Well, right on.
It’s finally raining a bit up here in Seattle, and we’re going to have some mud out at the Wednesday Night Cyclocross Practice.
Can you see the big smile on my face from all the way over wherever you’re reading this?
Riding a CX bike in the mud is about as much fun as it gets, and I’m pretty stoked for the first full-conditions night of practice. You should be, too.
Stoked, that is.
Learning to like the wet, ugly days is something that will absolutely, positively, work to the benefit of your cyclocross ambitions.
Even if your natural inclination is to run screaming from the dark & rain, forcing yourself to smile and embrace the muck is the first step to being able to ride well in it.
As an old bike racing mentor once told me, a quarter-century or so ago, “As soon as it starts raining, 75% of the field have already been beaten. They aren’t even thinking about racing anymore, all they’re trying to do is survive to the finish.”
This (great) line was written about road racing, not cyclocross, but it’s still true, even if the percentage numbers might change a bit.
When you’re racing cross on the deep mud days, there are people who are trying to survive, and there are people who are racing.
It’s much more fun to be one of the people actually racing.
How do you become one of them?
Ride your bike in the mud and wet. Push yourself. Fall down, get up, try again. Make all the mistakes you can possibly make, learn from them, and apply the lessons on race day.
Make yourself smile when the conditions get sketchy. Tell yourself “I love this stuff” even – maybe especially – if you don’t. Tell yourself this often enough, for long enough, and eventually it becomes reality.
Buy some damn mud tires. Make sure your cross bike is set up like a cross bike, not like a road bike. Experiment with tire pressure until you’re finally able to understand just why it is that the top pros are riding pressures down in the teens when it’s really ugly out.
Get Out There
It’s raining up here in Seattle. I’ve got the mud tires on the bike, the legwarmers, embro, rainshell, long finger gloves, and a pile of towels are all packed. I’m headed out to cross practice after work.
How about you?
Here’s how tonight is going to go…
– Warm up on the bike.
As long as it takes to get loose, you should have a light sweat on when you…
Active stretching, focus on all the muscles you use getting on & off the bike, but don’t when you’re riding. Go as long as it takes to work everything and get loose.
– Mount & Remount skills. 10-15 minutes.
Accelerate coming out of barrier sections. Coast in to them.
Get to the point where you can come out of a barrier section faster than you went into it.
Come into a dismount section under control, and traveling at a speed that you can comfortably dismount at.
Brake early so that you can come into the barriers coasting, not braking.
Run over the barrier smoothly, in control.
The barriers aren’t 6 feet tall. Run over them with just enough clearance to keep from falling down. You don’t need to jump straight up in the air to go over a CX barrier, ok?
Don’t be afraid to take a few steps to get back up to speed before you get back on your bike.
Remember, it’s not how fast you get on your bike, it’s how fast you get going on your bike.
So many people are so overly concerned with getting back on the bike quickly that they totally forget about being fast.
Yes, you want to be able to dismount & remount quickly, and run over the planks like a gazelle.
But just about everyone seems to think that this means getting back on the bike as quickly as they can after a dismount section.
The second the bike clears the barriers, it’s back on the ground, and you see folks trying to remount.
Don’t do this, ok?
Work on accelerating through the barriers, and running into your remount.
Run up to speed before you get back on your bike.
Remember, smooth = fast. Don’t over cook these. Hitting the ground is always slow.
– Technical skills on the bike. 10-15 minutes
Tight turns and off-cambers. As always, work on your entrances and exits from all the technical sections. Pedal, pedal, pedal. Try to pedal througheverything. Keep the gas on, power going through the rear wheel, and you maintain traction. This is especially important when it’s wet out!
Work on it. There’s lots more on the bike handling topic in earlier posts, enter “Wednesday” in the search box on the right hand side of this page for more.
– Starts. Go as long as it takes to get 5 perfect, full gas sprints.
Make it feel like a race start. Get off the mark fast, sit down, shift, go again. Remember, it’s the second effort that gets you the early gap most of the time…
– Race simulation. 3 ten minute efforts, 2 minutes recovery between them.
No big complications here. Go really f-ing fast. Try and make these efforts faster and harder than you go in the races. You want to get to the point where your efforts in practice and training are as hard or harder than anything you see in a race.
Yeah, I know… good luck with that, right?
– Warm down.
Spin out your legs. Take enough time doing this that you feel them unspool and loosen up.
Go home, eat, get some sleep.
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