will still be very beneficial, in the same way that a long road ride will still be a lot more useful for cross than not going for a ride at all. You want to be in a position where you can jump off the bike, run 100 yards at the same intensity as you were riding (ie flat out, not jogging), and jump back on the bike no more knackered than you were when you jumped off. My observation is that 90% of the field (including myself last season) can't do this. The easiest way to (re)develop your running musclature may well be to go for a few longer runs (preferably off road). I'd certainly rather go for a 5k run a couple of times a week, than figure out a convenient way of running 100x100 yards in the same time...
    Pannier, 120rpm.
  • antsmithmkantsmithmk Posts: 717
    Some really honest reflections in this thread and thus some decent advise being given. To echo the comment about running, I have started doing duathlons this spring and will continue into summer so get run fit in addition to bike fit.
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