Yes, AI we are going to talk about practice today. For those unfamiliar with AI or his rant about practice, first shame on you, second here is the link in all its greatness. Unlike AI, us mere mortals do indeed need to practice. And cyclocross is probably one of the few cycle sports were practice is almost more important than training. I hate the word training FYI. But practice? I love practice. The skills and weird bizarre nature of cross is what made me fall in love with this sport at the get go. Cyclocross requires of its participants a crazy combination of fitness and technique that is hard to even put into words. The start has to be full gas. Surviving that initial chaos is really the key to any success in cross. There may be a few people who have bad starts and come from behind to do well but it is rare these days. There are way too many people who focus solely on cross these days for that to happen. So practice those starts. Over, and over, and over.Wait for the whistle. Be ready. Right foot up. Blast off. Clip in. Don't get crashed into the tape.
Once you have done ten or so starts it is time to practice turns. A good cross course has lots of turns. The trickier the better. I hate seeing cross courses with too much straight away. One it is boring, two why? You want the roadies to win don't you? Yeah you do. If you don't put in some turns the roadies will just leave us in their dust. Off cambers are my true favorite. I love the velcro sound a tire makes as it is right on the edge of breaking away in a grass turn. I love that sound. Let's me know I am carving instead of over braking and accelerating back to speed at every turn. Speaking of accelerating. CX is a thousand tiny deaths at the hands of 10 to 20 second sprints. Every time you come out of that corner and maybe lose speed you need to get it back. So get it back. Sprint out of every corner. After every run up. Those seconds add up.
Run. Ok I am a horrible runner. I vow to run every year. Never do. I have at least three sets of brand new running shoes that are still brand new. But you have to run in CX so during practice run. This is better anyway. Make it a transition. Whether in a set CX practice or your own course find two to three spots. Make a transition from bike to run so you can practice getting off and picking the bike up and running with it. There are so many techniques for running with the bike. Some instances are dependent on what you are running up or across. A stair runnup is totally different than a dirt pitch which is totally different than a sand pit or beach. So play around. And practice is the best time to do it. Mid-race is not a good idea to try something new. Trust me. It rarely works.
Barriers. It is one of the defining features of cross. I hate a course without at least one set. It just doesn't feel right. Now if the course has natural barriers-a telephone pole or downed tree, unrideable woods section or a beach....ok that works. It doesn't have to be a traditional double barrier setup. But I like that. Again, I am not particularly good at barriers I just like them because they make me work and think. And that is really one of the things I love about CX. Even if your fitness is horrible or you crashed at the start and are DFL you still have the course. The course is always going to be a challenge. Why not look at it that way. Even if you are last if you are riding super smooth and killing the technical sections you are winning in my mind.
So back to practice. I have been at this a long time. I honestly have let my practice slide. Some of it is my weird schedule but honestly a lot of it is apathy. I had the chance to go to Saturday Morning Prestige this past Saturday in Southie. Kevin posted up the photo above on his Instagram. I saw that tape and stakes and was like "hell yes!" I was so happy I went. An organized practice like Wednesday Superprestige or Larz is a gift. There are lots of organized and bandit practices. Most happen on a Weds. It is mid-week and you are pretty much recovered from any racing the weekend before. You should be pretty fresh. What is great about an organized practice is there are people there to help you figure things out. People are so happy to answer any questions etc. And you get to sort of mini-race with friends etc. Oddly this season has been like starting all over with CX. Not sure what it is about. I think it is my SSCX family. They just bring so much PMA to cross and bikes and life in general that even some old retired dude like me feels like a kid again.