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Advice For the Cross Racer: What you need to know about bikes, skills and food

by Kristi Berg

 

If slogging through mud on bike and foot, over obstacles and riding hard in rain or shine sound like a fun way to spend 30-60 minutes on a Sunday morning, then cyclocross racing might be in your future. For many of you, it’s already a way of life come autumn in the Pacific Northwest. While it may sound intimidating, the cyclocross community welcomes beginners. Following are some pointers for getting into cross.

Tip #1: Tune Up Your Bike

Like a lot of people racing cross, you’ve been spending a lot of time on the road this summer. You might need to switch over some parts of your bike to prepare for the cyclocross season. To get started use a Mountain Bike, old road bike, or ideally a Cyclocross bike. Clean every part of your bike, ensuring that it’s in good working order and buy light weight components (because you lift and run with the bike) that will stand up to hard riding over rough terrain. You don’t want to spend your first race fixing a broken chain.

Tip #2: Sharpen Your Skills

If this is your first season of racing cross, consider taking a class or clinic (See “Resources” at the end of article for some suggestions). You’ll be with other beginners while you learn basic cyclocross races skills, such as the proper way to mount and dismount your bicycle, to shoulder your bicycle when you run up and over barriers, and several other aspects of cyclocross. These classes are great not only for beginners but also for seasoned cross racers who want to sharpen their skills.

Tip #3: Practice

Once you’ve taken a class or experienced a season of cross racing, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect. Go out after work and practice the skills that you’ll need in a cyclocross race, such as:

Smooth remounts without hopping

Stepping through with inside leg into a run on faster dismounts

Gently putting bike down after running sections – no rear wheel bounces

Grabbing the bike and shouldering it for a run-up

Tip #4: Be Prepared

Once you have started to master the skills of cyclocross, the only thing left to do is get out and race. Get used to preparing for all kinds of weather. Some good things to remember:

Pack a race bag with everything you might need, from booties to a rain jacket. Be sure to pack dry clothes to put on after the race.

Always keep that bag stocked so that you can just grab it and go come race day.

Consider bringing a Thermos with hot tea or soup (Oregon’s Crusade and Seattle Cross have been sponsored by MacTarnahans and New Belgium Brewing for the more seasoned racer)

Pack warming crème or lubricant for your legs. These lubricants are great to rub on your skin before your race in wet and cold conditions to protect your skin from the moisture and cold temperatures.

Tip #5: Don’t Forget to Eat

Try to eat 2-3 hours before your race so that you have adequate time to digest your food. Take in some form of simple sugar approximately 15 minutes before your race start, to ensure proper energy during the race (you’ll be sprinting pretty hard!).

Be sure to hydrate very well the day before and the morning of your race. In cyclocross racing, water bottle cages are a hindrance (they get in the way when you shoulder your bike); therefore, you will not be able to drink fluids during your race. Drink as soon as you finish to avoid dehydration.

Tip #6: Have Fun

Remember that cyclocross racing is a fun way to stay in shape during the rainy season. The races are very social events, which often include food, beverages and – sometimes – costume contests. Don’t take it too seriously your first time out and you’ll have a great time!

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Kristi Berg of Seattle has been the Seattle Cyclocross Womens division overall championship for the past 4 years, is USAC and ACE certified and is Head of Women’s Cycling at Seattle’s Cycle University.

 

Resources:

For a list of cyclocross clinics and classes being offered in the region, see:

http://www.CycleU.com

http://www.obra.org – Oregon Bicycle Racing Association

http://www.SeattleCyclocross.com – Seattle Cyclocross

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Cyclocross Bikes, Skills, and Food

by Kristi Berg

It’s hard to believe with the record high temperatures here in Seattle that the Cyclocross season is fast approaching. With the first race here in Seattle starting September 4th it’s time to thing about bikes, practice and proper care of your body.

First thing to start thinking about is your Cyclocross bicycle. Like a lot of people racing cross, you are probably needing to take apart your road bike to add some parts to the cross bike. Start this process now, if you need to take the bicycle into a bike shop you are going to want to do this soon so that they have time to switch things over for you before the first race. This is also a great time to clean every part of your cross bike, inspecting every part to make sure that they are all in good working order. You don’t want to start out with parts that are old and tired from the road season, that will likely break during the cross season.

Once the cross bike is built up you are going to want to jump right into practicing the skills of Cyclocross. If this is your first season of racing cross I would encourage you attend cross practices to help you work on the fundamentals of Cyclocross. At Cycle U we offer some great classes to get you started on the right foot. These classes walk you through the developmental skills of Cyclocross teaching you the proper way to mount and dismount your bicycle along with the proper way to shoulder your bicycle on run ups and over barriers and also several other aspects of Cyclocross. These classes are great not only for beginners but also for the seasoned cross racer to sharpen those skills that you have not used since last cross season.

Focus of practice:

Smooth remounts without hopping

Stepping through with inside leg into a run on faster dismounts

Gently putting bike down after running sections – no rear wheel bounces

Grabbing the bike on downtube as you dismount into a run-up

Once you have started to master the skills of Cyclocross it is time to get out and race. If this is your first race season some things you will really want to think about is preparing yourself for any kind of weather. Since this is Washington and you never know what the weather has in store here, you want to make sure that you always come prepared for any conditions. Here is the plan:

Pack up a race bag with everything you can think of, from booties to rain coats,

keep that bag stocked always so that you can just grab it on race day

always be prepared.

Warming crème or lubricant for your legs. These lubricants are great to rub on your skin before your race in wet and cold conditions to protect your skin from the moisture and cold temperatures. Ask your local shop.

Make sure also that you are practicing good nutrition habits on race day. Try to eat between 2-3 hours before your race so that you have adequate time to digest your food. Take in some form of simple sugar approximately 15 minutes before your race start, to ensure proper energy during your race. And it is very important to hydrate very well the day before and the morning of your race. In Cyclocross you don’t have water bottle cages on your bike so that you can shoulder your bike easily, so therefore you are not drinking fluid during your race. That is why it is so important to super hydrate before your race and to drink as soon as you finish to avoid dehydration.

Remember to start early with your preparation both mechanically and physically so you have an awesome season. Have fun and race hard!

 

Kristi has won the Seattle Cyclocross Womens division overall championship the past 9 years, is USAC and ACE certified and is Head of Women’s Cycling at Cycle University.