The Cyclocross Workout Of The Day for Wednesday, 9.13.17. “Dry Hopped whinging”

Howdy folks,

It’s Wednesday, and that means it’s skills day around here.

Today we’re flashing back to a post from last year, because – sigh – it’s happened again!

What is it that happened again?

Well, the (arguably) best cyclocross racer on the planet got beaten in part due to a glaring weakness in something that has become an essential skill at the top end of the sport.

What the hell am I talking about?

Well, last year I posted this vid…



…and wrote:

Hold on to your hat, Wout actually hops the barriers!

Did I mention that Wout hopped the barriers?

Thank god.

Frankly, this is one of the things he really needed to add to his skill set.




Here’s the action from a year later at this past weekend’s Brico Cross where we see…



VDP gets a small gap, hops the barriers, suddenly has a large gap… and everyone else is racing for second.

“But hey!” I hear you saying to yourself. “He made that gap happen on the climb, it wasn’t the barriers that made the difference!”

Maybe, maybe not. But if you think the other riders haven’t identified this weakness, take a gander at Michael Vanthourenhout attacking Wout and Sweeck (who also needs to work on his hops!) in a bid for the podium late in the race…


Didn’t work out this time, but it has in the past (see below!) and probably will again.

So, today we once again talk Wout, barrier hopping, and coming to terms with what the sport actually is, not what you wish it might be.


First, let’s get this out of the way; Wout is f***ing awesome.



Seriously, he’s amazing. Watching him ride away from the field at CXVegas after his fall last year was even more impressive in person than it was on vid. Some might even say “extraterrestrial.” Take that as you may.

He ain’t perfect, though.

He lost a race last season pretty much entirely because he was forced to run a barrier section that Michael Vanthournout could ride…



…and it’s one of his major disadvantages in straight-up competition with VdP, the only person who has proven to be consistently capable of beating him over the last couple of seasons.





Let’s not beat around the bush. World Cup-level CX has changed. We’re no longer living in the days when Sven was the only one capable of hopping the planks. With where the sport is at now, if you can’t get over a standard double on your bike, you’re at a disadvantage.

If you are a Junior rider, or the parent of a Junior rider, or you coach Junior riders, you damn well should be adding this skill to your repertoire.

If you’re in your 20’s, or early 30’s?

You damn well should be adding this skill to your repertoire.

If you’re older than that?

Well, what’s that they say about old dogs and new tricks?


It’s probably going to be an uphill battle. It’s worth a try, but don’t kill yourself trying this stuff, ok?

Hey! Women aren’t excluded here!




Pauline Ferrand- Prevot has some damn good hops, and used them to great advantage as far back as her podium performance at Diegem in ’14.

I’d like to make an open appeal to race promoters at the local level here; Please, please, add design features to your courses that encourage riders – especially young riders – to try getting over them on the bike.

Yes grandpa never did any of this damn hopping shit when he was a kid, and all these grimy infants need to get the hell off your lawn, but this is the 21st century. The sport has changed. Take out that idiotic triple (that’s illegal anyways) those double planks set so close to each other that you can’t even put a bike down between them, let alone land and take off again. Give people a chance to hop this stuff. Hell, make the barriers shorter in local racing so that folks will try to get over them on the bike. Most will still run them anyways, and – newsflash – watching those who do try to go airborne will turn that boring barrier section into the focal point of the spectator scene at your races.

Just try it, ok? That’s all I’m asking.

So, ok. Hops-r-good, and all the smart kids should be working on them (more on this later) but…

Is there a larger point here?

I think there is.

You can be the World-freaking-Champion, one of the two best  CX riders on the planet, and still have obvious weak points and deficiencies in your technical game.

When I wrote the first version of this piece last year, the next graph was this…

The fact that we’re suddenly seeing Wout display some hops probably isn’t a coincidence. Dollars to doughnuts he’s working on this weakness, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him rolling over full-height barriers with the rest of the front group next season. If he isn’t, you can bet it isn’t because he didn’t try to work on the skill in the off-season.

Hoo boy.


Brand new year, same old problem.

And it’s still biting him in the ass.

Don’t let this happen to you.

Have a technical weakness? Something that your opposition knows damn well they can beat you at/with?

Do something about it!

Once again, if you’re a young rider? Learn to hop the barriers.

Here’s a good starting point…







What’s that you say? You’re looking for something to do today that isn’t occurring largely in the vertical plane?

How about…

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 minutes , just ’cause.

– 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.

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 short 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.

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

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

Warm down, go home, relax.






So, hey… if you feel like you’ve gotten anything of value out of this blog, and you’d like to see it continue, please do me a favor – and yes, it’s a favor, and I will be truly thankful for it – and send a buck or two (or five, or whatever…) my way.

How do you do that?

Simply click on the graphic below, and PayPal will be glad to make it happen.


Thanks for the consideration!



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 13, 2017.

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