Well… it’s that time of year already.
Seems like people start talking and thinking and writing and plotting and planning about cyclocross earlier every year, and based on what I’ve been seeing out there on the interwebs, this year “earlier” means, well… now.
That’s not such a bad thing.
If you’re in the “Cross is what I really care about” camp, and the other disciplines – road, track, mtb – are something that you do largely to stay in shape and fill the time until the fall finally rolls around, you probably should be training pretty hard right about, well… now.
High Level Aerobic Base
One of the single best things about racing cyclocross is that cross riders get to lay down their fitness foundation in the best time of the year to be out on the bike, the summer. While all the hard-core roadies are out slaving away on training rides in the depths of winter, us cross folk get to go long now, the time of year when even non-cyclists can see the logic in throwing their leg over a bicycle.
So, take advantage of the weather. Get out there and ride your ass off this month.
What should you be doing?
In short, think long.
Ride a lot.
I mean, it’s nice out, right? It’s fun to ride for 4, 5, even 6 hours when it’s not too hot and not raining.
Long doesn’t mean slow.
Traditionally, this is time of the season when the big-time Euro-cross racers are out on the road clogging up the gruppetto in week long stage races. They aren’t in these races to win them, they’re in them to get pushed to greater levels of fitness by stringing long days of hard effort together, in a way that’s always been tough to do riding just by yourself.
“Tough” doesn’t mean impossible.
I mean, sure… you aren’t going to go out and get a Tour de Luxembourg level of training out of your hard weekend of riding, but if you follow the principles that underlie the intent of these week-long training races, you can probably do better than you’re doing now, and set yourself up for success in the fall.
So, what is that intent?
Let’s start with this; It’s incredibly difficult to make profound physiological improvements in your underlying, base-level fitness during cross season.
Can you and should you get faster during the course of a season?
You race hard every weekend. If you’re doing it right, you’re spending most of the following week recovering from the weekend past & getting opened up for the weekend next.
You can do some small work mid-week to improve deficiencies or hone strengths, but you really can’t do the kind of work that it takes to bump your FTP enough to get to the front of the group you raced in last season, to be competitive at the next category level , or to win one of those races you’ve been sooo close in for sooo long.
The kind of work we’re talking about is the sort that if you did it on a Wednesday, you’d be way off the back come the weekend, and that’s assuming you could take a day off to do it mid-week and still be free to race on the weekend.
Sound likely? I didn’t think so.
Now, though? No such problems.
Want to be stronger this cross season? Spend your weekends for the next month or so doing long, hard, fast training rides.
This isn’t long, slow distance eating we’re talking about, this is “Oh crap, how the hell am I going to finish this ride” kinda stuff. These are the rides where you barely manage to drag your ass in the door of your house when you get home. The rides where, when you get home you need to drink a coke to summon the energy needed to order takeout.
4, 5, 6 hours of glorious suffering. That’s what we’re talking about.
Try one this Saturday. Then wake up Sunday, do it again. Give me a few weeks of this, and you’ll be really, really strong.
Then we can start to work on making you fast…
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