Cyclocross Race – WAC Members Get Ready for their First Race

I wrote a long note to the people in my Wisconsin Athletic Club cyclocross class the night before their first race, and so I thought I’d share it since it gets at what we’re all about.

In the class, we’ve been working on skills and training for the past six weeks, and they’ve made incredible progress.

Each week, we’d have a different focus for our work.

The first two weeks it was getting on and off the bike, carrying the bike, and running over barriers.

We’ve done starts, corners, off-camber, games to get used to close quarters racing and set up courses with different obstacles and difficulties

What I’m most proud of, though, is the confidence they built in handling their bicycles as well as in themselves for the cyclocross race.

Here are parts of the note:


  • It’s not likely to rain now, so it should be a faster course. Bring boots just in case.
  • Bring sweatpants and a jacket to ride around in before your race. If it rains, bring a rain jacket and pants if you have them so you’ll stay dry-ish on your pre-ride.
  • If you have an extra tech shirt, you might save your “race” shirt and jersey for after the pre-ride so if it gets sweaty, you can change. Amanda, I would definitely do this since your race is later. James, it’s totally optional.

Race Day

  • Eat today! Drink today. The cyclocross race is so short you don’t need to worry about carbo-loading the day before. Have a good meal a few hours before your start time. (You will likely think about puking it up if you eat too soon before your start! I speak from experience.)
  • There will be an announcement for your race to “stage” at the line. That’s when you show up to the are to be put in rows in the start grid. Both of your races are fairly small unless there are a bunch of day-of registrations. Regardless, you’ll start in the second row.
  • When you get to the staging area, you can take off your warmup pants and hang the jacket around your shoulder. You can give me all the clothing, and I’ll bring it back to my van.?
  • Bring a water bottle to the start and drink a bunch before you stage.
  • Do your business in the porta-potty 15 minutes before the race. There’s always nerves at the start line, and you’ll always feel like you have to pee. If you make sure to go beforehand, you know it’s just a false alarm!

The Race

  • The key at the start line of a cyclocross race is to breathe.
  • At the start, just go! Don’t worry about saving anything but at the same time don’t go so hard you blow up. If you get a great start and find yourself in the lead, just let someone else go by you so you can follow others. Stay with groups as long as you can but stay within yourself. Find places to recover, like downhills, and breathe.
  • Smile and laugh. No really. You’re riding a bike on a farm, for goodness sake. How dumb is this cyclocross sport! There’s lots of people who take this seriously, including me at times, but then I have to realize how seriously stupid it is to take a perfectly nice bicycle and ride it through mud.
  • When you get dropped from the first group, have patience. Look for the next person in the line, and beat that person. Then go for the next person, etc.


  • Bring something dry to change into after the race. I usually bring a big towel to cover myself when I change in the car (that’s also one reason I bought the van!).
  • Bring a post-race beverage of choice to watch the next race and cheer. I always end up walking to the part of the course that I could never figure out during the race just to see how others managed it.

I’m so so so proud of all of you! You’ve made such amazing progress in the past six weeks!

I won’t be surprised if either of you do better than you think you will.

So that was the note: Tomorrow, I’ll report back with how they did. It should be a blast!