Originally Posted by scattered73
yeah, same here...
after race #3 at marysville pa, the picture is bigger and the details of strategy loom larger...
i've let almost a full week sink in as i reflect on the last race and compare them to the first two...all within one month. and what a month it was with regards to the learning curve, the humbling experience that it is and the pure blast of it. the folks at the marysville race were by far the nicest and intense.
now to add to my tips for (anyone but mainly) myself:
*yes, get going from the start, be aggressive, don't hang back in the back, get up there and make people work to pass you if that's what they are going to do...not that you should get in the way, but be there to navigate, churn, give it all you have from the start. if it's tough and you are winded, then train more!
*once you are passed, find that rhythm...might take a lap and a half...keep going...take note of you is behind you...keep checking if they are gaining or not...turn it on where you are at your best (flats? technical areas like barriers, off-cambers, etc?)...mine were the technicals...a couple of guys i stayed ahead of barely only by really blasting thru the barriers....they always caught up on the flats
*once that was figured out, i found someone i felt i was gaining on...my mistake was in not passing them earlier....i figured i was saving energy by tailing them, allowing me to pace myself....then i found i slowed down as they slowed down...when i FINALLY passed them, i made alot of ground almost immediately
*take that beer on the run-up! it's fluid! it's energy! it really helped me in more ways than one....seriously (miller gd never tasted so good either).
*take note too of those riders who still keep barely beating you at each race...i've noted...i'm secretly keeping my eye on them...gives you a focus next time around
*really take time to check those tires (get the pressure right), do a lap or two, warmup for 45 minutes or more...just get there earlier than you think is necessary...get your focus on, eat some nuts, fruit, hammer gel and get hydrated.
p.s. to self:
*continue the xc tradition that has carried over into cx: have a brew after the ride/race. enjoy it. then hydrate with water/gatorade...then have another beer or two while watching the folks you hope to compete against next year. or in 2 years...;)
So not so enamoured with platforms. Funny, I thought the old "bear-trap"/cage style platforms with Powergrips were a great alternative to cilpless or old-style toe-clips. For one, you don't have to keep stabbing to clip in, just step on and go. You don't have to worry about the pedal or cleats getting clogged with mud. And Once you get to pedalling a bit and have momentum built up, kick them over and slide your foot in. They don't dig in like toe clips.
Originally Posted by UBUvelo
Granted, I've only raced once (week and a half ago) but it seemed to work well. Besides, I've used this setup on road and on MTB trails so I am used to it. (gave up Looks and SPDs to go to this current set up).
well, i still am going platform because it is second (and third) nature! i know i am losing efficiency, but yeah, for all that jumping on and (falling) off the bike during a 'cross race, i think you'd really have to be used to clipless...i'll be making the switch for the road bike this spring...and maybe by september, i'll be one with the clipless. i actually hacksaw'd ALL extra plastic off the stock pedals on my retro Giant Innova...! and the best shoe for it was some ROOS (made for astroturf....)
Originally Posted by mrtornadohead
It's a bit late in the year, but my tip is to time your lap splits, especially the first several races of the season, but if you're in the habit of doing it you might as well do it every race.
Number one mistake (IMO) is thinking that you paced a race correctly simply because you are passing more people than are passing you toward the end of a race. The clock doesn't lie. If your laps get slower and slower over the course of the race, you started too fast.
I don't even have a cross bike (yet); haven'tt raced any bike discipline; but did do a training session last year on my MTB and want to give it a go this fall.
My questions are ones of race logistics. It may sound stupid; but how does one abandon? Just walk off the course, tell officials, other? I ask because I don't anticipate having a second wheelset; if I flat, I figure my race is over. Also, when lapped do you just keep going, or are you DNF'd?
you should tell the officials. As for being lapped, in one season I have seen officials tell people that if they are lapped they must abandon next time they cross the finish line, or tell people to keep going, or tell people that they may be pulled. UCI rules say you must abandon, but I have not raced under those strict rules. The main concern that officials had was keeping track of all the finishers, not clearing the course for the faster riders.
In the local races around here, and I suspect this is true of local races in any place that CX is fun, the organizers really try hard not to have to pull people. Ryan Trebon and Cody Peterson showed up for the first race of the year last season and lapped everyone else in the A race. It would have been quite a scene for all of them to be pulled. :D In the beginners race that day there was a guy who finished three laps down. (It was a tough course.)
As long as your out there giving it your best effort and you hold a predictable line when faster riders come by, I doubt anyone is going to complain.
Definitely let the scorers know if you have to DNF. They'd probably figure it out anyway, but it makes their job easier if you tell them, and the staff who make races possible are certainly worthy of any consideration we can give them. Alternatively, pick up your bike and run it out. :thumb: I saw a guy do two laps that way this year. I was very impressed.
Awesome thread and good tips. Hoping to "compete" in my first race on Oct. 3rd. Should be fun considering I have the Chicago Marathon the next week! Hope I don't get injured.
I seem to be learning new things at a slower rate now. I'm not sure if that's good or bad. I've raced five times this year and only have a handful of new tips.
1. Leave room for adjustment in your brake setup. If you've got barrel adjusters (and you should have them somewhere) make sure you start the race with the barrel set in the middle. This way you'll be able to make small adjustments while you ride. If the brakes start rubbing from mud build up, you can let them out a little.
2. If your brake clamps down during a race, check your lever position. This will probably never happen to anyone but me. I started a race with one brake lever slightly loose. After hitting a few bumps while leaning on the hoods, the brake lever slid down the bars and pulled enough cable to apply the brakes. It was awful because the more I struggled, the more I leaned on the hoods. I didn't know what the problem was until after the race.
3. Don't brake in the turns. Thinking that you're going to fast to make the turn is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you brake after entering a turn, especially with the front brake, the bike will have a tendency to drift to the outside of the turn. The more you brake, the less likely you are to make the turn cleanly, until you reach a near stop. Do all of your braking before you enter the turn.
4. Brake hard in the turns. The one exception to the above rule is that you can often get away with using the rear brake in really tight turns if you do it just right. If you're going fast enough and have enough weight on the front wheel, you can often get your rear wheel to break loose and slide around the turn. With some practice you can control this. However, if the rear wheel doesn't slide, it can often result in the drifting to the outside described above.
5. Gravel is like really coarse sand. The rules for riding in sand apply to loose gravel. Keep turning the pedals. Let the bike pick its own line. Unlike sand, there's usually a line on any gravel road where the gravel has been pushed aside and the bare dirt is showing. If you can get that line, obviously take it. If not, you just need to let the bike float. Keep cranking the pedals and focus on staying upright. Try not to turn any more than you have to. Don't try to pick good lines through the gravel if it's piled deep everywhere.
6. Carry more speed into the barriers. You'll hear people say that barriers are all about being efficient, not about being fast, and that's true, but slowing down isn't efficient. Practicing barriers isn't just about dismounting and remounting. You need to get used to the step over and figure out how fast you can do it. You may be surprised to see how fast that is. Practice barriers on a downhill. It will encourage you to go faster. Have you ever run downhill and found yourself going so fast you can't keep your legs coordinated? Ideally, you should go into the barriers just a little slower than that. Go in so fast you can barely keep up with the bike once you're off. If, once you're off the bike, you can accelerate and run faster, you came in too slow. If you hit the barrier and fall on your face, you came in too fast. Muscle memory is critical to this, so practice, practice, practice.
So, i just had my first race ever today. it was raining, muddy as hell, and a pretty interesting course with tons of 180 hairpins.
here's my offering, mostly pertaining to conditions and mud:
- always look far ahead. the faster you go, the further ahead you need to look. if you're focused on the wheel of the person in front of you, you'll have to slow down for a feature they negotiate better because they're looking for it. i heard so many people say "i lock into a wheel and i don't let it get away from me" but as a novice, this is putting the cart before the horse. at least, it was for me. the more i 'locked onto someone's wheel' the less i could see of the line and the more i got into trouble or lost momentum to superfluous mud. it was also harder to avoid clipping tires, which happened twice and was one of my primary concerns. you can avoid clipping tires with periphery vision... the more you forget to look ahead and the more you'll find yourself too close to another bike when you or the other rider loses control. you have to focus on what line you're taking and what features and obstacles are coming up one, or even two turns ahead.
- don't get too clever. the first thing that will slow you down more than not knowing what you're doing is mental exhaustion. you DO have to stay focused, but you just need that focus... don't try to figure stuff out to save energy. overthinking something means you're using your brain to think, not drive muscles. when you see a problem or a line choice ahead of you, make a fast and wise choice like mentioned before... but don't go searching for ways to negotiate or find a line if you can just power through the line you're on. it's more important to put that mental energy into keeping your output up. also, you may think "oh look the mud isn't as deep there" only to find out that it's far, far deeper, bumpier, and harder to maintain. working smarter comes once you have the expertise, working harder is how you get that expertise.
- don't clip in if your cleat doesn't want to. wait until it wants to, and in the meantime, stand on the pedal and mash! maybe this is just from my crappy spd knockoffs giving me trouble... but especially in mud, you will likely have cleat problems. everyone does. it's a fact of the sport. if you can just get on the pedals, you can power out of a situation that requires momentum and worry about clipping in when you have the chance. i can't even begin to think how many times i was passed because i was trying to clip in more than i was trying to get through a turn or up a hill. you may find it's terribly inefficient to pedal like a twelve year old only on the down strokes, but unless you make this mistake you won't know just how more efficient it is than getting bogged down in muck and losing all your momentum you carried onto the bike/through a turn just because your frakking cleat is gunked up. bike handling with your foot resting on pedal is very different, but be prepared to handle your bike and you can focus on going fast, not getting your cleat in. this is of course only important if you're having trouble. get some nice pedals and maybe you won't have to worry about it as much... maybe. i can't tell you how many remounts i nailed only to slow to a standstill because i was still kicking my cleat when i should have been standing on the pedals!
- run when you're off your bike. i know this is almost stupid, but no matter how dead you are, no matter how collapsed your lungs are, you need to jog and run when you're off your bike. walking alongside your bike is slower than running and having your legs come out from under you. you can rest when you finish your bell lap... do whatever you need to do to make the race a race. if you're on a run up or off the bike, you aren't in a section that you should be using for recovery. sand, mud, barriers, run ups and corners with zero traction are opportunities to go fast, not opportunities to get off the bike and catch your breath. braking sections before tight turns, long downhills, and technical back to back coasting corners are much better for catching your breath than walking your bike, and they won't kill your momentum. walking your bike just means you'll lose the breath you catch and then some when you get back on the bike. if you are out of breath, dial it back from 90% to 80% until you are seeing straight again... just keep jogging!
- practice in racelike conditions. you can't learn how to handle on mud without cycling through mud. you can't be fast through mud without skill handling your bike in mud. taking turns slowly because you aren't comfortable handling is a great way to end up at the back of the field, and you end up doing more work because you take a longer line. if you take the line of a fast rider, you may end up on your face- but you can get back up and learn from what you did wrong. i practiced a lot of grassy off camber corners but when there's water on the same ground, it's going to feel like a completely different thing. i had never ridden mud before aside from high school playing around with a mtb and the more you practice, the higher your confidence, the faster you'll go. notice this does not say 'do not practice in non-racelike conditions... more practice is always good, even in the wrong conditions. just, don't expect to get things right in the rain if you never get out in it.
- use the same tire inflation front and back. this is something i didn't mean to do, but i was at maybe 30 psi front and closer to 45-50 psi rear. i let air out in staging with no guage... it was a bad move, almost as bad as staying at 60psi. i could feel tire roll on the front and had a good idea of when it was going, but my rear was so dead and slippery i thought i had flatted a couple times. it's just a bad idea... until you know what you're doing and until you know your tires, run everything the same front and rear. that way you can focus on where you put your weight, not what your bike is doing with that weight. it also keeps the handling pretty linear, instead of having a sloped curve of "bikes gonna jet out from under you the more you lean back."
-don't worry about how you look: worry about how you feel. unless it's the final lap, running full sprint up a run up because someone is heckling you is going to take a lot out of you. maybe their cheers when you pass five people that are walking up through the brambles will add some pep to your step for the next minute or two, but that kind of burst is the wrong kind of instinct. don't ask yourself "am i going as fast as i should be going?" instead, ask yourself "how much faster can i go?" and answer it with your muscles... just don't forget that if you outpace yourself you'll make loads of mistakes. you want to work harder than you've ever worked in your life, but you don't want to be running on fumes when you cross the finish line and still have a full lap to go.
in the end, it's really like everyone says... there are a thousand things that you get wrong in every cross race, which means there are a thousand things that could have gone right. getting faster is about getting closer and closer to perfection. i finished 60th in a field of 68. considering there were 8" mud banks, technical corners everywhere, and this course was basically ripped to shreds by the second lap, i am overjoyed that i wasn't dfl or dnf'd. my goal was to finish the race, but getting as much wrong as i did really makes it hard to ignore all the things i could have done better, and how much harder i could have worked.
i guess to sum up, this was my first race and i don't know anything about what i'm talking about- but my feeling is that i was too preoccupied with working smart, and it would be far better to concern one's self with working as hard as you can... smart can come later- you will learn more if you power yourself into learning situations. you'll probably still fall to the back of the field if you are a novice, but at least you will be on the path of self discovery and learning.
Well coming into this season having never done a bike race in my life, i now have six 'cross races under my belt. I had never known what it meant to pedal in anger or really push myself physically until now. My bike experience before this was a few years of recreational mountain biking (although that was almost two years ago) and the occasional work commute. So i've been eating heaping helpings of humble pie to say the least.
If you read nothing else, read this: DO IT!
My fitness and power is crap compared to most people, but here's what i do to keep in the game
1: Warm up. this is super critical. Racing cold or even cool is horrible. It makes you simply want to die. I found i need a good 20minutes on the trainer. If you don't have a trainer either ride a street nearby or even jog/run. Anything. The past two races i arrived a bit late and only had about 20 minutes before the race. I chose to spin on the trainer instead of preriding the course and i think this was smart. Ideally, i would ride the course a lap or two early, take a rest, then warm up on the trainer, but since i'm near the back of the pack and am good at looking ahead, i'd much rather be warmed up and just deal with the course as it comes than preride and be cold.
2: Stage and Start. Stage up front, don't be scared, if its open staging push your way up. If they stage on numbers (prereg order) be sure to register early! If you're slow there's no reason to make it worse by handicapping yourself at the start. Then when the race starts, go like crazy. Personally i go full blast the full first lap and semi-blow up, but i think its worth it to avoid all the crashes and bottlenecks that happen funneling into the first turns. People at the back can practically drink a cup of tea while they wait for others to funnel through while the leaders are off to the races.
3: Look ahead. As others said, this is everything. I used to instruct autox and was into motorsports, etc and those skills pay off a ton. In autox you look ahead the entire time, and use your peripheral vision to monitor cones. You never need to look right at a cone. The same thing applies here. Look down the course, see the line, observe obstacles and other racers with your periphery. I've seen people take horrible lines through sections and i'm sure its because they're not looking ahead and connecting the turns smoothly. You don't even need to get into racing line theory, etc, simply looking ahead will make 90% happen automatically.
4: Brakes only slow you down. The more you brake, the more you have to work to build your speed back up. I'm lazy so i avoid braking at all costs. Of course you have to sometimes, but i see lots of fast people way over braking, and even worse braking and turning. NEVER use the front brake in a turn. While watching races I noticed a few instances of people having oh **** moments in a turn going in too fast, they'll hit the brakes (squeal/turkey gobble) and half a second later the front wheel washes out. like clockwork. You need to slow down before a turn. Once you're in the turn, your speed is what it is. don't brake (well maybe a little rear if you must), hold on, and hope for the best. While on that topic, keep pedaling through turns as well
5: Don't stop pedaling. I pretty much only stop pedaling if its a really bumpy fast downhill. Pedal in SOME gear all the time and through all turns. At the end of races when i'm settled in with the slower blown up people, i can always reel somebody in simply by spinning an easy gear (if thats all i can do) and they're coasting around. this is obvious i guess, but spinning an easy gear isn't any harder than coasting and it actually moves you forward to some degree.
Again, if you read nothing else, read this: DO IT!
tips for newbies, eh? not sure how much i have to offer, being a newbie myself - but here is what i've learned so far.
the start is everything in this game. when i pre-ride a course, i do so with this in mind. what side do i line up on? where will the pile up be? where are my lines going into the first crucial turns/barriers?
look thru the turns. prior to giving cross a try, i had ZERO off road riding experience, and quite frankly was scared to death at times. it was pointed out that i was staring 5 feet in front of my wheel. we go where we look.
core strength is required.
exit speed in the turns is crucial
drills pay off (dismount, remount, shouldering techniques)
i definitely need more time to prep for a cx race than i do for a crit/road race.
i have very little good info to share regarding tire pressures - lots of tinkering and learning to do here.
these are some of the big things that come to mind for me. this cx business is really new to this roadie, and i'm having a blast with this whole new discipline. i've found that the other racers are all too eager to share their ideas/techniques, when asked.
i agree, core strength is needed and i STILL lack it.
i need to go back and see what i wrote above last year, but today, at GRANOGUE (my first of the season), even after doing a decent warm-up, riding the course through at moderate speed, refueling, even biting the head off a gel pack, i STILL didn't have any reserves to simply GO AT IT like i want and need. maybe it's my age. i cramped out the last lap. i admit, i finally switched to clipless and the mud made things harder, but that really wasn't the issue.
i am thinking of doing some anaerobic threshold training. or drinking 5 5 hour Energy bottles...
seriously, tho, i don't know what i can do to store energy in my muscle...what little there is. i'm 47, 5'8", 150 pounds. in great shape. but not during a cx race...
would LOVE to hear some tips on endurance/stamina
one word - intervals
Originally Posted by UBUvelo
V02 max, threshold, microburst - those are the three types that i have found that have done the most to elevate my fitness. this deep into the season (i've missed only two weekends of racing since april) - i stick to threshold intervals for the most part, and don't do the volume that i would do early in the spring.
we could (and there are) do a series of threads on CX training tips.
yeah, i've searched and read but i think i haven't really been committed to it...until now. tired of sucking wind...i'll take a look at the tips here, but what (in a nutshell) constitutes your V02max/threshold/microburst method? i am actually finally to do spinning, but that is so boring....
Originally Posted by PacersGuy
i know i need to build some muscle that will store those carbs...seems my legs fall into their own electric lactate quicksand always too quickly. but recovery is faster and more sustained lately
Tips for mud I learned this past week...
When riding through a mud section with actual standing water/puddles in it, ride through the deepest section of the puddle, barring the occasional foot deep puddle this will be the fastest line, with the most firm smooth ground at the bottom. I had heard this tip before but forgot about it until this past race when I was following my team mate after he lapped me up into the puddle, then I saw his line and followed it. Soooo much faster.
In deep sections of thick sticky mud rather than shifting to an easier gear and trying to spin through it shift to a slightly harder gear, keep yourself planted in the seat and pedal, don't coast, and don't try to turn unless you have to. This will power you through the mud much faster and you will be more stable than standing and spinning.
Reading thru this thread,its really appreciated!
I'm a newbie,have a few questions.
What is DNF?
What about clothing/shoes for someone just starting?
This time of year I'm guessing is the off season but want to ask this too.
Where do you find info for coming events/races?(I live in Portland) What are some of the basic rules?
DNF = Did Not Finish.
Clothing/shoes = wear whatever you are comfortable wearing to start with. Once you decide you really like this madness, then you can get into more lycra and such. If you are using MTB shoes, great. If not, that might be the next step. Again, others will have tons of detailed advice but if you are a beginner, don't sweat it. Run what ya brung.
If you live in Portland, you are in luck. One of the best regional series us run there. check out: http://www.crosscrusade.com/
The "Series Info" tab will get you most of the basics about the series, others will be announced or posted at the start of races. Biggest one is, if you pull out of the race, TELL THE OFFICIAL. You'd be surprised how many don't.
Bottom line: Get your bike and go to a race and just do it. You will get winded, probably fall once or twice and generally have a damn good time.
I agree with mrtornadohead on the shoes/clothing. A friend of mine did his first race in a T-shirt, plaid shorts and sneakers. One exception I'd make is if you usually use clipless pedals and road shoes. I'd go barefooted before I tried CX in road shoes. (I've seen that done too. One of the juniors lost a shoe in the mud, took off the other one and finished the race barefoot.) You'll probably feel like you want to stay warm and dry, but that's not really possible. Wool socks are a very good idea, but sticking with shorts is the way to go. Bike shorts are preferable, as it reduces the chances of hooking your crotch on the seat during a remount.
I also agree with mrtornadohead about Cross Crusade being an amazing series. There's nothing like the first race at Alpenrose. But, if the idea of racing in a field of 100+ riders intimidates you, there are a lot of smaller races. Check out http://www.obra.org for a full schedule. Short track mountain bike races are also a lot of fun and can get you racing in the summer. All this assumes you meant Portland, OR. If you're in Portland, ME you should consider moving to Oregon. :)
The rules in a nutshell: There's a short course (about 2 miles) which covers grass, mud, pavement, sand, etc. (whatever is available). You have 40 minutes (as a beginner) to go around as many times as you can. Everyone finishes on the same lap. The first finisher with the most lap wins. There will be barriers to force you to dismount and run with your bike. There are usually short steep hills where it is advantageus to run with your bike. For OBRA CX races, any bike with nearly any equipment is allowed. I have never seen anyone pulled from an OBRA race for being lapped. The promoters basically bend over backward to make it as fun and accessible as possible to as many people as possible.
Watch the OBRA calendar. There are already some great CX clinics scheduled, starting in August, where you can learn the basics from top notch racers. I wouldn't be surprised to see more clinics planned as next season approaches.
i think you can find some area races at www.bikereg.com...
keep reading, keep riding, jump in!
Originally Posted by michael k
How about this?
Reverse hole shot: Let me be clear, this is a strategy to be used by slower racers only. Everyone busts a gut right off of the line trying to be the first rider to the first bottleneck in the course. Most of the pack won't make it, but they bust a gut trying to keep up with the front runners anyway. Depending on the size of the field and the distance to the first obstacle, if you expect to be near the back anyway you can go off to a leisurely start and let people ride away from you. You'll catch up to them at the first obstacle as the back of the pack is waiting to get through the bottleneck. With any luck, your fresh legs and fresh lungs will get you ahead of one or two opponents on the other side of the bottleneck. The more riders there are in the pack, the further you can afford to let them get ahead of you. This startegy carried me through about the first third of a 1.7 mile lap in a group of 41 riders this Saturday.
Note, however, there is definitely a point at which this is not the way to go. If you find yourself in a very large field with a short distance to the first obstacle, such that almost everyone is forced to go slow very near the start, reverse the strategy and do everything you can to claw your way to the middle of the pack. Then the bottle neck will work to your advantage and the large mass of riders behind you will work as a buffer that people have to get around before they can pass you. This was exceptionally successful for me in a group of 230 riders at Alpenrose last year.
Identify the bottle necks on the first lap when you preride the course. That first sand pit, crazy off-camber...whatever, if the whole pack plugs up there then get off your bike early and run it. I've passed huge groups doing this.
I keep signing up for the MABRA races towards the end of the signup periods. I'm ALWAYS at the back of a 100+ person field. To a point, letting the BS go is a good point. If the field's smaller, don't do it unless you're planning to JRA.
Originally Posted by Andy_K
Attack the transitions.
Pre-riding IS important. I goofed up at the Urban Cross in Charlottesville, VA because I lost the course in a parking lot section. Stoopit I know, but when you're redlining, *things* happen that otherwise wouldn't. Got all the places back, but if I didn't have to chase down those 8 guys...
Dress a layer lighter than you think you need to. Racing = hard. Hard = hot.
Bring spare wheels (or a bike if you have one). DNF-ing sucks. Even if you're not racing for the win, DNF-ing still sucks
There's a reason people are running tubulars and skinsuits...
Get there early. Less stress in an otherwise stressful day.
Shoulder the bike on long, death march type run-ups. I did a race this weekend and it seemed like most people were rolling their bikes up a long hill. I did it that way myself for a lap or two, but when I actually decided to pick it up, I found that the difference in effort was significant. When the bike is on your shoulder, the rolling resistance is zero. When it's beside you, chances are you will lean on it and it will be slowing you down. That also creates more chances for stumbling.