Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Taking up ‘Cross
By Tim Crowley, TC2Coaching

As the fall approaches, and the race calendar begins to thin, you may want to extend your race season another month or two. Consider cyclo-cross if you plan on a single sport focus during this off season.

‘Cross, as it’s commonly called, used to be an obscure version of cycling. In the past five years, the number of races and competitors in most fields have swelled to maximum capacity, attracting mostly roadies and mountain bikers. However, triathletes may be better suited to cross than any other group of athletes.

Cyclo-cross can be defined as a time trial with handling skills and transitions. For any Multisport athletes’ looking to improve their power output, technical skills as well as mounts and dismounts, cross may be your ticket.

Here are some reasons to take up ‘cross this fall.
1. Improved bike handling skills- Racing on dirt, grass, mud and asphalt, shoulder to shoulder with other athletes through tight windy courses, your learning curve to handle your bike becomes steep. It’s said that one season of cross is equal to 2 to 3 years of road racing. Triathletes are notorious for lacking bike skills of mountain bikers or roadies. Cross will make you a safer and more competent rider fast.

2. Normal start times- Cross races range from 30-60 minutes in length,depending on the category you enter. Most start at 9am or later, there are no early morning start times. And since races are no longer that 60 minutes, racing does not require an all day commitment.

3. Transitions- each lap usually has 2-4 natural barriers (steep hill, sand pit etc) or man-made barriers ( 18 inch wooden barrier), requiring riders to dismount at speed and run over a barrier or up a hill with your bike on your shoulder, then a full speed remount. This skill is obvious to triathletes..

4. Increased power output- ‘cross is raced at or above lactate threshold most of the time. With dismounts and run ups, heart rates are usually higher than time trialing. Grinding up hills and through muddy fields requires a large amount of on-bike strength and power, which will lead to improved time trialing abilities.

5. Learn to suffer- Although races are relatively short, the suffering is intense. Learning to race on the edge while slipping through corners develops a high level on focus and concentration. Add to this cold rainy weather, and you become a tougher, more resilient athlete. A good skill set for any triathlete.

6. Winter bike- If you need a bit more convincing, consider that a cross bike with road tires makes the perfect road bike for base/ winter training. If you live in a northern climate, then leave the cross tires on, and you can ride on sandy/ slushy roads all winter without destroying your tri bike. Just hose down and wipe off after a ride. These bikes were made for these conditions.

7. Great spectator event- If your family and friends like watching triathlon, they will love cross. The viewing and action are continuous.

Ifyour next triathlon 4-6 months away it may be too soon to take an extended break from training and racing. Use this time to become a better bike handler and time trialist. Step out of your multi sport comfort zone and become a better athlete. If interested in cross, go watch a race, you will learn a lot, and be eager to get training and racing in the mud..