Cyclocrossers - When in your season do you finish the specialty plan?

For the cyclocrossers out there - do you base/build/specialty into the first week of the season? Mid-season? End of season? I am trying to think through the plus/minus of each scenario. Would be curious how you approach it and why. If you have an A race, I can see just targeting that with the specialty plan and slotting in B races around it, but I am planning to race the full season with no particular A race (I think).

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Last year I ended my speciality about half way through the season. I kind of picked this at random, but it lined up with both my favourite league race and the regional championship, so I went with it.

On a positive I got my best result (top 20) at this point, but on a negative I tanked after that. I think the poor results after it were mostly due to my poor skills in the wet, but I don’t know if delaying the speciality might have helped.

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Great answer to a great question that I have been curious about. I think peaking towards the middle to the end is a good idea. Hard to keep a peak going, right?

End specialty in line w/your A race. No need to taper for B races or non-A races. Remember the plans are descriptive, not prescriptive. If after a weekend B race, you aren’t feeling up for hard Tue workout, then dial the intensity down a bit or ride endurance. Listen to your body. Be flexible. Don’t overthink things!

Last year I finished SPB-LV, which I dragged out over the whole summer (with lots of outdoor rides…) just in time for cx season to start. In retrospect, I don’t think it’s enough short/high-intensity for the start of cx season, so this year I’d like to be well underway of the specialty phase when it stats in sept. I then dragged out the specialty phase (MV) over 3 months, mixed with a few weekly outdoor workouts with a friend, and still came up 1 week short on finishing specialty phase by states. Still, the end half of my season worked out amazingly well. I went from mid-pack cat4 in sept to a few top-5 finishes (okay… a few 5th’s) by dec, so that was amazing progress.

I suppose you’d call that a peak. I wish I could say how long I could maintain that; instead I got sinus infection flare-up, and was practically on disability as far as training went from there on. I don’t think I got sick because of over-training per-se (steady tss decline over the racing season), my sinuses always get bad as winter comes on. Still, finishing specialty along with my season definitely worked, even if it wasn’t exactly my original plan, or completed in the prescribed time-frame. Maybe play it by ear, and just see how it goes? Then you can tweak based on your personal experience for the next year. It’s a process…

The CX season starts here in the SF Bay area in late August. I try to finish the specialty build up before the first big race of the season, which is usually in the Sacramento area in late September. I don’t try to peak per se, but just keep a good mix of skill training, VO2 max, rest, a race, and one endurance ride per week until about two weeks before district championships in mid-December, when I do a weeklong block of interval training followed by an easy week.

There’s no way I can ride a trainer and follow 16 weeks of indoor training during the summer months in order to lead into the season. I like to spend December–April riding indoors with a progression from SSB1 all the way through a chosen Build plan (Sustained Power this year). I think this establishes a solid enough foundation for a Cat 4, then I can focus more on enjoying outdoor rides.

By May I’m riding outdoors exclusively (with an occasional indoor workout) and supplement with a lot of commuting, outdoor training, and a handful of long gravel races. During that lead up to the season I’ll do a lot of outdoor simulation rides at a local park where I can fine tune the actual demands of CX racing (that a trainer simply cannot) as well as work on running, shouldering, and all the other skills that equate to free speed. It cannot be overstated enough that doing only indoor trainer workouts will not make you a faster CX racer. I find the simulation races to be the best form of training.

My plan is to start Short Power Build or CX Specialty the first week of July which is around 8 weeks out from the start of the MNCX season.

Has anyone ever skipped the Build phase and jumped right into Cyclocross Specialty after a summer of quality riding?


I’ve never done TR with CX. Between a mid week CX race and racing both Sat/Sun, I just try and keep my fitness in check with some sweet spot work. I realized my base was complete shit by September after racing crits most of the summer and neglecting the long z2 rides. So I did some TR sweet spot 2 around September and mixed with racing, I think it helped. But, cat 3 in CO is ridiculous.

Last year I made a lil cx course in my area that incorporated some loose gravel/dirt, single track, steep short climbs to either ride or run up, some logs to practice bunny hopping or carrying the bike. Seemed to help, but you can get away with lower power if you have the skills. I’m going to spend more time on the mtb and race more xc to help with that as well.


What mid-week CX do you do during the season? I am also in CO…

My tentative plan is to use low volume short power build and then low volume CX specialty supplemented with outdoor skillz and outdoor riding to, you know, enjoy riding. Still haven’t sorted out the exact timing of when to start and finish this plan but this is my first CX season so I’m treating the whole thing as a learning experience.

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The back to basis in Golden. Those are typically IMO harder than the weekend races. But they are so early, I’m still in road mode. But the wednesday CSP crits are usually done by then.
The wednesday cx races in Golden are pretty fun. Cheap. Usually a lot of people in the fields. I did one season of cat 5, upgraded, got to 4 and the 8 am start times were killing me. Turned my bike into SS, got to start later and upgraded to a 3 in five or six races. Now I’m getting worked in the 3s, but it is fun.

Would weaving a plan into this schedule be detrimental? Seems like it would add a ton of fatigue. If anything you might be better off not racing both weekend days and getting a z2 ride in on one of them.

What about something like:

Saturday: Race
Sunday: long z2
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Rest/Easy Spin
Wed: Race
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Openers

Seems good

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It can be tricky given you won’t know how you’ll respond to the stress of racing. Figure 50-60 TSS depending on your category. Less if you’re doing Cat 4/5 (30 min?). Low volume interwoven with races and some outdoor rides seems like a good start. Adjust accordingly.

There’s also nothing wrong with skipping a week or two of races mid-season in order to focus on some sweet spot base to get your CTL back up in order to have enough fitness to get you deep into the season. I’ve never done this, just used commuting as a means to get in recovery/endurance miles.

I mean, it all really depends on the schedule. I should have been a bit more clear - racing both days is like once a month thing: US Open and some odd weekends. The midweek race ends mid September and with work, we’ll see if I can even get to those. This is just what I have done in the past. CX last year took a back seat to road. I was fine with that. This year, I may try a bit more and get some points towards my cat 2 upgrade. Certainly adding more z2 this year on whatever day I don’t race.

When the season starts I’m doing 3 races on Wednesdays, and lets say 3-4 races on alternating weekends; sometimes a couple Tuesday races if I don’t race that weekend. For that reason I didn’t think the VO2-max work was necessary because I was getting 1-hour of it minimum three days per week. Does that sound reasonable?

Take a look at these. I follow Adam and his thoughts on cx and what he does to prepare.

I tried to follow his thinking last season but it never worked out because I wasn’t all in on cx. This year is different though.


Sounds like a lot of stress and not a lot of recovery. How are your results?

Extremely poor. I started DFL in all weeknight races (I’m pathetic and don’t belong up their with the premier road race guys) and can usually make it to top-10am to 15 in a 40-50 rider field. On weekend races I usually get a second row start and can fight my way into the back of the top-10. I built relative performance all season so I think that type of riding and racing worked well for me. I’m a cat-4 and still just barely before 4w/Kg on FTP so I don’t expect to see the podium yet but I am sticking in the top-10 which is where I should be. I need to break out this year and get into cat-3 though or I need to find a new hobby as it’s becoming a bit embarrassing for me to continue showing up as a pathetic loser in cat-4.

I asked because your schedule seems heavy, and with not a lot of rest. By all means race the amount you want!

Not sure where you’re racing, but in MN, ~4w/kg will get you in the top 5 in Minnesota 3/4 races. I podiumed 3 races this year (with 1 win) in 15-25 rider Cat 3/4 fields with an FTP of 320w (3.9 w/kg). I don’t think your power is far off. In 2017 I didn’t crack the top 5 in any race in the 4/5 category. But in 2018 I made big gains in running fitness and bike handling and can attribute my successful season to those things more than any power gains.

Also, CX is fun. I wouldn’t worry about embarrassing yourself. Just race and enjoy it!

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Bike racing is not fun, it’s “fulfilling”. :stuck_out_tongue:

Last year I went straight from road to CX, so when I backed up from my A race (States), I did just a build and a specialty plan. But as with any long-term training plan, it’s a matter of setting priorities and backing up from there. If you honestly have no A priority races, I’d build a plan with the specialty phase ending at the end of the season, just so you’re not left with peak fitness (and resultant fatigue) with half of the season still to come. That, or do two builds, again ending at the end of the season.

In the end for me, my plan diverged from the TR plans a bit. Weeks were mainly 2 workouts (mid-week races substituted as a workout) and a race on the weekend. The other days were easy rides, one day of SST stuff, and technique practice whenever I could fit it in. Other than a mid-season break due to a collarbone fracture, I kept decent enough fitness for 60 minute CX races and didn’t totally cave until after states.