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Staying fit throughout your cyclocross season

How to keep your strength up for all your muddy races

by Andrew Randell and Steve Neal

Racing in your local cyclocross series is the best racing-specific training that you can do. With the recent growth of ‘cross racing, there are many races to choose from. The problem that now arises is how do you best manage your efforts and energy for the length of the season?

Trek Boone cyclocross bike

Cyclocross is all about intensity; a race itself makes for a great training session. The danger in doing too much racing is that you run the risk of either peaking before your target event, or worse, burning yourself out prior to the end of the season. The following are a couple of easy ideas to help you manage your workload.

Build your base

Through the first half of the ‘cross season, you should continue to build your base. A bigger base means the ability to handle a bigger workload. We all want to go and do those max efforts all the time, but it isn’t sustainable. Besides, a proper tempo workout should be highly challenging in its own way. The ability to sustain a higher workload will help you sustain and produce the high intensity required in a ’cross race throughout the season. You definitely still want to be firing on that high intensity when it comes to your target races, such as nationals.

Cyclo-cross in Idroscalo di Milano, Italy. Photo by Velophotos

Work that cadence

Cyclocross isn’t a steady-state effort. Many courses require on-and-off type efforts with numerous accelerations each lap out of the corners. You want to make sure that you have the leg speed needed to keep these accelerations going from start to finish of each race. You’ll have to use a lighter gear to accelerate out of the corners, rather than muscling the harder gears too much. Mashing the gears might work at the start of the event, but it will sap your energy more quickly than accelerations on a lighter gear. Using the larger cogs will help keep your speed out of the corners consistent throughout the race. If you are still going the same speed at the end as you did in the beginning, there is a good chance you are making up ground on your competitors. Make sure that your training sessions incorporate high-cadence work to increase your co-ordination and leg speed. Part of this workout should be practising high-cadence accelerations out of corners, to match what you’ll find in the races.

The cyclocross season can be long, with a lot of races to challenge your fitness. Use these two ideas to manage your fitness and energy throughout the season and get yourself the results you’re looking for