Thoughts on CX Nats…

•January 12, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Howdy folks,


If, in 2004, someone had told me that ten years later we would see Sven Nys and Bart Wellens on the podium at the Belgian Worlds, I would have asked them for some of whatever it was they were smoking. If they had also told me that, in that race, Bart would be hopping the planks while Sven ran, I wouldn’t have toked it.


Sven Nys is 37 Bart Wellens is 35.

2nd place at The Belgian World Championship race was 28 year-old Rob Peeters.

With the emergence of young non-Belgian superstars like Lars van der Haar and Philip Walsleben, is it time for the Belgians to start worrying about their legacy of domination as the next generation comes of age?


There isn’t a shadow of a doubt which country is the strongest when it comes to professional cyclocross racing. (It’s Belgium, just in case you’ve been living in a hole for 40 years or so.)
Belgium & the USA both had their Nationals on Saturday, and there was a striking difference in the fields.

Number of riders in the Belgian Professional race? 15.

In the US race? 123.

22 of those finished on the lead lap.

Included in that 22?

The first and second place riders from both the Master’s 30-34 and 35-39 races held earlier in the week.  As cyclocross continues to rise in popularity and prestige in the US, maybe it’s time we reconsider just what we mean when we say both “Master” and “Professional.”



Both the Belgian & US races were held on unusual courses, the US race in a purpose-built, cyclocross-specific park, and the Belgian in a Hippodrome. With no natural elevation at all, all the action in the Belgian race was the result of man-made obstacles, features including multiple fly-overs (one topped with giant horse-head statuary), sand trucked in from Koksijde, and a set of actual steeplechase barriers, complete with little tiny houses holding them up.

With rumors of Olympic Cyclocross making their quadrennial return, it’s worth noting that if that were to happen, courses like these would be the likely future of the sport.


Sven Nys made the Belgian race his second win in three attempts astride the bike of his new sponsor, Trek. He also won it on a bike with cantilever brakes. 3 races on the Trek, 2 on cantis. Also on canti brakes this weekend? American champ Jeremy Powers – after an entire season spent racing on discs – and 10 time American women’s champ, Katie Compton.


Speaking of Compton… 10 National Championship victories.

In a row.

Backstopped by two World Cup overall victories.

In a row.

Words fail. In any other era, we would almost certainly be lauding her the greatest Women’s Cross racer of all time.
Unfortunately, she’s racing in the Marianne Vos era, competing against the woman who may well be the greatest racing cyclist of all time, period, no gender distinction necessary. *
Vos, by the way, won her fourth consecutive Dutch National CX title this weekend, riding in the World Champion’s Rainbow jersey. Could this be the year that Katie finally takes the jersey from her?

Stay tuned…

(Ok, blecch. Hate to even raise the subject, but Vos has been so dominant that you have to add the asterisk. If she’s clean.  Ditto Nys. There it is. Nuff’ said on that topic.)

The Cyclocross Workout Of The Day for… well, for the duration. 1.3.14

•January 3, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Howdy folks,


In a week or so, we will know all our National Champions.

If you’re still following along with the blog at this late date, odds are pretty good that you’re heading out to Boulder in a few days.

Good luck!

Since everyone races in different categories, and each category races on different days, offering up training advice for this whole mess puts a fella in a bit of pickle.

So, here’s the deal:

What i’m going to do is post a “Week of the big race” schedule. You plug in your race day, count back, and BAM! a plan!





(Fair warning… I give myself license to contradict the following schedule with newer postings later on in the week.)

  One Week Before Race - 

Warmup Race, Race simulation outdoors, or The Doppelganger.

6 days before race:

Recovery spin

5 days before race:

Downhill Sprints,  Form Sprintsor 1-2 Hour Moderate Ride

4 days before race:

Slow Roast, or 2 x10, or 1/2 a Classic 2×20) or 1-2 Hour Moderate Ride

3 Days before race:

Spin-Ups   or   Form Sprints

2 Days before race:

1-2 Hour Moderate Ride and/or Course Preview or take the day off.

Day before Race:

Can Openers  or Ignition and  Course Preview

Day of Race:

Race. Yer. Ass. Off.


I’ve hotlinked The descriptions/explanations for all of these workouts, although if you’ve been following for a while, there isn’t anything here you haven’t seen before.

Have fun,


The Cyclocross Workout Of The Day Day for Thursday, 1.2.14 “Gonna post this anyways…”

•January 2, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Howdy folks,

Well, heck… welcome to 2014.

Pretty crazy, eh? 2013 went fast.

Fast enough that this post, which I should have put up a couple/few weeks ago somehow slipped into the New Year.


Gonna’ post it anyways…



Traditionally, the cyclocross season here in Seattle – and pretty much all of the US – used to wrap up at the beginning of December.

Nationals was in the middle of December, and if you wanted to race more after that? You had to go to Europe and get flogged by the big-boys.

The vast majority of folks didn’t go to Nats, so come the second week of December?


Oddly enough, most still are.

Done, that is.

You know what?

That’s actually a pretty damn good thing.

If you’re planning on doing what most semi-serious bike racers do – race road or MTB in the spring – you need to take some time off.

Back in the day, when I used to follow up a “full” Cross season with an intense road season - and  the occasional MTB race – I would finish up my Cross racing in the first week of December, and literally chain my bikes together until January first.


I chained the damn things to each other so that I couldn’t ride.

For three weeks.

If I raced Nationals later in the month?
The three weeks got pushed back to whenever I stepped off after the last race of the year, and the chains went on.

still think this is a really good idea.

Everyone needs some time off the bike. Heck, even the folks who get paid to race take a few weeks off.

If you’re going to be racing next December, you’re probably past due for a break… or, well, you will be when you get done with Nationals. Or Worlds. Or whatever.

So, hey… this is a little bit late in coming, right?

I mean, most of you finished up racing a few weeks ago, so right about now it should be time to get back on the bike.

And yeah, as previously mentioned, I kinda’ blew it by not getting this post up earlier.

But, geezus… I’m on Facebook, and I keep reading all these posts from people who segued immediately into some big training rides right after the cyclocross season ended.

Come On, folks!

Time off.

You need it.

You need to give your body time to recover so that you can start the whole year-long grind all over again.

How do I know this?

‘Cause I’ve watched – over decades – the repeated attempts of many, many folks to avoid taking this necessary rest, and I’ve seen the results.

The riders who don’t take this rest…

Stop getting faster.

Run out of gas mid-way through the next season

Suddenly re-discover a love for skiing in the middle of cross season

Walk away from the whole damn sport after a while.

What a puny plan…

Are there exceptions?

Of course there are, but if you follow people for long enough, there are darn few of them.

It may take a couple of years – heck, it may take 5-10 of them – but eventually if you don’t take a damn break, it catches up with you.

And you know what?

Those people going for all the mammoth mountain bike rides a week or so after the end of cross season?

Most of them have been riding at exactly the same middling level for years.

No improvement over time.




So take a damn break, OK?

But what about my base training for the next season? All my roadie friends are out doing base miles, won’t I be way, way behind when I get back on the bike?


You’re about to discover the best thing about racing cyclocross all season.

You just finished a “base” period that was far more intense, and far more productive than all those empty “base” miles your roadie friends have been putting in teaching their bodies to go slow over longer distances and durations than they ever actually race.

Three weeks off.

Just do it.

Then back on the bike, and back in the swing of things.

You’ll thank me for it later.

*** OK, let’s (briefly!) define what “Weeks off” means. We’re not talking about 3 weeks on the couch eating cupcakes and boozing it up. Give yourself maybe a week of that, if you have to (and I don’t rule that out. Some folks need to get a whole bunch of self-control out of their system so they can re-set and re-boot. That’s OK. Don’t beat yourself up about it.) “Off,” for our purposes, means “Off the bike.” Keep yourself busy. Do something that has your body moving/working a bit, but isn’t over the top strenuous, and isn’t cycling. This is a good time to start the 1st/Adaptation Phase of a weight training program, for example. Or go skiing. Skiing is good…


Happy, happy! It’s The Cyclocross Workout Of The Day for the very first day of the New Year!

•December 31, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Howdy folks,

Happy New Year!

Immense thanks, gratitude, and good will go out to all ya’all for visiting this year.

All (almost!) 30,ooo of you. From over 85 countries.



Thanks for stopping by!

Up here in Seattle, we have a tradition of a New Year’s Day hangover ride that’s been going on for pretty much as long as I’ve been riding a bike.

It’s a chance to get in a nice, casual ride with friends – many of whom you haven’t seen in ages – and welcome the Ne Year in the best possible way.

On the bike.

So, hey… the very first Workout Of The Day for 2014?

Go ride with your friends.

Celebrate your good fortune and theirs, and enjoy the day.





(Come back late tomorrow… we’ll be talking about the last week of training up for Nationals…)

The Cyclocross Workout Of The Day for Monday, 12.30.13. “Kiss your Ace goodbye”

•December 30, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Howdy folks,

Well, heck. It’s Monday.

Back to work.


Hopefully you had a great weekend, and enjoyed some cyclocross racing, if not on the bike, on the screen.

There was some great racing going on the last few days, including an amazing ride by The Kannibal yesterday in Diegem…

Sven kissed his long-time sponsor Colnago goodbye as only he could. Chapeau.

Phew. Just watching that performance can get ‘ya tired.

To say nothing of all the hard riding the last couple of days.

Only one answer to that, a nice, relaxing…

Recovery Spin…

- Get on your bike. Roll out into the street, and just spin around for an hour.

- Really small gear, no hard efforts – heck, no medium effort.

- Spin. You’re looking to move your legs around in circles, almost like there is no chain on the bike.

- The idea is to get your body moving, flush the systems out, and speed your recovery.

- Just get out on the road and spin aimlessly. At a certain point, your legs suddenly feel better.

- As soon as that happens, turn around, go home, eat, stretch, and put your legs up.



More hard work tomorrow…




The Cyclocross Workout Of The Day for Saturday, 12.28.13. “Ain’t got one, so make it up”

•December 28, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Howdy folks,

So, wow… 3 weekends left in the season, and one of those is Nationals weekend (which means most everybody reading this is likely to be done a couple of days before then.)


This darn season is almost over.

Well, nicely done. You’re almost through.

This weekend, if you can, you should go get some racing in.

Which – let’s face it – isn’t much of an option for most.

Thank you USA Cycling! Yay January Nationals!


But, you know, if you can’t race, you can do something that feels like you did.

Something like…

The Doppelganger - 

- Warm up well. If you have time, warm up as you would for a race. It’s good practice, if nothing else.

- After you have warmed up, do five full-gas starts. As always, focus on the second effort in your start, working on getting back on the gas right after you max-out on your initial effort and begin to sit down.

- 20 minutes at your 2×20 pace.

- 2 minute rest.

- 10 minutes of Over/Under intervals

The baseline for this interval is the level of effort/output you just did in the 20 minute effort.

However hard you went in that interval, you are going to try and hold that for the 10 minutes.

Easy, right?

Here’s the rub.

You’re going to sprint for 10 seconds every minute of the interval.

How hard are you going to sprint?

Hard, but not so hard that after you sprint, you can’t sit back down and keep churning away at your 2×20 level.

This takes some practice to figure out.

Don’t get all freaked out if you blow it and can’t hold the effort until the end. You tried, right?

Having said that, don’t wuss out and quit. This is some difficult s***, man. You want to get faster, right?


Here’s how this works.

Use a stopwatch. Put it on your bars.

Start the stopwatch.

Start the interval with a sprint, out of the saddle pretty hard, but not full gas.

Sprint for 10 seconds.

Back in saddle, drop into your 2×20 zone. Hold this until the minute mark, then –

Sprint again. 10 seconds.

Back in saddle, 2×20 level until 2 minute mark…



Repeat, until you have hit the 10 minute mark.

- 5 minute recovery

- 10 minutes at 2×20 level

- 2 minute recovery

- 10 minute Over/Under Intervals

- SPRINT at the very end of the last interval. 30 seconds, all out.

Really all out, like “I’m sprinting for my life/the cash/the girl” all out.

You should be at least half-blind at the end of the sprint.

Heck, you should be so gassed when you start the sprint that just upping the tempo a little bit puts you in a box.

You asked for a race simulation, right?


Notes -

Yes, this is f-ing hard. Shoulda’ raced.

You can always just sub in a 2×20 (or better yet a 3×20…) or a MI-15 session when you can’t race. These are hard damn workouts if you do them right, but certainly nothing like the nightmare I just handed to you…

Have fun!


The Cyclocross Workout Of The Day for Friday, 12.27.13. “The Opposite Of Yesterday”

•December 27, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Howdy folks,

Holy crap… 2 weeks until Nationals!

You know what? You aren’t going to gain much fitness in two weeks.

You might be well served to go for one last long ride of the season this weekend if you’re racing late in the week at Nats, but otherwise?
Pretty much time to start tapering in to the event, and working on getting your legs moving fast.

So, how about some speed work today?

How about some…

Downhill Sprints - 




Start by warming up well, a bit longer than usual – 30 minutes or so.

Find a gradual downhill that lets out on a flat section of road or trail. The ideal setup for this workout is a downhill that’s about a block long that turns into  a flat section of road another block or so in length.

Extra bonus points if you can loop back to the start without having to turn around – that would be perfect.

You’re going to do 3-5 sets of 5 sprints, full gas. Here’s how the sprints go:

Roll down the gradual descent in a comfortable gear. You want to hit the bottom of the hill going fast, but not yet in a sprint.

As soon as you hit the flat section at the bottom of the hill, get out of the saddle and give it full gas.

Sit back down as you get up to full speed, and try to go even faster.

Go until you are spun out.

Spun out means that your legs can’t go any faster, your form goes completely to hell, or you start bobbing up and down on the saddle a lot.

Ideally, a little bit of all of those things.

Remember, we’re working on leg speed today, so really focus on turning your legs over. The goal isn’t to make the bike go fast, the goal is to make your legs go fast.

There’s a difference, eh? Try to keep it in mind, ok?

ANYways, That’s one rep. You’re doing sets of 5.


Each sprint should take just a few seconds. Recover for 30 seconds to a minute between them, and 5 minutes between sets.

Stop when you hit 5 sets or just aren’t getting the same leg speed you were on the first couple of reps.

When you’re done, spin out your legs and go home.

Tips -

- You should start the sprint in a pretty big gear, and spin it out. How big? It depends on how fast you’re going and how strong you are. You’re working on speed here, so don’t try to lug a giant gear, but the gear needs to be big enough that you accelerate when you hit it at the end of the downhill.

- Important, let me reiterate: stand up out of the saddle when you start to sprint, and gradually sit down as you begin to spin up into your sprint.

- Don’t forget to breathe. Seriously. Too many people hold their breath when they sprint. Don’t be one of them.

Have fun!


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