With Cross Vegas now in our rear view mirror, we think it’s safe to say that the North American cyclocross season has officially begun. Besides bringing you all the latest in new, ‘cross specific technology, we figured it would also be good to gain some practical insight on riding tips. To do so, we turned to one of America’s most talented and well-known cross riders; Tim Johnson. We caught up with the six-time National Champion at a recent team camp and asked him what his best tips are for anyone headed to the barriers this season.
- Barriers: The classic European style was called the “step-thru” technique, but luckily long ago I learned to not use it. I tell everyone to just dismount and land on both feet at the same time. It’s not only easier, but I think faster.
- Tape to tape: Keeping your momentum up is crucial in a cross race and the best way to do that is to use the whole course. You need to protect your lines, but I say use every square inch of the course you can.
- Passing: When you watch kids playing soccer they often swarm after the ball, whereas with the Premier League the field stays wide-open. Passing in an elite race resembles the swarm on the first lap, but after that you only pass when you can build a high rate of speed and hold the pass. The last lap in a UCI race is all about block passing.
- Cornering: Corner like a bus. It’s always better to ride wide as you enter a corner versus the exit. Remember too to look through the corners to keep track of riders and conditions ahead of you.
- Shouldering: The Euros will almost exclusively shoulder their bikes, but I think it depends on the course and elements. I push my bike a lot and think is saves me both time and energy. I think shouldering definitely makes sense if its muddy and it can also be used to protect your space against other riders. Don’t forget to grab the handlebar to prevent it from flopping around.
- In the drops: A lot of it depends on the course. Riding in the drops lowers your center of gravity, but it also decreases your visibility and I’m a big fan of keeping your head up to see what’s up ahead. My own preference is to stay on the hoods. We even tested the position in the wind tunnel once and it was more efficient because I was able to keep my elbows in more.
- Coasting: In a race you will no doubt be coasting somewhere, but as an exercise, try riding through tight sections especially and do not stop pedaling. It forces you to exaggerate your movements so when you have to do it in a race it will seem more natural.
- Intervals: It’s the only way to train smart for cyclocross. However, the point of today’s camp was to also point out how important cross specific skills are. People have no qualms about doing intervals or even V02 training, but they don’t spend the time working on their handling skills. With that said, it’s still true that interval training is key because each race is basically comprised of 8-19 hard intervals. It’s painful and it’s only by doing equally hard efforts when you’re training that you can get your body to withstand the discomfort.
- The only way to buffer the lactic acid in a race is by exposing yourself to in in training, You want to go so hard with your intervals that your arms start hurting.When it comes to interval training, I like doing ten blocks of 15 second on/15 second off efforts on any terrain. Building up your torque for coming out of turns is really important and I like practicing that by doing tall gear efforts on climbs usually with 20 second on/40 second off efforts.
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