Autumn Cross Race Report. SCPS Race #1, Verdugo Park, Glendale CA.

Getting the first of the season under your belt is always a weird experience. The effort I put out racing cyclocross is unlike anything else in cycling. You’re on the gas the whole time, you’re using muscles that never get worked, your nose and throat are clogged with dust, and you have to deal with the dreaded cross-back.

So yeah, I often don’t feel like I’m actually “racing” until a couple of races into the season.

This year I was privileged to do the SoCalCross Practice Race also in Verdugo Park a couple of weeks ago and also race at CrossVegas so at least I had some CX racing in the legs. However, I wasn’t gunning for a top spot in either event.

Got a chance to do the "practice" race here a few weeks ago. I think it helped. Maybe?

Got a chance to do the “practice” race here a few weeks ago. I think it helped. Maybe?

This year, I’d like to try and do well in the overall series for the “B” category so I was somewhat apprehensive with the first race. Has the training been working? Is my equipment dialed? How is the competition going to be?

After this past Sunday, I have some ideas on those questions.

In terms of training, it’s tough to race cyclocross events consecutive weekends because you need the recovery time after each race. But I feel like I still need to build up fitness between events instead of just purely focusing on recovery. This will be a new challenge to tackle this season. And this is also where working with a coach helps. Thank you Coach Joy!

In terms of equipment, the longer you are using your gear, the more familiarity you have with it. Nothing crazy new this season. Still rocking my trusty Focus Mares with IRT Carbon Tubulars and my favorite Clement MXP tires. I did switch things up a little by changing the drivetrain to SRAM CX1 and I’m trying out the Giro VR90 laceup shoes.

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And lastly, when it comes to the competition, just like it is in the world of professional cyclocross, the local “B” series is going to be the realm of the youngsters. I think the top 5 for B’s looked almost like the U23 podium.

I ended up getting 6th place which at least should help to get another front row start with call-up for the next race.

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Hope you enjoy the video from the race. I ended up running out of battery and the GoPro died on me. I break down the opening lap with a focus on the concept of Balance.

Thanks for reading and here’s to everyone having a great season!

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CrossVegas 2015

Check out the video I put together from CrossVegas 2015.

If you’re a fan of cyclocross, or just like spectating awesome cycling events, nothing beats going to world-class level CX race. And nothing is at a higher level than a World Cup. OK, maybe a World Championship but a World Cup is pretty up there. CrossVegas this year was World Cup #1. The first time a World Cup is being held in the US. And that meant all the top riders were there. Honestly, I think the fields were only missing Mathieu van der Poel and Marianne Vos.

I spent 3 days in Vegas and it was jam-packed with stuff: Meetings for work, time at the Interbike trade show, racing the USA Cycling event, racing the Wheelers & Dealers event, and spectating the Women’s and Men’s World Cup races.

Here are my take-aways from the trip.

1. Traveling for races is an additional element that needs to mastered. You’re not at home so you have to bring everything you might need, like clothing and gear for a wide range of temperatures, tools, spare parts etc. You’re not in your own bed. You have to find where to get a healthy pre-race meal. You have to get familiar with driving and navigating the area. These factors all affect your racing.

2. Having a routine and sticking to it pays dividends. Having a routine for how you warm-up, how you pre-ride, what you eat. If you master these routines so that it becomes second nature, then it won’t matter if you are away from home or not. As you can see in my video above, I didn’t do any of that.

3. Pacing can be a very valuable skill in cyclocross racing. I’m not a top racer so it’s not like I’m battling at the front. Plus, at CrossVegas, I was starting in the 100’s in fields of about 150-160. So my goal should have been to get the best possible time for me, and this is key, over the entire race. The first race, the USA Cycling Cat 1-3 event, I was focused on getting to the first feature, a stair run-up, in top position. I tried to pin it off the line but all I ended up doing was making the 2nd and 3rd lap super painful. The second race I still went hard but I kept it at a level I was able to sustain the whole race. I finished 1 minute faster the second time even though I was tired from the previous race.

4. If you’re a spectator, nothing beats watching a cyclocross race. Try going to a Cross-Country MTB race or a road race. Fun for participants, can be a little boring for spectators. At CrossVegas, I watched the start, then ran over to the barriers, then walked over to the sandpit, then back up to the lip of the bowl to watch the race. I was able to take in a lot of action just from walking around.

5. And finally, my last take-away from Vegas: Don’t forget that there’s a reason why they call it “gambling.” Oh, and there’s a reason why they call also call this place “Lost Wages.” Hahaha!

Here are some of my favorite images from Cross Vegas.

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Thanks for reading! Our local SoCalCross series kicks off this Sunday. Cross is here!

CrossVegas Number pickup. Vegas Day 1.

It’s not “cross is coming” anymore. Cross is here!

I’m honored to race the USA Cycling Cat 1-3 CX race for Don’s Bikes and the Wheelers & Dealers race for IRT – Inertia Racing Technology Wheels.

To have the first CX race of the season be on an actual World Cup course and in fields of 150+ racers will be intimidating to say the least. But it should also be a blast!

The drive out to Vegas was weird. Cool, wet, and rainy leaving SoCal and when I got to Vegas, rainbows.

Yermo, CA. Those of you who know me probably know what I was doing out there. #peestop

Yermo, CA. Those of you who know me probably know what I was doing out there. #peestop

I made it. The Strip. And traffic. Such a weird city to have a bike event. Just sayin'

I made it. The Strip. And traffic. Such a weird city to have a bike event. Just sayin’

On arrival to the strip, I went straight to the meet and greet with several professional racers as well as number pickup at the Monte Carlo.

It was a cool time to mix and mingle with some of the who’s who of cyclocross.

I have the honor of racing on the same course, at the same time, as the one and only Gary Fisher. Growing up, I really wanted a Hoo Koo E Koo. This guy has a front row start at Wheeler and Dealers so it'll be safe to say the only time I'll see him is if he laps me. This guy was a legit racer back in the day. Look it up kids.

I have the honor of racing on the same course, at the same time, as the one and only Gary Fisher. Growing up, I really wanted a Hoo Koo E Koo. This guy has a front row start at Wheeler and Dealers so it’ll be safe to say the only time I’ll see him is if he laps me. This guy was a legit racer back in the day. Look it up kids.

Greatest CX racer of all time.

Greatest CX racer of all time.

So I asked Jeremy if his mindset was any different now that this was a World Cup. His answer, "Well, they're all big races. I'll race this one pretty much like how I race all big races." But you know what, it's been a while since he's been off the podium at Vegas. To do it at the World Cup level? That would be sick. Hopefully I didn't just jinx him. I probably just did. Go JPows.

So I asked Jeremy if his mindset was any different now that this was a World Cup. His answer, “Well, they’re all big races. I’ll race this one pretty much like how I race all big races.” But you know what, it’s been a while since he’s been off the podium at Vegas. To do it at the World Cup level? That would be sick. Hopefully I didn’t just jinx him. I probably just did. Go JPows.

One of the nicest guys on the scene and one of the only Americans to be on the podium at the World Champs. Shame he's not racing. I remember back in Austin, Tim and Ryan Trebon invited my son to get on their side of the table and help them sign autographs. Such an upstanding guy. He'll be commentating tonight on Universal Sports.

One of the nicest guys on the scene and one of the only Americans to be on the podium at the World Champs. Shame he’s not racing. I remember back in Austin, Tim and Ryan Trebon invited my son to get on their side of the table and help them sign autographs. Such an upstanding guy. He’ll be commentating tonight on Universal Sports.

Team dinner at Gallagher's. Thanks Patrick.

Team dinner at Gallagher’s. Thanks Patrick.

Ready to hit the sack.

Ready to hit the sack.

Well, that was Day 1 for me. Tomorrow I’ll be on the floor at Interbike for a bit then heading off to the race venue. I’ll be racing the USA Cycling Cat 1-3 at 4pm then the Wheelers and Dealers at 6:30. Then it’ll be a bunch of hanging out watching the fast girls and guys race for the first World Cup on US soil!

I’ll have more photos and videos posted up soon. Here’s a video of Adam Craig doing a course preview for Giant Bikes and Cyclocross Magazine. This will be the course we’ll be racing on tonight. Thanks for reading!

The Cyclocross “Off” Season

Here in So-Cal, our first CX race of the season is September 27. The last race one is January 17.

That means that all the cyclocross racing for the year is crammed into three and a half months.

For comparison, the first criterium race of the season was January 11 and the last one is going to be on October 11. (To people living in places with four seasons, my apologies. We do have year-round racing. But then again, we also have a drought….)

So for the dedicated cyclocross racer, what do you do during the spring and summer. When it comes to “off-season” cyclocross riders, I find there are three basic types.

You have the professional cyclocross racer who focuses their entire season into those three and a half months. They might do some competitive events during the spring and summer but nothing too serious. Everything is geared towards cyclocross exclusively. While others are racing their road or mountain bikes, they’re laying down base miles.

Then there’s the cyclocross racer who also focuses exclusively on the fall and winter months. But instead of laying down base miles they are focusing on perfecting their beer drinking technique. When cross season is about a week away, they dust off their CX bikes and start riding again.

Finally there’s the rest of us who fall somewhere in between. We like cyclocross but we also like riding our bikes year round too. Riding bikes only 112 days out of the year isn’t enough.

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Criterium racing is great for honing in your line selection skills as well as your cornering technique. Picture is from this year’s Dana Point Grand Prix, turn 1. Staying low, having good weight distribution, looking where you want to go. Hey, those are all good cyclocross techniques!

For those riders wanting to keep their fitness throughout the year, here are five tips for staying active during the cyclocross off-season.

1. For time-crunched, real-world cyclists with families and careers, you can’t afford to lose fitness. It’s so hard to build it up when you only have a few hours a week to train. So you really have to focus on having some baseline fitness all year round. Staying active in some capacity is really key.

2. In line with being consistently active is the concept that it’s easier to maintain motivation when you have specific goals for yourself. Maybe you want to do a triathlon with your friends and family. Maybe there’s a local criterium or XC mountain bike series that you want to do well in. Perhaps you want an upgrade on your USAC license. Find specific goals to work towards during the spring & summer.

3. Don’t neglect working on your core and upper body. This one is the hardest for me because with limited time, I always want to ride when I get the chance. But cyclocross really does involve your entire body and for once, I’d like to finish a season without the dreaded condition known as cross back.

4. Pick events that are fun for you. Don’t underestimate the importance of the fun-factor. Cyclocross already has fun built into it, which is my totally biased opinion. So for off-season racing, do what’s fun for you because ANY cycling discipline will have some overlap with cyclocross and can help you in some way. Love high-speeds and sprinting? Then race criteriums. The punchy efforts and close quarters will help you for cross. Love epic riding, adventure, and ripping descents? Then race enduro. The emphasis on bike-driving, being smooth over technical terrain, and picking fast lines will definitely help in cross. Love being fast up AND down the hill? Race cross-country. The events are slightly longer then CX so you’ll have good endurance. Being fast over a variety of surfaces forces you to focus on proper body positioning and maintaining traction which really helps with cyclocross.

5. Finally, use your summertime discipline of choice to guide the start of your cyclocross training. If you’ve been doing crits all summer then you probably have a good amount of top-end speed and repeatable hard efforts. So start focusing on riding technical terrain. Get out on the trails with your bike. If you’ve been racing mountain bikes these last few months then you need to add in the high speed intensity and repeats. Start doing Tabata intervals and practicing your race starts.

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Here are some of the differences but also some of the key overlapping features of CX vs criterium racing. Nothing like a Venn diagram to illustrate things!

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The same goes for overlapping skills with cyclocross and MTB, though this would probably be more specific for XC and Enduro.

I hope those tips help you as you transition into cyclocross season. Now that I think about it, I probably should have posted this at the END of cyclocross season, not the beginning! Oh well. Thanks for reading and have fun this season.

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Check out these power files from a criterium race and from a cyclocross race. Can you tell which is which? If you can’t, it’s because the power demands of crits and cross are remarkably similar. By the way, the top file is the CX one. Some differences are seeing the larger differences in speed with the CX file and the sprint at the END for the crit race.