Yesterday during our drive to Bruges, our conversation naturally shifted to cyclo-cross. Cyclo-cross racing and training. We discussed what worked and didn’t. I especially expressed how much this season here in Belgium has highlighted how much I need to work on my technical skills. This is when Marc said, “You need to challenge the fear.”
This quote stuck in my brain. So true. Challenge the Fear.
This is what is holding me back. Fear. Not fear of failure. Fear of high speed descents. Fear of dodgy (or what seem dodgy) corners. Fear of taking risks in the race and going for it. Fear. Really fear of coming off my bike. Funny since this is not something that I ever think about when racing on the road. Some road racers really worry about crashing. For me crashing on the road does not even enter my brain during racing.
I guess the reason it does in ‘cross is because I’m a road rider who became a ‘cross racer. I didn’t start with the technical background and confidence. Well, you can probably guess where this is leading. Yes, I will be riding my ‘cross bike all summer in any and all conditions possible. I’ll even be dusting off my mountain bike and getting myself out to Camp Fortune and Kanata Lakes. I really have to commit to doing this.
Last season I worked really hard on developing my physical fitness and refining ‘cross skills such as mounting, dismounting, cornering, off-cambers, etc. These skills are important. But it doesn’t matter if you are super fast at a bike remount but have to slam on the brakes for a soft sandy corner and are all over the brakes on descents. The fast remount comes in handy when I’m smooth in the corners and ripping down descents. Power does not trump technical skills. Don’t get me wrong – power is important. It can get me out of a jam if I blow a corner, etc. But first and foremost are the technical skills. If I can ride smoothly, keep my legs turning, stay off the brakes, etc – I won’t need to resort to the deep power reserves so much during the race. Instead I can use my legs for starts, bridging to groups, and attacking. As well this increased technical skill will enable me to get to the next group – I wont’ be gapping myself through a tough mud section and then having to fight to get back on.
Interesting that Marc and I both came to the same conclusion yesterday: in North America one can put together a solid and strong ‘cross racing experience by relying on physical power and a modicum of technical skill; in Europe the power doesn’t mean jack if you don’t have the technical skills.
So this really leads me to one spot. Must get better technically. This is going to mean sacrifice. This is going to mean taking risks. This is going to mean some spills and tumbles. This is going to mean some frustrating days on the bike. This is going to affect my road season. I had mapped out some road season goals – but I will be revisiting these.
But, I’d rather go through this from May – September than come back to Belgium next winter and be right back where I am now.
My main goal is Tabor. I want to get there. I need to get there. So I’ll do what it takes.
I’m going to need help with this. I’ve done some mountain biking but not a lot. So any and all suggestions are appreciated. Do you know of a good spot where I can get out on my ‘cross bike and ride on technical challenging terrain. Do you have a training spot that has some fast sandy corners, a few heart-in-your-throat descents, some challenging steep climbs, loose gravel? Post up here. Send me an email. I want to learn this. I will need your help and advice.
So this is where I am right now in getting ready for the new season. Slowly the plan and ideas are coming together.
Oh, I’m all ears – do you have an idea/tip/suggestion that I haven’t written about. Do you have some drills that have worked well for you? Let me know. We can get stronger, faster, and better together.
“Do one thing a day that scares you.”
I can relate to your fear. When I started mountain bike racing in Alberta I dreaded a technical decent called ‘terminator’ in Canmore. When I should have been thinking fast thoughts – my mind was preoccupied with thoughts of crashing. Over the years, I have discovered some fundamentals in getting better at scary technical bike maneuvers:
1. Momentum is your friend – crashes often happen when one hesitates.
2. Scan ahead and look where you want to go – not where you don’t. Seems kind of obvious, however, we spend our days looking where we want to go – not where we don’t. So it’s easy to see something scary and fixate on it – then ride to it.
3. Visualize how to perform the maneuver. Also, visualize the basic physics i.e. pivot point (front hub) and center of gravity.
4. Number 1 fundamental: be mentally confident. Eliminate negative thoughts. Easier said that done – but many crashes happen due to doubt. Meet each obstacle as a challenge to be conquered.
I would not advise blasting down every descent, looking where you want to go confidently without knowing ones limits. Some obstacles require a progressive trial and error approach.
Hope this helps