Monday, September 7, 2009

Transitioning into Cyclocross Season

The foundations of a successful Cyclocross season are laid long before the days shorten, leaves turn, and temperatures drop. The beginning of any Cross program begins with a proper transition from the road or mountain bike training which typically occupies a ‘Cross racers spring and summer. There are two approaches taken to this transition, the appropriate choice is dependent on athletes expectations and goals for the upcoming ‘Cross season. The first approach is to utilize a full recovery period before transitioning into a Cyclocross training program. The second approach is to adapt ones road or mountain bike fitness developed over the spring and summer and carry it as long as possible into the Cyclocross season.

For those athletes with goals looking to ride strong for the entirety of their local or regional series, as well as those aspiring to bring their best to Nationals in December; a full recovery period is in order. This essential recovery period is often overlooked or cut shorts as the athlete often is concerned about losing fitness or motivated to start their upcoming Cross training regiment. Depending on the intensity of the athletes program during the previous months, a break of about 7-14 days of either time off the bike or a drastically reduced training volume and intensity must be taken. This time off ensures the athlete will adapt properly to the upcoming stresses of the Cross season as well as a great window to start developing running abilities, core strength, fitting and adapting to new equipment, and mental preparation for the challenges ahead.

The second approach is to adapt the athlete’s road or mountain bike fitness built throughout the spring and summer and directly applies it to Cyclocross racing. This approach is usually best for the athlete looking to “stay fit” or “just have fun”. I like to relate it to using a blunt object to perform surgery, although it may get the job done, its unlikely to end pretty. Even with a well designed program the athlete continues to perform well until the inevitable physical or mental fatigue sets in. At this point it’s usually best to pack it in and enjoy the offseason to avoid digging oneself into an even deeper hole. When planning this transition the athlete is best suited to work on their limiters before the Cyclocross races begin. For roadies this usually means development of muscular force and endurance, such as big gear and threshold work. For mountain bikes this could be a great time to focus on building some leg speed and developing anaerobic capacity. As always, these limiters vary for each individual.

Cross rewards athletes willing to train to the specific demands of each race. This can be done by practicing starts, sprints, technique, and developing muscular endurance for the duration of the event all on Cyclocross course. All of these can be done in a structured format at weekly the weekly cross practice, other training should be designed to compliment those efforts.

The 4 to 6 weeks leading up to Cyclocross season is the ideal window of time to start laying the foundations to a fun and successful season. The races of November and December are won with investments made in August and September.

Ryan Gamm is a USAC certified level 2 coach working for Ohio Valley Velo Sports. Ryan is a 2008 Miami University MA graduate as well as the 2007 OVCX Series Champion, 2007 Ohio State Cyclocross Champ, and 2007 Ohio Valley Spring Series Champion.

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