By ALP Coach Alison Powers
The hashtag #crossiscoming is no longer valid. #crossishere. The first races of the season have either begun or are right around the corner.
Bikes and equipment have been dialed in, training has been completed, and now it's time to race. Not so fast. Energy management and skill building must be thoughtfully planned out and constantly worked on to ensure an entire season of success.
A common problem I have seen (and done myself), is athletes work hard all spring and summer to gain fitness. They race road bikes, and/or mountain bikes, then enter the CX season full gas. CX has the athlete mentally excited and motivated, but the body starts to get tired. Performance and energy levels stale and, by November, the athlete is completely burned out of riding their bike, and racing their bike. This is unfortunate, as the biggest races of the year are at the end of the year- state championships, national championships, and world championships.
A better way to approach the CX season, is to slowly build into the racing and the intensity. It's important to take time away from training and racing late summer (if you didn't do this, make sure to take time off early November), to ensure the body is fresh and ready for 4-5 months of consistant training and racing.
Focus on skill building. 50% of CX racing success (or lack thereof) is solid bike handling skills. Are your dismounts clean and fast? Are you able to dismount without putting the brakes on and are you putting your right hand on the top tube before dismounting? How is your cornering? Are you able to corner confidently and exit the corner with speed?
Don't lose touch with your endurance training. A typical training week during CX season looks like this-
Monday is a rest day.
Tuesday is skills training or easy 60-90min ride.
Wednesday is CX practice and the intensity of the week (~90min).
Thursday is a rest day.
Friday is openers (60min).
Saturday and Sunday are race days with a 30min warm-up, 40 min race, and 15min cool down (~90min of riding).
This totals about 7 hours of riding a week with nothing longer than 90min and very little time spent at endurance training pace (Zones 2-3/4). Eventually, the athelte will start to lose fitness and come the most important races of the season, the fitness and freshness are not as good as they were in October.
Spend some time working on your aerobic engine. Skip a Wednesday CX practice to do some zone 3 (Tempo) intervals. Add duration to your warm-up and cool down to add some time on the bike. Skip a weekend race to do a solid 3 hour endurance (zones 2-3) ride. This 'aerobic engine training' will pay off and it will help you hold your fitness longer.
Season long CX success is possible. It requires thoughtful planning, listening to one's body, and staying focused on the end goal.