Whereas one might normally look to a professional athlete to elicit advice on how to do something within his or her profession, this guide is more accurately directly how not to race cyclocross, since I am most certainly out of my element when it comes to the discipline of CX. My professional cycling prowess lies on a narrow tired road bicycle, not with those knobby tires found on a cyclocross machine. Therefore, I will offer this handy guide as a template and then if you’re interested in having some success in ‘cross you should simply try to do the exact opposite.
The day before a race is the perfect opportunity to open up. What are openers? No one knows exactly. They’re basically any ride or interval the day before a race. Therefore, I recommend openers of at least five hours and preferably seven. Why those time periods you ask? An astute question, but a better question here is why the heck not.
Congratulations, you’ve made it to race day! Begin by checking the weather forecast. No, not to see how you should prepare for the race taking into consideration different clothing or shoe choices, tire pressure, and embrocation, but rather whether at all you should race in the first place. While cyclocross and rain and mud all seem to amalgamate and make the racers and rabid fans more excited about the event, I think they’re collectively nuts. I’m a fair weather ‘crosser and therefore deem bad weather as a fine excuse to feign the flu and not show up.
Despite the questionable weather forecast on television for yesterday’s day one of GP Gloucester, I consider myself something of an amateur meteorologist and have a foolproof method to read a Weather.com radar map: Green means rain. No green means no rain. Therefore with the iamtedking weather forecasting no rain, and the clock approaching noon, it was time to commit to my race, three hours hence.
Salad. The perfect cyclocross pre-race meal needs to be light since I’m now only a few hours from the start whistle. I therefore put together a bed of spinach topped with mushrooms, cauliflower – my new favorite white vegetable, and a grated raw beet. Crack a can of delicious Mediterranean style sardines and you’re fueled up!
You’re inevitably going to get muddy, so it does not really matter the condition of your bike when it goes into the car. Maybe snap off the larger clumps of mud if they’re easily reached and will shed more than a pound of dislodged firma terra from your steed, but otherwise save yourself from getting messy.
I rocked out a head banging session of NPR en route to the course. There is nothing that’ll pump you up like talk radio. It is also worth going to a coffee shop that you frequently visit rather than winging it with a coffee that is rookie to you. I made this mistake of going to a newly opened bakery as I approached the venue and their coffee was as luke warm as it was horrible. Brown water doesn’t cut it. You’re taking the race seriously, after all, so you simply must take your brew seriously.
The thermometer read 71 degrees upon arrival just as the clouds were breaking and the humidity was steaming up. Ergo, looking around you’ll notice virtually everyone is wearing arm warmers, leg warmers, or long sleeve jerseys and tights. Some go as far as to don shoe covers. That’s simply stupid. A pre-race “warm up” is a figurative expression, so you don’t actually want to break a sweat. You’re about to race gung-ho for sixty strenuous minutes, so the last thing you want to do before the race is exert yourself.
Therefore, turn up your nose at these Euro-inspired, overly hot cyclists pedaling about and walk to registration. Graciously accept your unbeknownst appearance fee of freshly baked brownies (thank you Nikki) and then go talk to a lot of people.
By now you’ll notice that the people who have “professional” in front of their title “cyclocross racer” are pedaling about the course. They’re getting unnecessarily muddy and dirtying their drivetrains. A better idea is to meander back to your car and figure out how to pin on a number the size of a parachute.
An important issue to consider before mounting your bicycle is tire pressure. Coming from the road side of things myself, I’m partial to high pressure. So I recommend simply taking the typical road pressure, 120psi, and subtracting your age. I’m 28 years old, so 120 minus 28 is 92. Ninety-two psi is perfect regardless of the course conditions. Fact.
Gloves or no gloves? I gleaned this gem from Adam Myerson: don’t wear gloves. He says that cyclocross is delicate and needs the light touch of immediate skin contact. So I didn’t wear gloves yesterday and found my hands slipping all over the place facilitated by the miniature ball-bearings that are sand granules and sweat. So gloves or no gloves? I have no frigging idea.
You should probably bang out a few jumping jacks at this point just to get into the head of your competitors. “Whoa, he’s doing jumping jacks?! He’s obviously fresh and will tear my legs off today. Shoot.” Done.
You will be lined up according to UCI points and since the only points you have do not take effect until 2012, I recommend hanging out leisurely at the back ’cause you ain’t going nowhere fast. However talking smack is an instrumental part of cross and now is prime opportunity to make fun of everyone called up ahead of you. This will make you many friends when the race begins.
Race begins. Ride inefficiently. Ride into the shrubbery whenever the opportunity presents itself. Take the barriers slowly and carefully. MOTOR with all your might passing a lot of people with less fitness and more bike handling skill whenever there is a flat and/or paved section. Then continue doing everything else slowly.
Conclude ride with an interview with V’news.
Rest. Repeat. Oh, and always smile.