Are cross riders training better?

With the success of Tom Pidcock, WvA, MvDP, and others; does it mean something about how they train is better than the approaches taken by 100% road cyclists? There are two parts to this:

  1. the training they did when younger…is the high intensity work done for cross more advantageous if done when developing, and a gap that is hard for others to cross later
  2. the training they do now…with the focus on the cross season on short accelerations at very high power.

Does this mean we need to rethink training for young road cyclists in development, and for all of us when older athletes? Mike


Cadel Evans was a junior MTB world champion before crossing over to road racing. He said in an interview that there should be more development of junior MTB to develop stronger riders for racing in Europe. Australia has a long history of track racing which produces fast riders but not so good at climbing. Could be something in your idea.


I dunno. I thought about this the other day also. The question I asked myself was though, is he just better, or is the cross background more conducive to winning these types of races? IE…1 day race, where 1 or 2 explosive efforts can obliterate the field. I think that is a totally different physiological requirement than say, winning the GC in the tour. Or possibly even a stage…

Of course it could be he is just flat out stronger in just about every area than most of the grand tour riders. But I don’t think that’s clear yet.

The other consideration is that he just absolutely blew multiple other cyclocross riders/riders with off road backgrounds out of the water. Van Aert obviously, but my understanding is Allephilippe has a long cross history also. It could be Van Der Poehl is just really, really good lol.


Cant speak for the pros but for me, my MTB riding improved when I started road, and my shorter power seems to improve when I ride more MTB. I find they are very complimentary to each other and the strongest riders in the area ride both disciplines.


Not Australians, but Wiggins, Thomas, and Simon Yates have done ok at climbing for former World and Olympic track champions…

I’d say that the biggest developmental advantage of cross over track cycling is accessibility.

I believe it when I see a Grand Tour contender.


Cadel Evans came from MTB, as did Egan Bernal. But I probably dont think that’s quite the same. Let’s see…

I think it’s too early to tell. How long career’s will they have*? And obviously, they’re focused on the classics, which require the short efforts as well. And the classics have a decent history of strong CX riders being contenders such as Stybar, but way back to the 60’s.

*multi discipline may also help extend their careers due to the mentality of not getting stuck in a road rut.

1 Like

In the end of the day I think it just comes down to survivor Bias. Someone who excels in one sport, will also do well in cycling. Think of Roglic the Ski jumper or Annemiek van Vleuten who didn’t really touch a bike until her mid 20s and now she is one of the most dominant riders.


I think you’ve got a good idea there, that plus a combination of much improved bike handling over some pure road racers.


I’ve thought this for a while. Don’t forget that these riders are focusing on total body fitness for many many years with an intensity that riders who do exclusively road may ignore; in addition, their on-bike riding forces a stronger core to develop from a young age. If you look at MVDP or WvA, these guys aren’t skipping arm and core day. I think it is giving them a much stronger, more stable platform to lay down huge power numbers, in addition to being more durable. Core strength works the same as everything else - if a strong base gets laid down early, it will benefit for years to come. It comes with more weight, but are they attacking Kuss or Bernal after 30 mins of climbing up the Col de la Loze? Nope, and obviously that’s not their goal.

IMHO they are good examples for amateur cyclists, showing that on normal terrain, their kind of fitness is much faster than training for ultra-low weight and high W/kg numbers.


Great response. I love what this says about how combining different off bike work with road, MTB, gravel, and cross work can come together to make someone a better rider for many scenarios, excluding Alpe D’Huez and the like.

I think we can all agree, that whatever we can learn from it, MvDP is indeed really really really fast!

1 Like

I used to race cross a lot (usually top 5) and every time I did a full season Id come out in March for road / Crits feeling so strong, and had really good results in that as well…

I think the continuous changes in pace in a cross race were ultimately a season of interval training, and combined with the weekly chain gang it was perfect training for the road season.

Come cross season again and the first few races in Sept are usually on hard ground and feel like an off road crit, so the road was again training for the next cross season, and so it continued.

Theres also the other point to take into account is that I didnt stop racing all year for nearly 4 years where other riders would take winter off, so you’re continuously race ready, never having to regain fitness. This worked really well for the four years, and plus points when a raining road crit doesnt seem half as bad as some of the mid winter mud fests youve just done!

1 Like

While this is a valid question, all the more you posed it from a developing angle of young riders, I have two simple things to consider:

  • a) what regimen do cyclocross riders in their youth and does it differ from riders which end up (earlier) on the road?
  • b) clearly cyclocross can’t be that superior if you go by the snooze fest of all the last years of competition where MvdP and WvA were lapping the fields… Why are all those other cross riders not that strong? (a rhetoric question, of course).
1 Like

I think describing them as “not that strong” is mistaken. Just because you can’t keep up with what are, arguably, two of the greatest CXers of all time, doesn’t mean you aren’t strong. A lot of the riders doing CX only do so because the prizes and income in Belgium are high enough that they can focus on just CX. I don’t think it has a lot to do with strength.

Also, CX lends itself to solo victories due to the nature of the racing, not because one particular rider is just that much stronger than everyone else. It is very rare that a group comes to the line together, making it look like every time someone wins it is because they blew everyone away and rode away solo, when in actuality that’s just how CX courses and races are run. There isn’t a lot of drafting on most courses, eliminating the advantage of sitting on wheels, and creating a more fragmented field. I say this to illustrate that, even when MvdP and WvA are not racing, riders still almost always get lapped and someone wins solo or in a 2-up sprint.

Thanks for finding my point and emphasizing it. :wink:

@Huegelreiter makes an excellent point (wish I’d thought of it) that MVDP and WVA dominate the cross races they enter, even more so than the road races they enter. So the divide between them and other racers actually seems to be BIGGER in cross than on the road. That would suggest that it isnt the nature of cyclocross training that makes the difference here. The outliers are MVDP and WVA.

Except that riders behind MVDP and WVA often do come across the line in groups, or certainly only a few seconds between them as opposed to the 30, 40 or more seconds that MVDP and WVA finish ahead of everyone else. You and I must’ve been watching very different CX seasons these last 2 years.

I’m not sure there is a point in here. This is simply false and takes CX racing totally out of context. They get strung out and come in in 2’s and 3’s. Trying to compare road group finishes to CX group finishes is apples and oranges; road groups can be massive (up to 25? 50?) depending on the size of the field, whereas a CX “group” is what 2? 3? These are false comparisons, and using the words “group” to refer to both of these things is inappropriate.

This may actually be true if you only watch the big races. If you watch all the races, it is a very different viewing experience.

Bernal, Pogacar, WVA, MVDP, Pidcock, and Alaphilippe were in the selection on Saturday, and all started out off-road or raced it very seriously at a high level. Are these riders, as you said, “not that strong”?

Taking things out of context like this is not productive. The second half of the sentence, which you decided to omit, is the point. But, read as you will.