Cyclocross racing - type of rider

I’m interested in starting cyclocross racing next October 2020 (in Belgium\Netherlands). I have done it before, but never seriously.
What kind of rider suits cyclocross best? Judging from most of the pros they seem to be classics riders with also good sprints on the road (Mathieu van der Poel, Wout van Aert and formerly Zdeněk Štybar).

Personally, my strength on the road is climbing for longer durations 30-60mins, although I can manage 3-5mins climbs well too. My absolute weakness is sprinting followed by short anearobic efforts (30s-2 mins).

On ProCyclingStats most (European) CX pros seem to do well in flat/classics road races and (a lot) less on long climbs. The only exception I could find was Tom Pidcock who has won on long climbs, but also does (very) well in classics and sprints.

Does anyone know why they seem classic riders/sprinters? Because of the anaerobic repeated efforts in CX?
Would it possible for a climber to become good in CX, or is it a lost cause?
I want to race seriously, at the highest level possible for me

I think partly it depends on the conditions. If it’s proper muddy, it’s an advantage to the guys with big absolute power - it it’s fast and smooth then power to weight makes a difference. However, whatever the size and absolute power, I would guess that you need to be able to do repeated high output efforts of short duration. If you are better at longer more steady efforts, then CX doesn’t suit your current abilities - that’s not to say that you can’t develop them (I know nothing about you other than what you have said above).


Agreed with the above. You’ll need to make repeated vo2 max/sprint efforts.

It’s absolutely possible for you to achieve this, and having a good FTP will serve you well, even if you do need to train the specificity.

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conditions play a part, and on/off repeatability is key, but they’re also seeing now that more advanced riders (pro-cat 2) have less surges than expected because they’re smoother in and out of corners, have better technical skills, and therefore can race at more of a threshold pace (98-105% FTP) versus just hitting 120% over and over again.

Similar to crits…it’s not just smashing in and out of corners, so many different rider types can find success.

Give it a go!!!



It might just be that all you have trained is long endurance. If you spent more time training anaerobic capacity and working on maximal power, explosive power in the gym, as well as bike handling, you’d probably find you’re great at cross.

Don’t tunnel yourself into one type of rider, mould your physiology into who you want to be! have a crack at it anyway.

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The best local rider I know here in the UK has is great at long high-power efforts and climbing, and bad at sprints (and starts). He still wins nearly all the local races. You just need to race to your strengths.

I think in general, at least in muddy UK conditions, high absolute power is important, because your constatently powering through heavy slop. But also, not all of the pros are big classic type riders - Eli Iserbyt is pretty small, for example.

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  1. Good FTP
  2. Grit
  3. Good repeatability (lots of matches to burn)
  4. Good bike handler (conservation of momentum)
  5. Grit

Anyone can be good at CX for your relative category. There are some folks who are have a physiology that is better suited, but with the right training and determination you can be good.

Some light reading


Thank you for the help everyone, appreciate it!
@DuncanM23 and @splash intuitively it would seem to me higher w/kg would be better in mud (higher rolling resistance) but I don’t have experience. Or do you mean high short-term power (10-30s)?

In the mud, the crucial number is the W, not the kg. so while a 300W 75kg rider and a 240W 60kg rider have the same W/kg, and fast turny courses might suit the lighter rider (less weight to repeatedly accelerate), claggy mud should suit the heavier one because they have more W to burn (assuming power profiles are similar across the 2).
This is all pretty theoretical - power curves are as individual as W/kg. If it’s something you want to try then give it a go. :slight_smile:

Agree with @DuncanM23, just give it a go. There are a lot of different elements to cross, not just pure power/fitness. Most of all I think you have to like it :slight_smile:

Okay makes sense. Yes I will certainly give it a go, just wanted to be informed about it in advance :slightly_smiling_face: