Off-season or Cross-season!?!

Our answer to the question is quite obvious!
The summer has just gone and the first cyclocross races are already underway. But because the season runs all winter long, you'll have plenty of time to prepare for the races. We show you how!

Cyclocross Season!

What does it take to be good cyclocrosser? We’ve taken a closer look at the physiological demands of cyclocross and will provide you the appropriate training plans right away!

Because now is the right time to start with specific training. The season has just begun and it is best to be in top shape between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, because that is when the most important races (unless you want to become a world champion) take place.

Here you can find your cyclocross training plan: for beginners, for experienced riders or with individual support.

The Race

The procedure

A typical cyclocross race runs 30-60 minutes, depending on the category. Several laps are completed on a 2-3km long track. The number of laps is usually determined after the first or second lap, so that the respective race duration is achieved. Don’t worry if you don’t see the number of laps straight away, because the last lap is also signalised by a loud bell.

The race course

The track runs over a variety of surfaces, mostly meadow or forest soil, gravel, asphalt, but also soft sand or mud. The terrain is mostly flat, but combined with short, steep climbs and off-camber sections. Long climbs or descents are not common. 

The UCI (the World Cycling Union) regulates almost every detail of cycling and so of course also the requirements of a cyclocross course. 

It is specified that the course must contain natural or artificial obstacles that are likely to cause riders to dismount and run. This rule has been changed several times in recent years. Originally, at least one obstacle on the course was supposed to force the rider to dismount and run. However, riders became more and more technically skilled and the usual obstacle became ” rideable ” for them. So there were only two options left: make the obstacles more difficult or change the rule. But of course the UCI also regulates the type of obstacles, there are steps (only uphill), hurdles (up to 40cm) and sand (max. 80m in length) allowed, and how they are placed in the course. On the other hand, the course should be at least 90% rideable for all categories. This is one of the nice things about cyclocross, no matter if men or women, elite, masters or juniors, they all ride on the same course.

The training

the physiological demands

When it comes to training, the technical demands of the course and the ever-increasing technical level of the riders (and this can also be observed in the hobby classes!) mean that the riding skills have to be trained just as much as the conditioning. 

It is also not so easy to determine which physiological abilities are particularly needed in cyclocross. All the UCI rules concerning the course have one main objective (besides safety): a constant change in the speed of the race and a certain (group) dynamic among the racers. 

With all the curves, mini descents or straight sections during which you can ride in the draft, there are always short moments when you can recover a little. But the climbs, sand, running passages, acceleration after curves or attacks of other racers also require almost maximum effort. Or you just want to attack yourself.

These phases alternate so quickly that you never really recover in between.

The science

A study looking at the physiological response during a cyclocross race showed that the riders were in the high-intensity heart rate range ( above HF associated with blood lactate of 4 mmol/L) for almost the entire race (93.6±6.7% of the race duration). The maximum heart rate they achieved during the race was for most of them even higher than that obtained during the initial test, which was intended to determine exactly that. Cyclocross races are highly intensive from the start and challenge the riders to the limit.

Ideally, you can simply ride very fast and concentrated despite fatigue and accelerate again and again.

The fascination of cyclocross is precisely these diverse requirements, they make the races so interesting and fun, the training so varied. Every course is completely different and there are always new challenges waiting for you.

The training plan

In order to give you the best possible support in your training, we have developed two training plans.

One is designed for beginners who have little or no experience with cyclocross. This way you will be well prepared to start your first race in 6 weeks.

The second plan is for athletes with racing experience who want to prepare themselves for the cyclocross season. This plan is also the right one for you if you have been bike racing in the summer or if you are a triathlete with a very strong cycling performance, are used to intense cycling training and now want to try cyclocross.

Have fun with your training!

Let us know how you are doing with the plan, how the training is going and of course how your first race was! Tag us with @noack.sportsupport and share your experiences. 

For questions or individualised training plans we are always there for you!

Study

Carmichael, R. D., Heikkinen, D. J., Mullin, E. M., & McCall, N. R. (2017). Physiological Response to Cyclocross Racing. Sports and Exercise Medicine – Open Journal, 3(3), 74–80.

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Josephine Noack
Josephine Noack
I'm the head coach of noack sport support and sports-scientist. As an athlete, I compete in cross-triathlon, normal short-distance triathlon, MTB-Marathon, road crits, and cyclocross during the winter.

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