cyclocross training

Cyclocross is becoming very popular (again). But what is so special about this sport? What does the perfect cyclocross training look like? And what more do you do than simply ride a bike? Here we give you a little insight into the special nature of this cycling discipline and show you how to train best for your start into the cross season.

Eine kleine Geschichtsstunde

The origin of cyclocross is somewhere in the countryside in eastern France or Belgium. In winter the road racers looked for new challenges and organized “Steeplechases”, the hunt to the church tower in the next village. The first one to reach the church tower was the winner. It didn’t matter whether he was riding on the road or across the fields. Even short running passages were sometimes the shorter way and kept the feet warm in the cold winter. The only thing that mattered was to be the first. The original form of the cyclocross was born.

As the riders realized that the winter races helped them to get in better shape in spring, the sport developed quickly. In the early 20th century, the first official cyclocross races were held in France. Now there were flagged tracks and shortcuts were not allowed. The new sport spread quickly throughout Central Europe, especially in Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Today the capital of cyclocross remains in Belgium. The season still takes place in winter; it usually starts at the end of September or the beginning of October and ends with the World Championship on the last weekend in January. So it is and remains the perfect addition to the summer cycling or triathlon season.

The Training

How to start

Cyclocross is a competitive sport. It is about being fast, moving forward efficiently and defeating the competitor. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be a lot of fun and you don’t spend the day with your fellow rivals after the race. But the challenge of being fast and committing oneself to the competition even in difficult terrain in adverse conditions is what makes this discipline so special. 

So to get started you need a race as your goal. Especially the small, local events often offer hobby races for different age groups as well as for elite riders. All you need is a cyclocrosser, helmet and shoes and of course proper training. A little bit of courage and the will to win are for sure also an advantage. 

The demands

How you train optimally is, of course, largely dependent on the demands of the race.

Depending on gender and age group the races usually last between 30 and 60 minutes. It is important to have a well developed aerobic capacity, but the anaerobic parts must not be neglected either. Although the races are short compared to road races, a solid basic endurance is important, not at least to be able to do frequent and intensive training.

But in the race you are confronted with quite different challenges than “only” the physiological ones. Technical difficulties such as soft sand, hurdles, extremely steep climbs that are easier to run than to ride, tight 180° turns, slippery surfaces and so on can be found on most courses. If you ride technically smooth, you can maintain a higher speed and save energy because you don’t have to accelerate as much. With an excellent riding technique you can even compensate a little bit of your physical weaknesses.

Ideally, cyclocross training consists of a combination of skill practice, short, intensive intervals, basic endurance, some running and stabilization and race-like sessions.

The training plan

Here you can find our training plan at TrainingPeaks

This plan is the right one for you if you already have a certain fitness level, i.e. ideally you have been riding during the summer and now, after a short break, you are getting back into the action. You should be used to being on the bike at least twice a week, better three or four times a week. Experience in cyclocross is not necessary, but even if it’s your second or third season, the plan can definitely help you. The most important thing is that you are motivated and you are ready to race. 

We have designed the plan so that you will be ready for your first race in six weeks.

You are thrilled?

Of course we want to continue to support you! The best way to train between races during the cyclocross season depends entirely on your goals, your races and your fitness level. In order to develop the right strategy, individual support is of course the best thing.

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 eCycling for Beastmode p/b Rose.

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