The Fourth of July is still a week away, but it's not too early to start thinking about cyclocross. Why so soon? 'Cross season is a short, sharp shock to your system, so your fitness needs to be there right from the start. As if that's not enough, you need your cyclocross skills honed as well, and that means practice, practice, practice, especially if you're new to the sport. Last but not least, 2018 looks to be an outstanding year for racing cyclocross in eastern Iowa, all the more reason to plan your season wisely.
If you're part of the .2 mile club you might consider a bit of running just to get used to it. If you're mainly a runner you should probably clock some miles on your bike. If you bike but your thing is marathon mtb or century rides, try to fit in some intervals or hard shorter efforts.
Any training will help, but training that resembles cyclocross will help more. Have fun with it and do what you can, but understand that fitness is a process, it's not an end. Greg Lemond should have been talking about cyclocross when he said, "It doesn't get any easier, you just get faster."
The good news, though, is that cyclocross basics are not at all hard to pick up. Dismounting, remounting, and various carries can be learned in a matter of minutes. Then all you need to do is practice them for hours: it's one thing to remount at your leisure while rested in a quiet park, it's another to remount as fast as you can while exhausted and gasping for air, with racers on either side and the sound of your heartbeat just barely muffling the heckling from friends. During your race you want to think about your line and what gear you need next, or maybe your next beer handup, but not "how do I do this again?"
Fortunately there are some great instructional videos around, like the one below from Global Cycling Network. Hit YouTube with "how to cyclocross" and you'll find plenty to keep you busy. Pick up a trick or two then visit the nearest park to try them out. Either that or meet up with me or a teammate for a lesson or two. We are always happy to talk someone through the basics.
The 2018 season will be special
We're spoiled racing cyclocross in Iowa. The best World Cup race anywhere, Jingle Cross, is just down the street in Iowa City. Another World Cup race, Trek CXCup, is just three hours away in Madison. Iowa's season kicks off Memorial Day weekend with two days of Cannonball Cross in Mason City and just hammers away from there.
but 2018 will culminate in a very special way with Cyclocross Nationals rescheduled for mid-December in nearby Louisville, Kentucky. Yea!
In the next few posts we'll look a bit more at training for cylocross, for both fitness and skills. We'll also look at some of the races coming up. If you have questions or topics you'd like us to cover, hit the comments below or write us at CRANDIC Racing Club.
Are you ready for 'cross?
In cyclocross a hot lap is a practice lap taken at full speed. Before a race hot laps are an all-important step in warming up. After registering, going to the bathroom, checking out the course, going to the bathroom, dressing and eating, going to the bathroom, warming up, and going to the bathroom, hot laps serve as a final check on tire pressure, traction, and chosen line, since everything is different at full speed.
Cyclocross practices are not races. Not even "practice races." Even an informal practice race (Chamois Time in Iowa City, for example) is official enough to count for USAC points and, more important, to require event insurance. For cyclocross practice there is no fee, no registration, and no results. Only fun in a public park. So in cyclocross practice we don't race, we ride hot laps.
Need competition to really rev up your engine? No problem. Hot laps can be one big start, like Renegade Cross, or just rubbing elbows with whoever comes by.
You probably know who you're close to. If not, you will soon. Challenge them to a hot lap. Or two or three. Then repeat.