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first cross race advice?(6 posts)

first cross race advice?weiwentg
Jun 17, 2002 6:09 PM
the first cross race of the season is mid-September. my cross bike should be delivered by early September. I suppose I don't mind getting my ass kicked. any advice? I'm in Michigan, where the cross races are apparently grass crits with obstacles. should I dive right the hell in or wait for a bit?
Head First!triangleforge
Jun 18, 2002 6:32 AM
I say dive in! Of course, that's pretty much my universal answer to anyone who expresses even a minor interest in cyclocross, and many who haven't. There's no advantage to waiting for later races, and you're likely to have better weather in September than in December, so you'll be better able to focus on the basics.

Over the summer, you'll want to find some riders who've raced cyclocross and get a quick tutorial on dismounting, mounting, shouldering the bike, & running with it so that you can practice these key skills on your own. If they're serious about cyclocross, they'll likely start practicing those skills themselves before too much of the summer has passed, and you can hook up with them for those practice sessions. That means outfitting a bike with off-road pedals, ideally the same sort as you'll be using when your 'cross bike arrives in September.

In your first race, go hard, but don't worry too much about placing -- the first couple of Beginner/"C" category races of the year always seem to draw several guys who've raced 'cross the previous season and really ought to have signed up for the Intermediate field. Concentrate hard on your technique, both in the corners and over the barriers, and you'll be amazed at how much fun you're having!

Cheers!
more on practicelonefrontranger
Jun 18, 2002 7:51 AM
Hi there,

I agree with the "heads first" approach too. Additionally, starting in August you should start doing weekly or even bi-weekly form drills. Get together with some other 'crossers and make this a friendly competition:

* Find a quiet grassy area. I'd recommend scouting out a local park, vacant lot or ballfields where the authorities won't get fussy about riding your bikes on the grass / dirt.

* Put the offroad pedals you will use on your 'cross bike on the TCR and lower your saddle ~ .5 to 1 cm. Leave the road tires on. The TCR will be a much closer adaptation to the new 'cross bike, so don't bother using your mountain bike for this because your technique won't transfer as well. In fact, if the 'cross bike doesn't get done in time, just use the TCR, assuming it's dry and you have the typical "grass crit" style Midwestern courses. One of the Miami (Oxford) gals used to spank us at the Cincinnati 'cross series on her Litespeed Ultimate with road gearing and 23mm slicks. You won't do any harm to the TCR by riding it on mellow stuff like grass, crushed stone MUTs and smooth singletrack. You should see the washboard gravel roads we torture our high-end road bikes on out here, but anyway.

* The first couple weeks, stick to flat, smooth grassy stuff or smooth parking lots and just do drills: dismount drills and carry / run drills using things like paint stripes in the parking lot or small branches as "barriers". Use stuff that won't make you crash if you mess up, so that you can concentrate fully on form and timing. Get this stuff down solid, starting from a walk and working up to a full-on running dismount / remount. If you find you have problems, break the dismount into sections and practice the single elements that you have issues with, like riding around hanging off the side of the bike in a half-dismount, swinging your leg over, "vaults", etc... The "vault" (remount) portion IME is the one that gives people the most grief. Try not to develop a "stutter-step" (extra hop) in your vault because it's easy to ingrain and a bear to get rid of.

* When you've got a reasonably solid dismount down, develop a "course" loop that uses natural barriers: parking blocks, curbs, steps, small hedges, park benches, picnic tables or anything else that will force you to practice dismounting.

* Get your buddies together and do a "mock race" so you can put it all together with the added distraction of someone flailing around in front of you / beside you. This is where you will learn the ultimate truth of 'cross: the barrier is ALWAYS closer than it looks :) You need to figure this "forshortening factor" out now to develop smooth, steady timing and bulletproof focus. Come September, you don't want to go flying into that first line of barriers at a full sprint in a pack of raving lunatics, and suddenly realize you're "on top" of the first hurdle with no time to get off the bike. This gets ugly real quick, especially when thirty guys are all coming to the same conclusion around you.

And finally, when December rolls around and you find you're racing in REAL "cyclocross weather", you should probably read my "joys of grease" post in the Racing forum: lonefrontranger "cold weather traning" 6/17/02 12:22pm
right.weiwentg
Jun 18, 2002 6:48 PM
head first it is. thanks, and I'll let you know how the race goes. assuming I don't break the other collarbone.
incidentally, I don't actually have a mountain bike. I started riding 9 months ago. ack. this is why I decided to take up cyclocross: I need bike handling skills. bad. I have the endurance, but lose 2-3 meters on corners. it it were just a nice straight all-the-way-uphill race, I think I would kick ass, but there's no such race.
nice straight all-the-way-uphill races:lonefrontranger
Jun 20, 2002 5:55 AM
check www.americancycling.org for course profiles for these little winners:

* Pillar To Post Hillclimb: the shortest; Jonathan Vaughters did it in 17 minutes this year, mere mortals shoot for ~25 minutes.
* Horgan Hillclimb: the steepest, runs from Boulder to Eldora and the gradient on Magnolia Rd. for 5K is comparable to Alpe d'Huez.
* Pikes Peak Hillclimb: the most unpaved, this is the one the rally cars do.
* Mt. Evans Hillclimb: the highest and longest, peaks at over 14,000 ft.

Now you know what to do with your summer vacation time next year...
mwahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! nmweiwentg
Jun 20, 2002 9:11 AM