I am doing my first cyclocross race this coming weekend. During a test ride today I was dumbfounded with sandy/pine needled corners (Florida). Does anyone have any advice for sandier courses and/or CX racing in general? Thanks!
Update: in the cat 5 race I placed 4th, and in the cat 4/5 race I placed 16th. Had a blast, learned that hairpin turns on a descent are tricky, and that sand is not my friend. Next race is in a week! Thanks for all the help!
Practice tight cornering in parks that have similar characteristics to the course, setup a short course in a park and practice railing turns at race pace. Ideally you can incorporate some VO2Max efforts while practicing on CX terrain. Also, practice fast starts, going all out for 2 minutes then setting in just below VO2Max.
We don’t have a lot of sandy courses in Wisconsin. But some general tips for cyclocross are: dedicate some time to remounting and dismounting, experiment with tire pressures to maximize traction, and work on unweighting your saddle while still putting down power for bumpy sections.
For corners with loose dirt or similar that reduce traction, the first thing is too look for a line that provides the best traction. Green colored stuff on the ground is better than brown. In some cases, dirt has better traction than dried grass (also brown).
Tire choice and pressure is important. Front tire should have more knobs than the back, since you don’t want it to wash out. If you are using clincher tires, don’t run your tire pressure too low, despite what you might hear about the pros running in their tubular or tubeless tiers. You don’t want to flat when you cross over the edge of a sidewalk. Depending on your weight, you probably want to run your tires somewhere in the range of 25-33 PSI, not too hard, but not super squishy.
For cornering, when you come into a loose corner, you want to shift your weight forward over the front wheel to help with traction. As you round the apex of the corner, shift your weight backwards so that you have more weight over the rear wheel, helping with traction as you apply power to exit the corner.
A lot of it is about accelerating out of corners. I try to be very mindful about how long the straight is between two corners. The longer the straight the more it makes sense to accelerate strongly out of the corner.
The simplest and best advice for your first cross race
JUST SEND IT!
Unless you are a genetic freak you have 99% chance to be in the back half. So enjoy it we all start there. But don’t waste that time. Try to push your skill limits and your gear limits. Just send every corner you come across. You will crash. That’s ok it’s cross crashing is half the fun. Everyone crashes in cross from Wout van Art to the brand new cat 5.
TL;dr send all the corners, be ok with crashing, and have fun.
I just started cx this year. Hardest thing for me has been pacing for 40mins. First two races I really blew up after about 25 mins. Last race went better and I finished much higher up.
I didn’t worry so much about the start, and just kept my heart rate below the max.
I’m actually about to tread into my first CX race this year. Experienced roadie, but not this at all (skillset is alright, done mtb and trials). Nervous but also excited. Is there any specific etiquette to a CX race that is not existent anywhere else?
Everything mentioned above is good advice. However, keep in mind that heckling is a common aspect of CX. I wasn’t expecting this aspect, as it can border on being a bit exclusive to the newbie. For roadies, Imagine heckling a bunch of Freds on the group ride. It really wouldn’t be tolerated (or, shouldn’t be anyway), but in CX it happens. This is usually in good fun. Just keep a thick skin and don’t take anything too personally. Just have fun, drink a beer and don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself (these are probably good words to live by off the bike as well).