Cyclo-Cross Tips and Tricks

I held another cyclo-cross practice session last night for a good group of people. The idea for the session was really to get the basics down well. To build confidence with dismounts, mounts and turning – the components that I see as the basics of cyclo-cross.

We warmed up nice and easy with some turning drills, practicing sliding around on our seats to see how this affects the turning ratio and comfort level. It is amazing to see how far people will push their limits when surrounded by others doing the same! Next up was tripoding. I find tripoding is a useful skill particularly in downhill cornering and cornering in loose terrain such as sand. Tripoding can give you that extra feeling of “security” you need to stay off the brakes and let the bike roll.

After this warm-up we switched gears to focus on dismounts and mounts. We took these super slow and easy. Breaking these techniques down to the basics and literally starting off at a walking pace. I find this is the easiest way to learn new skills and to break “bad habits”. Going fast is great – but often speed and learning don’t always mix. One rider had a great break-through last night and became comfortable with the “coast” and moving her hand from her handlebars to her toptube. Awesome!

Finally after all this we broke out the barrier and started to speed things up. We played around with the approach to the barrier with pretty much everyone finding a different spot where they’re comfortable at getting off their bike. In my opinion, the dismount distance is completely individual – it really depends on your foot speed and agility. Same goes for the remount – don’t get caught up in getting back on the bike right away or within two steps – just do what feels right. What is most important is to get off the bike quickly and smoothly, to float over the barrier and to get on the bike without wasting energy.

The last component of our session was to set up the grid and practice a little circuit that involved attacking the barrier and then working on some high speed turns. This gave everyone an opportunity to practice the turning skills we warmed-up with and to do things with a bit more speed.

All in all, it was an excellent night of training. I really enjoy seeing people learn a new skill – particularly the big grin that breaks out when they realize that they’ve “done it”.

As for me? Well, today was supposed to be about motorpacing… But I’m wiped out today with an ear ache, sore throat and a nasty ulcerative colitis attack. (Admittedly I probably brought this all on myself by getting stressed out and putting too much on my plate. Some things never change I suppose.) So today is a recovery day. About to get layered up in my leg warmers, thermal vest and long-fingered gloves for a skills session myself. On the agenda for me: cornering speed and fluid dismounts/remounts. And yes, I’ll be starting off slowly and not going too hard – it is about recovery and learning today.

Just a reminder that this year you must pre-register for the Ottawa Bicycle Club cyclo-cross series. There are two registration dates:
– tonight from 3 – 6 p.m at The Cyclery
– Sept. 18 from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m at The Cyclery

Additionally you can register online through the Ontario Cycling Association website. You cannot register on site – you must be pre-registered to race….

To see the Ottawa cyclo-cross race schedule and full registration requirements, visit

Pushing the Reset Button

It has been a few days now since the opening season races and I’ve had more time to think about them. Well, I’ve come to the conclusion that I got what I deserved. I went into Saturday’s race over-confident and when things didn’t go exactly “right” I gave up. Yes, I gave up. I know, I’m not impressed either. As for Sunday, well I should have won that race easily. But I didn’t push myself hard enough. Instead I rode just hard enough and then when I made the mistake in the sand I was scrambling, luckily regaining the lead and then ending up second due to the mechanical. But the thing is, it should never have come down to any of this – I should have ridden harder and smarter.

So today, I hit the reset button. Time to get back on track and focused for the season. This past weekend was good because it highlighted many mistakes – both mental and physical. But now it is time to get down to what I do best and that is racing my bike. Yes, I expect to make more mistakes as the season goes on. But these will be different mistakes. They won’t be mistakes that involve – giving up, rolling over, not going hard enough, or being over-confident. I expect the mistakes I’ll be making will more along the lines of – too much brake, going too hard and blowing up, blowing corners, a few crashes, and forgetting to pedal. Still mistakes, just a different breed of mistake. A breed of mistake that will set me up for being faster eventually – so long as I recognize the mistake and work hard to fix it. And this you can be assured of – I will work hard and I will fix my mistakes.

Racing this weekend in Williston, Vermont at the Catamount Outdoor Center. It is going to be a great weekend of racing, cheering, and hanging out. We’ve got great host housing set up again this year. And thanks Ken and Denise Hoppner, we’ll be traveling in style. My parents are coming down to take in the races and to hang out (guessing they’ll do some shopping as well…). I predict a tasty supper at Moe’s, a visit to EMS, Borders, and Small Dog Electronics. All in all, it is going to be a good time.