Dig Deep Coaching – cyclocross race tips

Dig Deep Coaching logo

Dig Deep Coaching comprises former pro riders Stephen Gallagher and Dan Fleeman, with Mandy Collie providing business expertise to the team.

The company works closely with National cyclocross champion Ian Field, who was up in Fife recently for a two-day training camp organised by some of the Team Leslie Bike Shop / Bikers Boutique people.

Ian Field & Eddy van IJzendoorn

Dan and Ian released a webinar entitled ‘Cyclocross Season – Time To Get Ready‘. The 1-hour presentation comprises audio and slides covering a vast array of tips to get more out of your cyclocross racing, including equipment choices, skills drills and training sessions.

I have always enjoyed absorbing as much of this sort of information I can during the past 5 years racing. While it’s always enjoyable and sociable to just go out and ride with clubmates, I found that doing working on my own (to heart rate, although power is better) with specific training sessions, and focusing on structured high intensity interval sessions allowed me to get the best race fitness while juggling the finely balanced work/family/cycling equation.

Tips from the Two Johns Podcast, Coach Joe Beer Podcast and Joe Friel’s website added to my knowledge over that time and I highly recommend the webinar above. If you want to take things further, Dig Deep Coaching offer 6 and 12 week training plans for cyclocross.

A friend of mine, based in rural Aberdeenshire, found that his connection speed was too low to run the webinar, so for his benefit and that of others, I’ve summarised the key points below.

Skills practice: dismounts
On the hoods
Take it slow
Step-off not step-through

Skills: remounts
Various hand positions needed: tops and hoods primarily
The flying remount is worth mastering: hop on, stomp/clip in and get away fast

Skills: when to shoulder?
In deep mud
Can be faster than pedalling or carrying
Can be worth carrying around tight corners before remounting
Find the best position for you – ideally hand around the head tube and the bike secure

Skills: cornering
Practice at race pace: it’s entirely different!
Look through the corner to the apex and then the exit
Don’t look at the hazards – you’ll drift towards them
Look for the areas of best traction: “Green Is Grip”
Keep pedalling through the corner – improves grip and stability
It’s all about maintaining speed, and keeping good exit speed

Equipment: tyres
Pressures are key: 9 out of 10 times people run them TOO HIGH
File tread for sand
Challenge Grifo for most other things
Challenge Limus for thick mud
Tyres – whether clinchers or tubs – need to ‘squirm’ a little under cornering
Pressure should be low enough that you hit the rim about once per lap (!)

Equipment: cyclocross frame size
A cross bike has a shorter top tube for more control and comfort
If you run the same size of frame as road, you might run a 1cm shorter stem for CX

Training: the key to cyclocross fitness
A high  functional threshold power (aka “threshold”, FTP or 1 hour power)
Different to time-trialling, where a steady power is held
For cyclocross the power output will take the form of many small spikes
No real need for 3 or 4 hour rides – people often overtrain in terms of volume / duration
Instead, focus on the intensity, train for surges in effort

Training: front-loading your efforts
To simulate the start of an event – often overlooked by racers
Ignoring this can mean the rider may fade in the middle of a cross race
But don’t start too slow either – you’re on the back foot and can never get back up
Practice a full-gas effort from a standing start, after having cooled down for a few minutes
then recover from that, and continue your session at threshold

Run training
Not massively important, says Ian Field
20-30 minutes per week all that’s needed; any more will leave you fatigued for your bike training
Better to keep run training specific to cyclocross, e.g shouldering, hopping barriers, run-ups etc

Bike training: sprint repeats
10 minute blocks of sprint on, sprint off, with efforts and recovery of either 10, 15 or 20 seconds
Recover after the block for 5 minutes, then do another one – up to 4 blocks in a training session
best done on a turbo or quiet roads
simulates the repeated efforts in a race

Bike training: threshold
A 1 hour ride at threshold
Throw in 5-10 sub-maximal sprints of 15-20s (you can build up the frequency)
Continue to ride at threshold after the sprints

The race warm-up
Only 25-30 minutes required
5-10 mins easy pedal
8 mins steady ramp up to race pace
2-3 mins of 10s sprints
5 mins cool down
On the start line 10 mins in advance

The Start
Gear selection for the first corner: big ring in gear 2 or 3
Pedals and crank at your preferred position
Remember to practice full-gas starts!