The Cyclocross Workout Of The Day for Wednesday, 9.7.16. “Starting things off…”

Howdy folks,

It’s Wednesday, skills day around these here parts!

Without further ado, let’s jump right in…


Starting Fast!

In the big races, the time you lose fighting your way through traffic can be the difference between winning and not even seeing the person who wins.

In small local races, you might be able to fight your way back into a race if you have a bad start, but it’s going to be just that: a fight.

In cyclocross starts are important. You’ve simply got to have them wired.

So, how do you go about doing that?


Every time I do my openers the day before a race, I finish the workout with a set of start efforts. Race-like, from a dead stop, one foot on the ground, and I don’t end the ride until I get five in a row absolutely perfect, no bobbles.

There were times back in the day when that wound up being a long, frustrating way to end a workout.

Totally worth it though.

Make these starts part of your routine, and not only do you get better at the skill, you gain confidence in it.

Being confident in a skill is every bit as important as having the skill. You can’t afford to worry about being able to clip in at the start of the race, there are simply too many other things you need to be thinking about.

How do we gain that confidence on race day? By getting this stuff nailed down now.

Let’s begin with the basics…

First of all, start with your pedals at 3(ish) & 9(ish) o’clock, not 12 and six.

This might take some extra work to get down if you’re used to starting with your pedals at closer to 6 & 12, but it really is better and faster.

Every gate start event does it this way, and they ain’t doing it that way because they’re dumb, ok?

 Associated Press photo by Ricardo Mazalan.

See what I mean?

Butt on the saddle or off it?

It doesn’t really matter.  (I’ve changed my mind on this recently. I think. We’ll talk more about this in a couple of weeks, stay tuned…)

Both ways work, and you need to give them both a shot to figure out which is best for you.

I’m a butt-on-saddle guy myself, but it took a bunch of practice for me to get comfortable doing it this way. To be honest, I’m not at all sure it was worth it, or even the best choice for me, personally.

With my stubby little legs, I’m literally only making contact with about a square centimeter of the very tip of the grounded foot at the start of a race.

Teetering on a precarious tippy-toe probably isn’t the best idea in the chaos of a starting grid, but it’s worked pretty darn well for me over the years, so I’m committed.

Which is kind of a lesson in itself.

If something is working for you, don’t change it just for the sake of change.

If you’re not so committed, though? Haven’t gotten things so wired in that you’re only going to f**k things up by changing?

Now’s the time.

Figure out what works for you, and put some time into it to be sure, because once you decide, and put the practice reps in, you ain’t likely walking that choice back.

Starting with hands in the drops vs. hands on the hoods? Ditto all the above.

You’ve just got to try it both ways and see what works.

There aren’t many top crossers who start in the drops anymore, but not so long ago this was a pretty common choice for the fastest guys off the line.

Try it, it might wind up working for you.

The start of a Cross race, despite everything you may have heard, isn’t all about the first 10 meters of the race.

Let me repeat that: The start of a Cross race, despite everything you may have heard, isn’t all about the first 10 meters of the race.

Here’s how the start of a Cross goes…

The gun sounds.

Everyone clips in and immediately starts to sprint up to speed, out of the saddle.

Someone (or lots of someones…) blows their start. They get passed, quickly.

People are shifting up gears, starting to sit down in the saddle.

Someone who started way in the back blows by almost everybody on the outside.

There’s a very short pause in the acceleration, almost as if everyone takes a breath…

Bang! There’s a second acceleration, a sprint just  before or as the group leaves the starting straight.

If you want to be good at your starts, you need to master this second acceleration. You must to be able to go even harder than your first, out of the gate effort mere seconds later.

How do you develop this ability?

You can probably guess.


So, with all this talk of practice, on with today’s workout…


Getting Started – 

1 – warm up for 10 minutes.

2 – Stretch out after you’re warm.

Pay special attention to all the muscles used in those movements you make hopping on and off the bike that are different from what you usually do.

3 – Dismount/remount  skills for 5-10-15 minutes (depends how rusty you are. Do more of these, less of everything else if you need to.)

– Start at literally a walking pace, and slowly increase speed until you can mount and dismount the bike smoothly and perfectly at full speed. Do not jump on and off the bike, you are looking to smoothly slide yourself on and off.

 Need a refresher on the basics? Click here.

Do just the most  basic dismount/remount as per above until you have it wired, smooth at all speeds. When you are feeling confident, add some barriers to the session…

– Again, start at a super, super slow speed.

– Approach the barrier, dismount smooth as silk.

– Step over the barrier, paying attention to how you lift the bike, and how you place your feet.

– Remount. Again, think smoooooth….

– Start with a single barrier, move to a double, and keep going slow until you have things wired. Then, speed things up until you aren’t smooth, back it down 1 notch, and make it smooth.

(If you don’t have barriers, anything will do. Use a log, put a stick on the ground – whatever.)

4 – Starts.

Just like the beginning of a race. One foot on the ground, dead standstill, get-up-and-go.

Begin with a few medium effort starts, working on all the things we talked about above.


– Start with your pedals at 3&9 o’clock, not 12 and six.

– Alternate butt-on-saddle and off

– Alternate hands in drops with hands on hoods.

When you start to get the feel for things, hit it hard a couple of times, then back off.

2 sets of all the variations above at a medium to slow pace.

Feeling solid, skills-wise?


Get  yourself ready to go hard.

– Bang! Six full-gas starts.

– short effort, just go long enough that you are up to full speed, then back down, turn around, go again.

Spin easy for a couple of minutes, then…

– Bang! ~pause~ Bang!

– Six full-gas starts, but each start effort will look like this…

– Full effort start from a dead-stop, foot on ground.

– As soon as you get up to full speed, sit back in saddle, take one deep breath, go again, HARD!

– Ouch.

5 – Recover for a few minutes, then Finish the night with two interval efforts on relatively easy terrain.

– “Easy” as in a loop on grass with some tight-ish turns on it, or some pretty buffed double-track.

– Go hard, and work on accelerations out of the turns.

– Every time you slow down entering a turn, get on the gas on the way out of it, ass out of the saddle, working hard.

– 6 minutes full gas, rest for 2 minutes, then go again for 5.

– Start each effort with, well… with a start. Like you were working on a couple of minutes ago…

Warm down, go home, relax.







What’s that you say? You’d kinda’ like to have a cycling coach help figure this stuff out for you? Check out…


~ by crosssports on September 7, 2016.

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