Cyclo-Cross Skills and Drills

Today the training schedule called for 60 minutes of recovery. So like any other eager cyclo-cross racer, I rolled over to my local park with my barrier and flags. Nothing like playing in the park on a Friday morning to put a smile on my face. This little park is a decent place to work on skills – it has a slight incline/hill for setting up the flags and thanks to the soccer field there is room along the side to set up my barrier.

The focus of this session was “back to basics”. Really break down the dismount and mount technique and focus on fully turning the front wheel while traversing the flags. I also gave myself mental cues to focus on keeping my eyes up and maintaining steady pedal pressure going into, during and out of the turns. “Keep pedaling” and “Eyes up” were ever constant in my brain.

I started the session with a “riding the lines” drill. Basically I ride the white lines on the soccer field and focus on making fast turns at line intersections – all the while remembering to look up, to keep steady pedal pressure and to play around with how far I can push the tires, bike lean, and body lean. After this it is time for dismounts and mounts. To warm-up I don’t use the barrier – rather I cruise along the field slowly and focus simply on dismounting properly and then focusing on a smooth mount – there is no running, no lifting of the bike, or heavy breathing.

I find doing these warm-up drills get my body and brain focused on the motions of cyclo-cross and really gets me ready for the faster paced barriers and tighter turning drills. Next it was time for dismount and mount practice with the barrier. I start these drills at a slow pace, gradually building to a faster speed – if I find myself making sloppy mistakes (such as missing the pedal, stutter stepping, etc.), I slow down again and focus on clean smooth technique. One of my goals today was to focus on getting back on the bike quickly, I have a tendency to take to many steps after the barrier.

Next up was turning – thanks to the little slope, I was able to set up my flags to allow me to practice turning uphill and downhill. This works a number of skills at once – keeping the eyes up, constant pedal pressure, really using the upper body to turn the bike, fully turning the front wheel, getting used to letting the bike “fall” down the hill, using only the back brake, and also working on braking, pedaling and turning all together.

Final phase of the session was connecting the barrier and the flags. Ride through the flags up the slope, turn and descend through the flags, then attack the barrier, pedal a bit, turn around and attack the barrier again, and then back to the flags. I just keep repeating this little drill – I get two barrier sessions and lots of turning in with each “repeat”.

To cool down, back to the soccer field – riding the lines and some slow and easy dismounts and mounts.

There you have it! This is how I spent my morning training session. Because today is a recovery day, I did not do any of these drills at full speed – rather I focused on technique and being smooth. The mantra of “go slow to go fast” definitely holds true when working on cyclo-cross skills.

This morning I was riding the Stevens Super Prestige I raced on at the World Cyclo-Cross Championships in Tabor, Czech Republic. This message on my stem brought back some excellent feelings:

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