Monday, August 31, 2009

Notes from Veldrijden camp

Skinny Phil rocked the hott Ommegang kit!!
There was some blood shed and mud baths!

Cycle-smart cross camp version 2.0 long version


Its funny as we get older we feel like its ok to stop learning. When you are young you are an empty cup just drinking up everything around you. When I was in school I went to lots of camps. Dexter hockey camp, Lacrosse camp, a little northern long fist, camps are great ways to get some intense training and learn skills in controlled environment…or not in the case of Dexter hockey camp! What does every suburban JV hockey player need? Yeah trying to stop slap shots from former Boston Bruins may seem sadistic…but does it make you a better player? Actually yes it does. The old that which does not kill you makes you stronger business…but I digress.

Last Saturday I drove up through a hurricane to finally get some proper cross training from a true master at Cycle-smart's cross camp. Every other sport puts lofty titles upon their teachers…kung fu has their sifus, yoga has gurus….cycling? not so much but make no mistake about it Adam Myerson is a modern day cross guru.

Ed from Joe’s garage up in Soho let us use his farm and I have to say he laid out a course that puts most of the courses we race on to shame! Thanks Ed and all the locals who were so awesome to us up there! Even Meg and JD came by to give us some moral support and share some stories. Those guys are always a ray of sunshine even when you are soaked to the bone and trying to forget you have to get back out there and do it all over again for the afternoon session in the almost perfect Belgian Veldrijden conditions.

We learnt so much it would be impossible to put it all down and I wouldn’t do it justice. But it was an awesome day spent learning the real fundamentals of cross and getting to know some new faces. People traveled from long and far to get to the camp. It was also the first day I’ve put on Mad Alchemy in over three months. While most people opted for arm warmers and jackets and tights Hup went with standard issue Belgian Knee Warmers…the smell of the earth and the burn that thankfully won’t go away!

The day was broken up into mounting/remounting/barriers and then corners and starts. We all had some spectacular crashes but I do think my endo at the final session of the day takes the cake. We were practicing our starts 6 deep so it had a competitive aspect and we were working on a “new” technique for me: really almost jumping up onto the pedal as you start and driving down into the pedal for a super forceful start. Well I had so much grass, etc packed up in my drivetrain from a whole day riding in fields that it felt like my chain broke on my downstroke. Next thing I know my head is hitting the ground and I am doing a total somersault with the bike still clipped in. How embarrassing! Felt like I was decleated by a free safety. My body was mauled by my bike and I had cuts and scrapes in places I’d rather forget about. From the looks on my wife’s face she is clearly beginning to suspect I am seeing a Dominatrix on the side. Frankly a Dominatrix would be a much gentler mistress at this point than how my cross bike is treating me…Here is the clif note version of what we worked on:

1. Dismount: He's not a fan of the step through. I knew that going in and actually after hearing his declaration a year ago of never ever step through I stopped doing it myself. And frankly the step through has not been kind to Hup over the years. I vote for its utter banishment! Myerson’s dismount technique was sick and so fast and smooth...He clips out his left foot right before scissor kicking the right leg for the dismount. The left foot clip out is super-subtle. I never have done this and it threw me off at first but I like it now. Basically it’s just turn the ankle out to unclip put mid-foot on pedal all while still pedaling. The next tip is using the saddle as a balancing point on your right hip. Don't push the bike over to the right more stabilize yourself with the saddle and then put the hand on the tt right in front of the saddle and push down to stabilize yourself further. So now really you are in great shape to come in hop off and just fly over the barrier. Saddle goes on the outside of the elbow when suitcasing! Don't let the bike get in between you, you want it out away from you and up! Its suitcasing but its kind of like a power clean...over the barriers and then 2-4 steps and on to the remount!

2. Remount. Don't studder step but also don't do the super fly! Sometimes you see people flying so high both heels high in the air...he says its more merging back with your bike or running back on your bike. Hip rolls over and stomps through and down into the right pedal with force...that way the left pedal will be in the perfect space to reclip and you are sprinting out of the transition...with dismounts and corners etc the mantra was have your exit speed be greater than your entrance speed

3. Corners: This was/is my weakest point. I suck at corners and was heckled by him about it mostly just that I corner like a mtn biker. All in fun and in a good way, he really is funny and patient. He made it very low pressure although I was very nervous and had stage fright when we broke it down to doing individual drills with everybody watching. But anyway the practice here is "Tape to Tape" come into the turn outside at the tape carve in to the other tape..I always would come flying in on the inside have to over break and then power out which is a waste of effort...the other big technique revelation is weighting the front end and steering. I turn like a mtn biker way back and carvey,,,,,not so good for cross. With Adams technique it is weight way on the front, shoulders to the outside (don't lean your head through the turn) and being a bit more upright than leaning over the bike or body. The rear slides around a bit but it is controllable

4. Payback: The last really good tidbit was Pay Back every time you cruise. He told the story of his first world cup in belgium last year where he sucked and got lapped with 4 to go. What he noticed was that the guys back with him in 40th etc were fighting tooth and nail sprinting out of every when you cost down a hill you have to sprint out of it like its your last. When you do a corner you have to attack out of it etc, fight for every placing etc..A couple of nuggets worth noting:

-The pinky wrap: If you don’t already do this make sure you wrap your pinky around the bar when on the hoods. This gives you much more control and allows you to do two finger braking. Don’t grab the levers with your whole hand just two fingers.

-Use wider bars for leverage.

-I never thought of compact being a good choice but Adam likes a 46/36 w/a 12-25 and frankly it makes sense to me.

-Leave 5mm of spacer at the top of your stem for the fork steerer. Stiffens things up and is safer

-He likes a level TT on the bikes- makes sense for so many reasons…shouldering, putting the hand down to grab the tt etc

-Adams levers are wicked high…like sky high. I moved mine up and they feel great

What a great day of camp I obviously highly recommend trying this next year if you get a chance. It is the perfect way to get ready for cross season and hopefully we’ll have the same weather next year so we can train in “real” cross conditions



  1. Good stuff and I follow most of those tips... Little easy gearing for me tough. I with wide and shallow bars (check the FSA Wing pro). LEVEL TT> FINALLY SOMEONE ELSE SAYS IT. Sloping top tube for cx is wrong... So much better to hand on the TT dismount and shouldering.
    ADam is on it. He is great to watch checking his bikes before race..... They must match exactly.

  2. all sounds good - nice report - here's to hoping it helps you kick ass this year! (or at least stop getting beat up by your bike)

  3. I think it's funny someone busted me being OCD about my bikes having to match PERFECTLY. I didn't know I was so obvious, but you got me.

    Pea under my mattress. Always.

  4. any time someone gives me shit about how high my levers are, i send them a pic of myerson's and tell them to shut up.

  5. great stuff! I wish I was geographically closer and could attend something like this.

    I don't understand the "pay back" point, though: does this mean that every time you coast you have to pay it back in terms of grinding again? does that mean that you shouldn't coast, or does that mean that you just have to be aware that over the course of the entire race, coasting gains you nothing.

  6. Sorry about the confusion. Basically it is just as you described pay back every time you cruise means after a descent or corner where you are "cruising" or hopefully "resting" you can sprint out of the turn. This mantra also helps you to not just do a tempo ride the whole cross race but rather to adopt an attacking style. Doesn't mean you can attack all the time obviously but rather rest in the corners and descents and then attack out of them. Its about energy efficiency as well. If you are a skilled bike driver you can save energy on the corners that you can use sprinting. A poor bike driver will go into a corner way to the inside, overbrake then have to use way more energy to get back up to speed exiting. This is basically how I have been doing corners forever and why I suck at cornering...

  7. Thought you might be interested in my post from the camp. I lifted one of your pics for my post. Great to meet you at the camp, hopefully I'll see you at the races!