For those who have the racing bug, it's hard to go cold turkey and put the racing wheels away. Fortunate for those, there is cyclocross to feed that heavy appetite. Give your mind and life a break Following up from the prior article, the mind needs a break. Talking with Hank Scholz (Team Mike's Bikes), he is taking on CX because he finds “it a great way to keep enjoying [himself] on the bike without burnout”. On top of that, taking a much more lax approach, mentioning some of the beauties of the CX season: “I can eat whatever I want, drink beer, stay up late, and sleep in”. Spending some time to recharge the batteries and focusing on what it is that you enjoy will go a long way toward continual progression and success.
Strengthen the whole body You may have seen the movie “Triplets of Belleville” and laughed at how ridiculous the cyclist are portrayed. Huge legs with a scrawny upper body. This is in many ways true. Unlike weight bearing sports, cycling does not offer enough stress on the bones to build stronger bones. In some cases such as the TdF, where riders put their body through weeks of cycling, the body will pull large amounts of Ca+ from the bones and a cyclist will finish the the month with weak, brittle bones (Ca+ is an electrolyte needed for muscle contractions). CX is a mix between road cycling, mtb'ing and running. The whole body gets worked. Hank noting that “[...] I also find my abs, arms, back, and overall entire body sore after doing a cross race”. Continuing on, noting that “I always feel really solid, strong, and overall fit once I get back on the road”.
Build additional skills You are going down a descent and hit a loose section on the apex of the turn. While scrubbing some speed, you notice your friend flying by you, gaining 20m on you around the corner with ease. How did he do that? Was he just ignoring the sense of self preservation that should be wired in us? Or did he just have some bit of extra skill and confidence? One day I was riding down Mt Diablo and this day was unlike others. Instead of going through a set of brake pads, I had an Suburu Impreza behind me, squealing tires trying to keep up. I got to the bottom of the hill was just amazed. I didn't know how that descent just go so much easier. I gave it some thought and I realized I had spent the last month getting comfortable on my MTB and taking my road bike on the trails around the area.
The skills and confidence gained from taking a road bike off road (cyclocross) can make for a nice transition when getting back on the road. While this may seem like a safe generalization to make, Hank found that “after 4 moths of turning the bike around sharp turns on flat, loose terrain, flying down a paved descent, counter-steering and leaning my bike scares the crap out of me”. The differences among individuals is what makes cycling such an interesting sport to coach.
“In the end I race cross because it's fun. Immediately after a cross race, I catch my breath and start thinking about doing it again” (Hank)
While cyclocross may add some fun back into winter training, it may be a bit much for those who have been racing already for the past 9-10 months. For those looking to take a rest and rebuild a base for the next year's season may want to follow through with some lower intensity rides, focusing on efficiency, strength, and endurance.