Cyclocross Season Updates - 2021 and a look back at 2019

Thought I’d share my 'cross learnings here and invite comments and others to also share theirs.

I don’t seem t have posted much of anything from my 2019 season.

2019 was my first full CX season. I raced in pretty much every race in the Chicago Cross Cup and also in the IL State Championships (Masters 35+). I had several podiums and finished 3rd overall in the Cup Series and also placed 3rd in the State. In 2019 I also upgraded to Cat 3.

Although I had good results, the fields were fairly small, and my handling was still very rough. It got better as the season went on though. But I feel better prepared in 2021.

2021 CX Season

I came into the 2021 season stronger than in 2019. My threshold zones are up by 25-30 watts and my explosive zones are up by 35-40 watts. I also now have 1.5 years of consistent, weekly strength training under my belt. (I did not lift weights in 2019 or before).

In terms of bike handling, I am a little better, but not a whole lot better than in 2019. That’s because I did not spend extra time practicing CX skills. The main reason for that is needing someone (a coach, an expert) to guide me. There is only so much I can do on my own watching youtube videos. But that was impossible in 2020 (pandemic) and 2021 went by so fast that when I thought about it it was too late (shame on me, but also, I did not prioritize it thinking I did “so well” in 2019, how much harder could it be? :roll_eyes: )

So the season so far is going well.

What is going well:

  • Strength training has made a huge difference. I can run, jump, carry a bike, and ride up ridiculously steep grassy and muddy hills (over and over and over again) like it’s nothing! And after the race I am not even sore anywhere (I used to get sore everywhere in 2019 after races)
  • My explosive power is WAY up and I am able to repeat super hard efforts like never before. This is a combination of cycling training and strength training (all those heavy lifts recruit fast twitch muscle fibers and help with anaerobic capacity).
  • I am better at balancing on the bike on off-camber and other challenging terrain, so I don’t fall nearly as much as I did in 2019
  • I am getting better at handling the course and taking corners

What needs improvement:

  • At the Trek World Cup this weekend I was right behind some big shot racers (sitting 3rd wheel) at the beginning of my Masters race. I got to see just how smooth they are and how they can glide through the course without ever touching their breaks. The pace wasn’t even hard, in fact, I remember thinking how nice it felt… until they rode away from me. This is skills at work. And experience. I am not there yet. I need to practice more skills if I want to do better. Raw power alone is not going to get me there.

  • I need to conquer my fear of mass starts and fighting for position in narrow spaces.

Lastly, the fields are bigger and more competitive this year!! The Masters category now has Cat 1/2 racers in every race so that makes it much harder for someone with only 1 year of cross experience like me.

The more I race, the more I learn. At the end of the day though I am having a BLAST in every event!!

First race this season - Relay Cross and @PaleGail was there! Me and my teammate placed 9/20.

Second race: LAPT Lion Cross Masters 35+ in Wisconsin - 4th Place

Third race: Caldwell Woods Masters 35+ in IL - 4th Place

Fourth race: Trek Cup (part of the UCI CX World Cup) super difficult course and bigger field - 5th place

I have been also doubling up and racing in the Cat 3 races on the same day. I usually finish middle of the pack on these but I do it to get more experience. If I can nail my starts/fighting for position in a bigger field I will get much better results!

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Kudos and woo hoo and wows and all the cheers! You are doing great! So exciting watching you get better and stronger and having so much fun. Well done @Coach_Theia! :star_struck:

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@Coach_Theia I am speechless and in awe!! How exciting and I appreciate you sharing the things you are learning. It is helpful to the rest of us mere mortals. :rofl: I am always wanting to learn and you are great at sharing with us!! Congrats on a great season!!! Well done!

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:star_struck: @Coach_Theia you are having an awesome season!! I’m so glad I’ve been able to get there to see you race and cheer you on a couple of times!!! I’m in awe - i see you giving it your all every race and I’m so proud to call you coach and friend :hugs:

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Thanks so much for the wonderful words and support :heart:

Racing CX is not as daunting as it might seem. It’s safer than racing on the road and even gravel.

@Coach_Theia I love hearing about your Cx progress. I think if I could go back, I’d do cross. It looks so much fun! Love reading your race reports.

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Thank you so much for sharing.

Wow, @Coach_Theia, you look amazing!

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Thank you!

This is spectacular to hear! Congrats!
Something that works for me and barriers is actually using the barrier to step on vs hopping over. I don’t have a big jump, so using the barrier as something to push off of has worked for me. I’m also going to start doubling up on race day, for an extra $10 I get to work on my skills. What a great idea, thanks!

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I think I’d miss the barrier, step in the wrong place and twist an ankle @kgross33 :rofl: so I’ll keep jumping them. I train lots of jumping in strength training, so I am used to it! And yes, $10 for the second race is worth it!

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I had a breakthrough at the races yesterday. I’ve had cyclocross podiums before, but this was my first win. The course was flat and not technical, which meant that power was the most important for this race. Right up my alley, as I am still developing the technical skills.

The start was also in my favor: a longer than usual, paved straight away. I did a big sprint from the gun, faster than everyone else, took the hole shot and stayed off the front the whole race.

Also, this was the first race where I made sure to warm up completely. I typically do half of my warm up, or skip it and just ride around the course. This time I planned well: got there way ahead of time and did every minute of my warmup, hitting all the cadences and intervals and I think that made a huge difference in how I felt.

@PaleGail was there too and we had lunch together!

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Congratulations @Coach_Theia! So exciting!

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Congrats Theia!!! You are such an inspiration. Just seeing your smile makes me want to try a cyclocross race. There’s a huge series in Utah… I might go one of these days to check out a race :wink:

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@Covi it’s easier than MTB!! And your handling skills would be a huge asset for you. Do it!!

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Congratulations!

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Wow @Coach_Theia!! What an inspiration you are! Fantastic how you thought through what was needed to make a great race and I really appreciate you sharing those insights with us. We can learn so much from your experiences!! It’s so fun to say I know a Champion!! Congrats @Coach_Theia

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Look what I just saw:

Maybe I’ll go tomorrow and try it out just for fun. I don’t have a cross bike but MTBs are allowed. The only thing that I’m not sure about is that we are supposed to get a lot of rain and snow overnight and it looks pretty cold tomorrow… and… I’m a fair weather rider :face_with_hand_over_mouth:

There are other cross series with races all the way until the end of the year so if I don’t make it tomorrow I can still give it a shot when the weather is better :grimacing:

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Congrats! That’s fantastic news!

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I admit i reminded @Coach_Theia while we were having lunch yesterday (food offering much more earned by her than me :rofl:) that she needed to post about her realization on the warmup that she had told me earlier - her face just lit up when she told me she made that connection for herself - and that’s what Coach always tells us to acknowledge, what we realize about our own performance etc.
Besides being proud of our coach, i kinda rocked our 360 Velo hoodie with the slight Chicago chill in the air :star_struck: while i support her Psimet team, still support 360 Velo first :grin:

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