CX season is 100-days away, what to do?

CX season is about 100 days away now and not really sure what to do. I told myself that I would not return to racing until I hit 4w/Kg on a ramp test, but that’s not going to happen and I want to do a few races this year. I’m a miserable cat-4 so the bar is very low. My FTP is about 30w lower than I wanted from off-season training, been doing nothing but sweet-spot LV1 and LV2 since January while cherry-picking over-under workouts during the super-busy work travel season and adding one or two outside rides when possible. Races that matter start in late October and I plan to do 2 races on Tuesdays, three races on Thursdays; weekend races on alternating weekends. I haven’t seen a big increase in FTP and haven’t done many ramp tests because the rides like McAdie and Mary Austin are still extremely hard and although I’m finishing them, they should be easier if I’m making progress. I should note that I lost 30lb over the last 12-months, 172lb at 285w right now.

Do I stay the course and do another 12-weeks of base, one month of specialty VO2 work in September, and then start racing or do you bros recommend something else?

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Ive just finished SSB1. Got SSB2, general build and cyclocross speciality all loaded in to the calendar and im due to finish mid october!

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I’ve done ssb1, 2, and sustained power build high volume this year and am finishing up a 2nd round of ssb2 HV, my plan is to do short power build, possibly medium or even low and just ride lots outside, followed by cx specialty. This is going to put me further into the season than I intended but it’ll have me peaking in November.

Cx is supposed to be fun, don’t worry about watts and podiums and just try to make each race a sport fun as it can be, focus on small victories like beating someone you normally don’t, that’s what I do

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Posts like this sound like a nice way of telling me that I should probably just stay inside and continue riding the trainer, target the 2020 season.

Nope, it’s telling you to get out there, I’m a middling racer, nothing even close to a podium and I just race because it’s fun. Believe me, I’ve used not being in good shape as an excuse not to race, it’s much more fun to be out there regardless of chances to podium

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A big factor in CX is skill, so outside riding trails is a must and a lot of fun.

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I don’t know what your local 'cross scene is like, but 285w at 172lbs should be enough power to dominate cat 4’s, assuming you have the technique to flow. For reference, in the Seattle area I got my Cat 2 upgrade at the end of last season, with about 5 more pounds than you and 10 fewer watts of ftp.
The biggest thing to keep in mind is that ftp isn’t as important for 'cross as the ability to repeatedly go well over threshold. This is more important the worse your technique is, too.
Assuming your goal is “do well over the whole season” as opposed to targeting any one individual A race, I’d recommend starting the Short Power Build now, then doing the 'cross specialty plan, which should drop you off with really fine tuned fitness at the start of the season. A good place in that first race of a series is crucial, so you can get call-ups the rest of the season.

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The strategy for upgrade points is to finish high enough in the big races to get points because there is no room on the podium due to the cat 1-2 roadies racing for fun on the CX bikes their sponsors gave them. I get it though, that is the competition.

In general, I’m better on the bike when the course is technical and especially in the mud. This is from last year, starting DFL in every race and not racing when I was peaking the last six weeks of the year which I spent out of state.
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I realize FTP is not super important in CX, but you still need a certain level of baseline fitness and “all things are made easier by a higher FTP”. Last season I did better in the VO2 max-type situations but was eaten on the flat parts or long climbs compared to the field average. That could be due to things like carrying speed over crests and through corners though. Basically I need improvement everywhere to such a degree that I wonder if I should be racing at all or doing work on the trainer instead.

clearly sitting on the trainer for two years has done jack squat for you other than make you even more miserable. Maybe try something crazy…put the PM away and just ride for fun as much as you can. Ride hard when you want, ride easy when you want. But ride lots because you want to, not because of some stupid plan to be good at CX which no one cares about in the first place.

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Harsh…but fair…and accurate.

I would have loved to have finished top 50% in most of my races last year. I finished top 50% in 5, bottom 50% in 9 and I still consider last year a huge success for me because I had started the year being staged in the back due to my crossresults points from being a really bad cat 5.

I honestly think you need to work on the psychology and fun more than the fitness. You’re getting way too hung up on results when it’s clear you’re doing pretty well. If everyone who didn’t stand a chance of winning didn’t show up, then no one would race.

It’s important to me, that’s why I do it. If I don’t have CX racing, I don’t have a reason to ride.

My aim was not to be last (and it was darn close in first few races!) last season (My first). Top 50% would be amazing in my view (people always seem to forget that half the racers won’t achieve this!!!). Racing is supposed to be fun…and CX even more so. We’re not pros…not even close…this is a hobby…it should be fun!

I’m a cat 2 cx racer and a cat 4 (former cat 3 sprinter type) road racer. I get top 10s in cat 4 road races but I realized a while back that my unique cycling super-power is not high FTP or w/kg, but ability, as @bicievino said, to go repeatedly into the red and recover. That said, you do need a certain level of aerobic fitness for cross unless you want to see your lap times get slower and slower during the race.

Normally I don’t use TR in the spring or summer, but due to late season rain and cold here in California, I have been on the trainer consistently over the winter through now. I am in week 3 of general build and plan to do the CX specialization starting on July 1st, with outdoor mtb or cx rides thrown in on the easy days.

I used to consistently do polarized training in the spring, e.g. lots of endurance rides with one vo2 max workout mid-week and a fast group ride on Saturday. This year I am trying TR plans to compare the results. Once race season starts, I am off the TR plans and will be back to race on Saturday, long ride on Sunday, recover Monday, skills or VO2 max on Tues or Wed, med duration aerobic ride on Thursday, openers on Saturday. It sounds like you have a lot of hard workouts planned for your CX season, but I would encourage you to dial it back during race season and just focus on maintaining your consistency of hours on the bike throughout the season with enough aerobic workouts to keep you fresh and not get injured or burned out.

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My year mainly revolves around CX too, but I found last year that selectively racing on the road can actually help the sharpening process. Around now I’m mainly doing road races (maybe 1-2 a month) while mainly doing the base plans, but probably around mid-July I’ll start transitioning to crit races and the build plans pretty much simultaneously. The mix of aerobic/anaerobic work from racing is really similar to that of the mid-week plans throughout (with maybe just a bit more high-end work), but you get re-acquainted with race intensity and it breaks up the indoor work really well.

All of this.
You need the aerobic system. Trainer Road sweet spot plans while great won’t get you there. They might. But, my best season of CX was spent doing lots of XC, crit races, and long rides.

I don’t have a super high w/kg, but I can suffer and stay there. I can repeatedly go in the red, and I have some of better handling skills in the cat 3s. Then again, if you’re a 3, most everyone can handle their bike.

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In that case definitely don’t spend more time on the trainer. It’s really hard to sharpen your technical skills outside of the race season - don’t miss a season because you feel like you’re not fit enough. If you really aren’t fit enough to be competitive, make every race a highly focused session on technical skills.

Race mtb this summer. I just did my first race of the year and was pretty disappointed in my placing. But I was / am happy w what I learned in the race. My different tires really held well. I was smooth through most of the course. And I was able to run when I finished.

Weather cooperating I will be able to do a group ride 1x weekly and based on last Wed I will really suffer. But I will get that ability to go hard longer and deeper repeatedly through them and staying on my TR use.

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Sadly every trail in Dallas is under water, like 12’ under water so there will be no dirt riding at all.

I definitely don’t have what it takes to risk injury in a crit. I broke nine-bones in three-crashes over the last few years so I decided that racing for mid-pack in a crit without a team isn’t worth the risk so I basically quit riding in groups and racing on the road.

What does aerobic fitness get me that sweet-spot training doesn’t provide? Over-under feel like a pretty common state/condition in CX. The goal in a race is to never go aerobic, always keep it sweet-spot or higher. If I’m pedaling at aerobic intensities, I’m waving goodbye to people as they pass me.

Cycling is an aerobic sport. If you improve your aerobic fitness, you’ll be well posed to improve nearly all aspects of race performance. You still need to do race specific efforts of course, but without that aerobic foundation, none of the race specific stuff matters.

There’s a never ending debate over HOW to best improve aerobic performance. Both sweet spot and longer endurance rides have aerobic benefits. Actually most riding that you do will have aerobic benefits. This is one of the reasons that the simplest useful advice you can give someone is literally “ride lots, and ride often”

Recovery from hard efforts is almost entirely an aerobic process. If you want to go hard the whole race, you need both a lot of anaerobic fitness, and a lot of aerobic fitness. Note that this isn’t going to maximize FTP, but it will maximize VO2max, and actual race performance.

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