You’re on the startline of your first ever cyclo-cross race. Nervously, you wait to embark on the unexpected, with no real idea of what you’ve signed up for. Don’t worry – we were in the exact same position a year ago, but it was all worth it. To ease the pre-race nerves, we’ve gathered 11 top tips to make sure your first cross is a success.
1. Use the Right Clipless Pedals
Shimano SPDs are limited use in the wet, while Crankbrothers and Time are less susceptible to clogging in the mud. *top tip: add a little dry wax lube to your cleat to reduce the amount of dirt it collects.
2. Tire Pressure
Less is more. If the course is soft, then you can get away with less than 2 bar (tubeless or tubular!). This all depends on your weight, riding style, the weather and how technical the course is. The lower the pressure, the more you risk rim damage and pinch punctures. If you’ve got time to trial the course, try out a few different tire pressures.
3. Adjust Your Hoods
Some riders choose to have a higher angle on their hoods because it can feel more comfortable and in control on descents.
You’d never start a race car from cold, so don’t expect to do the same at a cross race. A good warm up can massively help reduce injury. Rollers aren’t obligatory, but they mean you can do the same warm-up at every race. Just roll around the car park and make sure you do some sprints to get up to speed because once you get going it’s going to be non-stop lung busting speed.
5. Save Energy
A wide course like at Munich’s Olympiapark means you’ve got room to overtake. Start too hard and you’ll pay later on. Make sure you use speed and momentum on technical courses, as this will save your power for when you need it.
Cherish being in a group and out of the wind. Use the smooth parts to recover. But do practice accelerating, especially after running sections.
7. Line Choice
Think outside the box: if it’s muddy and it’s the most obvious line then it’s going to be the most churned-up and slippery. Be creative and think about your exit speed.
8. The Flying Mount
When it comes to unclipping, dismounting and jumping back on again a lot of crossers make it look easy, but this is an art that needs practice. The more times you do it the more confident and honed the skill will become and the less time you are likely to loose. And when you totally rock it you’re bound to have some crowd appreciation come your way.
9. The Faster you go, the Better
Good riders will go just as fast in the technical sections, but this takes experience and skills. Check out this article from pro rider Jeremy Powers for the best handling tips.
10. Learn From the Pros
If you lack off-road experience, try and hold the wheel of riders who ride cleanly (see tips 7 and 8). On straight, smooth sections, repay them by offering them a slipstream if you’re feeling strong enough. You can even try and make a break for it on the final lap if you’re feeling cheeky.
11. Have Fun! It’s Only Cycling After all, so Don’t Stress Yourself Out.
Fail fast, learn fast! Experiences are there to be made. Cyclo-cross is a sport to throw yourself into, have a go, learn on the go and discover what suits you best.
Words: Robin Schmitt, Jonas Kaesler Photos: Dirk Belling, Christoph Bayer, Rene Zieger