First off, big welcome to readers coming here from Citizen Cycle! I hope you like what you read here and maybe you’ll be encouraged to take up cyclo-cross racing. Ottawa has a vibrant cyclo-cross community with races for all levels and experience. If you have any questions about cyclo-cross, drop me an <a href=”mailto:email@example.com”>email</a> or post in the comments (don’t be shy). And if you want some help with training and techniques – well let me know and I’ll be glad to help.
So today I was out in my regular stomping grounds doing some technical training and I started to get a bit frustrated. Things really just weren’t clicking the way I wanted. I suppose since these last few weeks of training have been really outstanding and I’ve had a few break-throughs and epiphanies, I’m kind of used to this happening with every ride. Sadly, this is not the case.
Today I wanted to work on bike acceleration. Sounds simple enough… Well, I went over to a sandy area that has a short but steep little climb. My idea was to start on the flattish but sandy ground and focus on sprinting and accelerating up and over the climb. Well, I got up and over the climb but I have to say there wasn’t much in the way of sprinting or acceleration happening. Rather I was muscling my way up and over. Sure I got over the climb but it was too slow and there really wasn’t any “jump” or sprint.
I started to get frustrated with myself and thought “if only I had someone here to show me how to do this”. Luckily I caught myself thinking this and was reminded of what Marc has been telling me the past few days “you don’t need someone to teach you. You have the skills to figure this stuff out. Play around on your bike and you’ll get it.”. So this is what I did. I played around with my gearing. I tried starting with my bum on the saddle and off. I tried starting on firmer terrain. I moved my bike back a few feet. Slowly things started to work. But I left still not feeling satisfied. All this means is that I need to go back again this week and give it another shot. Practice makes improvement after all.
The rest of the ride went really well. I now have my 44 tooth chainring on my bike (previously I was riding a 53/39 setup) – so now that I’m back to my 44/38 cyclo-cross gearing I can test my legs more and push things with the speed. One spot where I appear to be continuing to improve is in the sand. In years past I would ride in a much too easy gear – resulting in little to no speed going into the sand and with poor leg speed I wasn’t able to drive the bike forward. Now I’m riding in a much harder gear, sprinting much faster into the sand, using a few new techniques such as pulling up on the handlebars and pushing with my hips to keep the momentum forward rather than going down into the sand and I’m focusing on as high a leg speed as I can get. Now I find I can get through heavy sand pits I wasn’t able to before and with a lot more speed.
After this I hit up another spot to work more on my acceleration over steep climbs. In years past I’ve really struggled with steep climbs. Stalling out half-way up or even at the very top. Well, I discovered that once again, I’ve been riding in too easy of a gear. I’m happy to report that I can now get over climbs that last year left me bumbling and floundering around – and I did it in my 44/17 today! So this is some improvement. For me to do this, I have to remind myself to really sprint into the hill, to use my arms as well and then to continue sprinting up the hill and use my entire body to get over the top – literally thrusting my body over the lip.
So all this to say that the improvements are coming – slowly but surely. It really is the little adjustments along the way that will have the biggest pay-offs in the long run. I’ve updated my race calendar for the cyclo-cross season – I really can’t wait for September.
One final thought, this is thanks to Marc “Talent Is Over Rated”.