How to Prepare for the 2020 cyclocross season by having fun and continuing your training
Most racers are thinking about how to prepare for the 2020 cyclocross season.
In just four months, cyclocross season will be here.
And in seven months, Chicago will host for the 2020 U.S. Cyclocross National Championships.
In an ordinary year, cross racers in the Midwest and around the country would be in full cyclocross training mode.
Obviously, this is no ordinary year.
So how do we prepare for prepare for the 2020 cyclocross season and nationals in December when there may be no training races this summer to prepare?
And the big races like Trek and Fayette Cross have already been cancelled.
Regardless of where you are in your cyclocross career, the consensus from different riders is to keep training while we wait for the cyclocross season, get creative, put in your endurance miles, and have fun.
“I, of course, am unsure if these races will happen, but I love to ride my bike regardless. So I will stay focused on them in hopes that we can compete this fall. If the races don’t happen, the riding I did in preparation will not be a waste. Not only will the riding be enjoyable, the training I do each year carries into the next and at some point racing will return.”Isaac Neff, former masters and single-speed national champion
Feldhausen: Keep yourself accountable
For cross racer Erin Feldhausen, safer-at-home has meant two big changes: No Boston Marathon, for which she had qualified for 2020, and no social workouts.
“I’m VERY much a social workout person,” she says. “I love doing group runs from the running store, group rides at lunch, weekend group rides, etc. So much of my social training is now either solo or just with my husband.”
Feldhausen, a multiple Wisconsin state cyclocross champion, with a second place at the 2019 master’s nationals, says that without the social element of training, motivation has been a bit of a challenge. “I love working out, so this is usually not a difficult thing for me to do,” she says, “but lately it’s been that initial step out the door that has been more of a struggle.”
To keep herself focused, Feldhausen, who won 24 of the 39 cross races she entered in 2019, including 11 in a row in October, has still been using accountability buddies. And while she has her husband Matt to ride and run with, she is also grateful for “friends I communicate with regularly about what our workout plans are, mostly, I think, just to verbalize and then hold ourselves accountable that day or that week and I think that’s helpful.”
Feldhausen and her husband have been trying to come up with new routes outside of their home in Madison, WI as well as laying out training plans for the next week. “As much as I don’t follow a training plan, I think laying out your plans each week for what you’d like to do (often based on the weather) and trying to hold yourself to that is important,” she says.
Neff: More time allows for more focused training
Isaac Neff, a former national cyclocross 30 plus and single-speed champion, says that without mountain bike racing, riding to prepare for the 2020 cyclocross season includes more time and energy endurance training.
“To be honest, not racing this spring has allowed me to train probably better and more focused than I ever have during this time of the year,” Neff, who has won numerous Wisconsin and Illinois state championships, says. “I was able to fit in three full (4 week) endurance blocks and now am moving towards more interval training and efforts.”
Neff crashed hard at the Snake Alley Crit in 2018 and had to take several months off the bike to recover from broken bones and an injured head. He used 2019 to train and race himself back into fitness.
In 2020, Neff is targeting the 35 plus category at both Pan-American and National Championship races.
“I’m just focused on fall racing in hopes that it will happen,” he says. “I imagine I will complete an entire training cycle this spring and early summer without any racing, take my short break from training in July and then start to focus my training on fall cross racing.”
While he’d love to be racing now, Neff says he’s training a lot, chasing some Strava segments, and doing more skill building.
“I, of course, am unsure if these races will happen, but I love to ride my bike regardless,” he says. “So I will stay focused on them in hopes that we can compete this fall. If the races don’t happen, the riding I did in preparation will not be a waste. Not only will the riding be enjoyable, the training I do each year carries into the next and at some point racing will return.”
Anderson: More quality time on the trainer
Greg Anderson, who has won numerous Illinois state and overall Chicago Cross Cup championships while racing for his shop team (Spin Doctors Cyclewerks CX Team), says while he’s hopeful for the cx season, he wouldn’t be surprised if “things were altered drastically. What that would look like I have no idea.”
To prepare for the 2020 cyclocross season, Anderson uses Trainer Road, a coaching software platform, to guide his training. “I’m still training with the expectation of a full season,” he says.
But while he used to do his Saturday morning hard rides and commuted to his bike shop, he’s been using the indoor trainer more. “I decided to cut back on (commuting) a little and put that effort into a little more quality time on the trainer.”
And while his Spin Doctors shop outside of Chicago is slammed, he’s not getting out on the mountain bike as much either.
While many riders are getting on Zwift for social rides, Anderson says that’s not his usual strategy. “I’m not really into it, seems too busy for me,” he says. “I prefer the structure, and anonymity, of TrainerRoad.”
Kuhn: Won’t take long to ramp up for cross
Lou Kuhn is another bike shop owner (Pony Shop in Evanston, IL) and a highly successful cyclocross racer as well. He is also responsible for starting the massively successful and growing Pony Shop junior cyclocross program.
To prepare for the 2020 cyclocross season, he doing more trail riding and more mountain biking.
“You can ramp up for the season in a relatively short amount of time,” he says “It will require more focus because not having the group mentality or summer road and mountain bike racing, we?ll need more intensity to replace that.”
Kuhn says he’s optimistic cyclocross can happen, but he’s concerned a lot of what we relate to the cross scene will be different with no team tents or hanging out. And if you’ve ever seen the Pony Shop compound at CCC races, you’ll understand this is a big deal.
“Cyclocross is a tough subject for me right now,” Kuhn says. “Frankly I wish they would just go one way or the other, cancel it completely, or just let us race. The fact that different states have different rules is tough, and Illinois is so much more conservative right now then Wisconsin.”
To Prepare for the 2020 Cyclocross Season, Phelps: Take the cross bike out on the trails!
Nathan Phelps, a long-time cyclocross racer and editor of Midwest Bike Racer, was also optimistic about a 2020 cyclocross season when the Wisconsin Cycling Association announced the fall season and the UCI published its revised road schedule. (No word yet on rescheduled or altered UCI or USA Cycling cyclocross races.)
“I hope we get to race, but if we don?t, well, there?s nothing any of us can do about it,” Phelps, who also runs the Gryphon Velo Cycling Team, says. “I?m not quite sure what we?ll fill the fall with if we don?t have CX races.”
Phelps says he’s been getting out on mountain bike trails with his cross bike to prepare for the 2020 cyclocross season. “I rode 13-miles of MTB single track yesterday on my SS CX and plan to keep on doing that all summer,” he says. “It builds skills and gets the heart rate up in the race zone ? and it was fun as hell!”
While Phelps and the Gryphon racers plan to start traditional cyclocross practice sessions in August (given the season hasn’t been cancelled), he says riders should keep training as if the cross season is coming and get creative with what is available.
“I?m using an empty parking lot to ride my crits ? yep, 45-60 minutes of riding in a circle by myself,” he says. “But it keeps the cornering skills up and makes me feel like I?m doing something.”
Stay patient to prepare for the 2020 cyclocross season
It’s definitely a challenge to build fitness without a definite goal.
#crossiscoming but maybe not until 2021.
To keep sane and put on good miles, I’m often pointing the bike in one direction until it’s time to head home, then simply turn on the bike computer screen so I know I’m which direction I’m riding. Then I just find a way home.
I’ve ended up on some really narrow busy roads, which I exit as quickly as possible. And I’ve found some roads I’ve never ridden on before.
I’m treating this as a training adventure, where I get a lot of quality miles in.
So the consensus advice from these experienced cyclocross racers to prepare for the 2020 cyclocross season is to keep pedaling. Put the endurance miles in, have fun with keeping your cross skills up, maintain a schedule.
If you need help creating a schedule, let’s talk! Contact me and we’ll figure out a way to get together.