Cyclists welcomed spring by getting back on the road and the mountain bike trail. Summer is fleeting and September is already in sight. That means that riders who concentrate on road and mountain racing should already be thinking about how to transition to cyclocross when (okay, if) courses open in the fall. Hoping for the best, we offer these tips on how to prepare for cyclocross season.
It may seem weird to begin training by taking a break, but if your summer is filled with road racing and mountain bike events, plan for about a two-week break of easier daily riding at the end of the summer. Ride for pleasure and recovery but decrease the intensity. The idea is to refresh both your body and mind.
Cyclocross involves more and different muscles—that are used in different ways—than road riding. Think of the “cross” in “cyclocross” as a hint about cross-training. If you don’t already include running in your training regimen, start now. Add some strength training with light weights a few times per week. Switch in a few dirt and grassy terrain rides if you tend to spend most of your summer on pavement.
Add some climbs to your running routine, and then get out the gravel bike and practice shouldering up those climbs. If you’re lucky enough to live near an open cross course that allows training, take advantage. If not, your local terrain or public parks may offer hills and stairs to simulate the shouldering challenges of a cyclocross course.
By mid-August or so it is time, to start concentrating on waking up the skills specific to cross riding. Practice cornering in each direction, mounts and dismounts, and working in lower gears. Combine bursts of high intensity, low-gear climbs with bursts of speedy spinning in rounds.
Whether you are a raw beginner or an experienced rider, it is important to prepare for cyclocross season by adapting your routine and your body to the different demands of the cyclocross course. The bike is different, the posture and suspension are slightly different, and the skills are varied. Serious riders can find a coach to help with preparation. Good luck with getting muddy this fall!
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