First ever race and its Cylcocross

So I am going to be entering my first ever race on a bike and its going to be a Cyclocross event. Looking for some advice and tips on what to expect. The race is 50 minutes so pacing will be a big part of it, would you go out fairly hard and then ease up to survive the race or start steady? I will be using my Giant Revolt to race (tire recommendations?), with just a HR monitor as the power meter is on the road bike, not that i would really use the power meter for the race, just for post race data.

I ride a mix of road and mtb so will be doing a few dismount drills I think over the next few weeks as the race is at the end of January.

What do people do for nutrition and drinks as looking at pics and youtube videos of previous races no one looks like they have a bottle cage on their bikes… (complete novice question!) I would most probably take 3/4 gels in my pockets for 50 mins, would you fuel much before hand but don’t want to throw up!

Any advice or tips would be appreciated.


You don’t really see people carrying bottles in CX unless it’s a really hot race. Either way, if you really want to bring a bottle, do it. Put it on the seat tube though so the cage doesn’t interfere with you shouldering your bike. I wouldn’t recommend trying to eat anything, even gels. For less than an hour you should be good.

As for pacing. The first few minutes will be nearly all out, then you can try to fall into a rhythm. That said, CX is basically going as hard as you can for the full race. After those first few minutes, you’ll think you’re screwed and there’s no way you can go the full race, but just stick with it, you’ll be fine. Expect to set all sorts of heartrate PR’s.


Preride, change clothes, hydrate and liquid fuel. Slam a gel at the start line, drink some water and ditch the bottle and layers


It’s less than hour. No need for gels or bottle. Just take a gel 5mins before start. Pacing…start hard… go harder…hold on whilst going hard…die a thousand deaths (at least that’s always been my process​:joy::joy::joy:)


Thanks for the tips, what about tyre recommendations? There will be mud as its in Scotland in January…

If you can find them in time for your race I love my IRC Slopchops in the mud. Something else with a similar tread pattern would work well too.

Agree with what most have said here take a gel before the start and go for it. No bottle needed, I actually go as far as taking my bottle cages off for races. Makes shouldering the bike a piece of cake. Especially if you are going to have any significant muddy running sections.

You’ll be racing too hard to eat a gel.

I decided to go out easy my first race. Then the race started and I went out and hammered until I blew up spectacularly. I freewheeled it until my asthma kicked in and I was DNF. Good times!

Second race I went sort of hard at the start, got passed by a lot people, but finished, and I didn’t finish dead last.

Eat a good breakfast, top off with water before the race and go for it (but maybe not too hard). You’ll learn a lot! And remember to have fun.

It will be very muddy. You need mud tyres, and run them at low pressures (depends on weight, whether tubs or tubeless or tubes, but around 20 psi). I’d see what is available regarding tyres, and what your budget is, but go for something mud. CX tyres are usually 33mm, but if this is a local race, you could likely go wider (but not too wide if its muddy, you’ll lose speed).

Forget about eating, drinking, and pacing. Just go as hard as you can. It’ll likely split up anyway, and you’ll end up slogging around the course on your own.

Also, prepare for quite a bit of running.

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I did a country cross country (running) champs last weekend which was similar in effort, although not my first time. Plan to start steady but get swept up by the crowd and gun it. Then realise your error too late and ease off, but not so much that you get passed by everyone. Spend the next 45 minutes trying like billyo to either catch the person in front (and get nowhere) or not give up and climb off. Sprint at the end (even if there’s no-one within a minute ahead or behind), spend several minutes trying to get to your water bottle which is inside a tied-up gym bag, then tell everyone you were just happy to get round and you’ve got no fitness right now anyway. Go home, shower, come back next time and do it all again!

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Get comfortable with dismounting and remounting! practice practice practice, especially when fatigued. your first lap remount likely wont be anything like your last lap remount!

Also practice the start, particularly clipping in, finding the right gears, etc.

local leagues won’t usually care or check tyre width, especially if they are the kind of event that accept MTB’s etc. just use a gravel tyre if you have it. If you want to invest in some cyclocross tyres, Chellenge Grifos are a classic allrounder, but feel free to do your on research. very dependent on course conditions so if you live in a wet country with lots of mud, grab a mud tyre and if you live in a hotter dry climate get something faster.

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Bigger wider nobbly tyres are better in mud.

Not in my experience. Wider tyres just create extra drag. I hear a lot of MTBs say that wider would be better, but I never see anyone on a MTB among the top riders, even if it’s a local event where that would be allowed. On a CX course, a CX bike with CX tyres is fastest.

I’ve recently started on my cyclocross journey and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever tried before, admittedly I’ve never raced a bike before, but it’s just a whole new world.

My first time I didn’t worry about anything… not placing, not pacing, not food… just go out there and see what happens… in 50 mins I averaged about 180 bpm… and came 3rd from last.

I was exhausted but couldn’t have been happier

My advice is to eat properly beforehand, preride the course a couple of times, eat a gel about 10 mins before and then enjoy…


It could depend on the mud honestly. Slippy, thin mud VS deep mud are very different issues.

Slippy mud requires more contact patch and mud shedding which MTB mud tyres provide.

It’s a CX race, of course people will be on CX bikes. Why did they put a tyre width limit on it? wider tyres provide an advantage.

But local races don’t have tyre width restrictions, and still the top riders ride 33mm tyres. These are often the same people that in the summer race XC, so its not that they don’t have a choice.

MTB tyres have better grips on slippy stones, in slidey corners, but on a generally muddy course, they just create too much drag to be of an advantage.

That said, for a first cross race, racing on a MTB is totaly fine. Worry about top speed later.

Ive got a giant revolt that i will be using for the race and currently have the Pirelli cinturato m tyres on it. Chances are it will be muddy as its January and Scotland… might try and purchase some 33mm mud tyres unless it turns out to be dry.

If you can ask someone about the venue and if its likely to be muddy, do. I haven’t had a race for a while that wasn’t deep mud for the majority of the course. Apart from the one where it was frozen.

Find out if start place is determined by callups. If not, get to the start a little early and get as good of a position as possible. Practice your start and clip in. If you don’t get clipped in keep pedaling anyway. Go as hard as you can at the start but don’t sweat it if you end up way back. You will pick people off if you keep riding hard and steady. Be prepared that your HR and RPE will be pegged at or near max the whole time. That doesn’t mean your power will be though. Look for chances to take micro rests where gunning it doesn’t gain you much. When things are settled down focus on going steady and smooth rather than flat out. In turns think about how fast you are coming out, not how fast you are going in. Slowing down a bit to take a good line and maintain momentum is faster than coming in hot and getting jammed in a bad line. Have fun.

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Usually I’d agree about trying to start at the front if there’s no gridding, but for someone in their first ever bike race…it is perhaps safer for everyone if they don’t.


Congrats with starting to race and especially with cyclocross. I was in your exact situation a couple of months ago. I lined up for my first ever sanctioned race, which was also a cyclocross race. Cyclocross is the best! I raced all season on a gravel bike with all-round tires. The great thing about cyclocross is that it’s all about “ride what you bring.” It doesn’t matter, especially for your first race. Mud tires will obviously be better, but if you don’t want to spend more money for potentially 1 race, then don’t (that being said, they will help a ton.) Check your bike the day before. You don’t want to realize that something isn’t working on race morning. If you want or have time, practice dismounting and re-mounting. Start slow like a walking pace and work your way up to jogging/running speed.

On race day, I made sure to eat a good breakfast since I was usually the first race of day. Get there with plenty of time to get your number, change into your kit, pre-ride, and then warm-up if you still need to. Pre-ride the course to examine tough sections, so that you aren’t surprised when you come up to them at race speed. Fuel with whatever you have been fueling with on your rides. Don’t try that new flavor gel on race day. The start will be crazy, so give yourself space if you aren’t comfortable sprinting close to people. You will notice that your cornering skills are probably better than most since you have a MTB background. If you get lapped, give room for the leaders as they are coming up. Last thing is to have fun. Cyclocross is so much fun that it hurts sometimes. You will be thinking about how crazy it is that you signed up for this and paid for it, but then you will be googling the next race from the car afterwards.

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