Archive for September, 2010

Why is cross so darn hard?

September 29, 2010

Every season when cyclo-cross comes around, everyone I know (including myself) Seems to be so confused by how hard cross season is, or even some mountain bike races.

During the months of about december to september we are all in the training mode for road season. Road season is always a regimented training program, doing a 20min warm up, 3×10 min threshold intervals with 5 mins rest and then a 20min cool down. From personal experience I know the beginning portion of an interval will be taxing, but after a short bit you “settle” into the interval and it can even feel good. Cross season how ever is one race of intervals all over the place. :30sec sprint through the barriers, long grind up the hill, short burst at top, short rest through the turn… you get the idea. Then add in the attacks by others, trying to move a place here and there, and recovering after a slip up. There is no consistency at all, While criteriums can be close there is a general recipe for how the race plays out.┬áKeeping in mind the human body is a creature of habbit, cyclo-cross is the complete opposite.

So this begs the question of how to train for a sport that seems to be so all over the place? Cross training must replicate the needs of the race; that is high intensity, high muscle force; random cadence, repeat ability, min rest. High intensity being short intervals that train the anaerobic  system.

This will be high out put efforts for :15sec to 2min in length, and be 110-150% of you threshold power. Work outs of this nature will generally be no longer than an hour or so with short warm ups and cool downs. In general the efforts will be focused towards what you know your weakness is. If it is in the 2-3 min area, than those intervals should be in your work outs. Also working on a 1:1 rest to work ratio will help out big time, especially on intervals less than 2 mins long. In road racing we would put more breathing room between, this is not the case with cross. However the recovery time between sets will be greater.

Cross also needs high muscle force as well. Frequently in cross there are situations where you come out of turns in the wrong gear, or going up a hill in to tall of a gear. Both of thee situations require bursts of high muscle tension to get going. Workouts to accommodate this will be things such as low rpm pedaling, sprints starting at 2mph in the highest gear, and pedaling them all the way to a 120+ cadence sprint. You could also try on a mountain bike to just not down shift sometimes on a hill. Furthermore, working in a short plyometric session can help vastly to improve your jump or ability to grind the gear out for a few seconds longer.

Speaking of cadence, there is variability in cadence used. So as just discussed with low cadence you also need to work on high cadence. This is as simple as trying to pedal at 110+ rpm for long periods or doing sprints that build to a 140 or greater cadence. This is also great to pear with the low cadence days. Because in one moment of cross you might be pushing a big gear, and the next spinning like mad for moments in time. Not to mention that sometime the mud clogged drivetrain might dictate some gear choices…

As eluded to earlier there needs to be variability. Looking at a power file of a cross race there is many efforts of more than 400 watts in the last race an athlete raced. Again just like a crit, there is need to produce big numbers for brief periods of time. The only case in cross though is it might look like a :30 sec effort, 1 min effort, :20 sec effort. So instead of just doing straight 1min or :30 sec sprints in from the road season. do :30 sprint, :30 rest, 2min effort, :30sec rest, 1:00 min effort. Vary these and try to repeat efforts until full exhaustion sets in. Once exhaustion does set in though, be sure to give your self ample rest time between sets. Any type of interval that makes you go hard, then go harder again will only help.

Last but certainly not least, cross race type simulation. Every where I have been has some sort of cross practice night. Take advantage in your area and do these practices it will only help with your cross season. Get a hold of you local bike shop, and ask, or look in a forum. These will be the best form of cross practice you can get.

From a power perspective, if you have just done a race that feels like a cross race does. Look at your file and have either gold cheetah, training peaks or email me the file to look at. Your looking for how many times you crossed 400 watts or greater (or zone 6, for those whom I do work with). This number will be a number to replicate and beat in a practice scenario.

Much of what is discussed above is very applicable to mountain biking. The course never follows :30 on and :30 off pattern. These strategies can help take the sting out of a hard technical mountain bike course.

One last note, is that some of this is all to forgotten when road season comes. While most races follow a general recipe and will always split at a certain hill of a certain time. It is good to have the ability to mix it up a crucial stages of a race to test your break away companions, or make it of a group to get in the break.

Ride Hard

Coach Jordan or email me at


See what you want at this blog!!!

September 27, 2010

I am currently taking ideas for future blog posts. Write them in the comments section and I will talk about the subject at a future date!

Post about cyclocross season to come on wednesday!

Ride hard

Coach Jordan

Check it out!

September 24, 2010

Hey everyone,

Check out! I have finally figured out how to put example training plans, tools to help cyclists, and free tidbits of information on the site! Check back often as I will be adding more content on a regular basis.

New post to come next week…

Ride Hard

Coach Jordan

Mountain biking and its effects on training

September 22, 2010

Most of us roadies love the ability to just head out the front door and off to the sunset. Mountain biking is equally as valuable of a workout just as road biking is.

There are a few distinct benefits to mountain biking that road biking can not give (unless you try very hard, but you would probably confuse your friends…)

These areas of improvement are as follows: Mental break from the road, variable zone workout, variable pedal rate and forces, and bike handling skills.

The mental break form the road is very important. By now you have tired out your favorite stretch of road and old fido no longer chases you… Heading out into the woods will bring new things to see, and maybe even reunite with some old friends. A lot of roadies I know are ex-mountain bikers anyways. This portion of the off season, a mountain bike session can be just the ticket to keeping motivation to the true end of season break.

Variable workout zones. While I as a coach recommend each workout to be just so (as to elicit a certain training effect) do encourage sometimes just to go out and have fun. Mountain biking is extremely hard to maintain a certain zone for long periods to due to having to climb, descend, dodge trees and ride over obstacles. This lends itself to having a very variable efforts over different times. Think about the last race, was each attack planned as 3 min rest, with 8mins of hard chasing? I sure hope not!!! Mountain biking will allow your cardiovascular system to adopt to having to suddenly increase work rate, rest briefly and do it again. No race is ever a set workout, so is mountain biking.

Variable pedal rates and forces: As mentioned above the constant change in course will cause you to change cadences, and torque on the crankset. One moment you might be pedaling like mad, and the next grinding away in to high a gear up a short climb. In road riding it is important to have these abilities to prepare for the next attack or to maintain pace in a group. I have never pedaled exactly 95rpm an entire race. Mountain biking will help your legs adapt to different strains and stimuli.

Bike handling skills: While road cycling you never have to hop over a root or drop off a ledge; however there are times its needed. These situations might be a tricky wet corner where your back wheel comes out, or a dropped bottle suddenly is front of your wheel. When the back wheel slips you’ll know how to change weight distribution or how to hop over an errant bottle. Mountain biking is a far safer and easier way to learn these techniques then in the middle of a crit and your best friend (or enemy) behind you.

Last, of course mountain biking is the best way to train for mountain bike races… (road has its place for training to however)

Ride Hard!


The post season…

September 16, 2010

Big local crit… Check, State Championships… check, hammer my buddy in to the ground… (priceless) Check. Whats next?

This is on the minds of road bike racers all over the country. After the racing, the hard training miles and counting every calorie what do you do the fitness you have? After all you must do something to maintain your level of fitness right?

Coming up with what to do is very important, but it must be stated you must do something. A size-able amount of fitness can be lost over the course of 2 to 3 weeks. The season between your last big important race and the base season must be filled with something to carry on all the hard work from the previous 44 to 48 weeks.

First and foremost the off season is the time to have fun again, do that which reminds you why you started pursuing the sport in the first place. I tell people to go out and enjoy riding again. Go do your favorite loop, ride with that slower friend, ride with family, ride to your favorite lunch spot. Just have fun and remind yourself why you enjoy riding.

Luckily there is a little invention of cyclocross to help ease some of the off season blues. Cross is fun, a good hard effort and usually has beer afterwards!! This is also the time to focus on a few other things

There are a few basic concepts to an off season.

-Have fun:

As stated above its important to enjoy yourself once again. It is critical for your metal sanity to let your mind rest form a rigorous training method

-Improve that which you are week in

You can take the time to focus on weakness’s. During the season it is important to focus on this as well. But during the off season you can work on it much more with out worry that it might not be a good idea before “x” race. I know this might not be the most fun, but it can be treated as a goal and use this as motivation.

-Start strength training

Start hitting the gym once or twice a week with minimal weight. The idea is to get the soreness out of the legs (from lifting) before the base miles start again. Weight lifting can be fun, and really get some mental stamina back as well. This is also the appropriate time to rebuild any weakness from miles and miles on the bike.

-Cross train

Do you enjoy skiing? skating? or something else. This can be a great way to keep aerobic activity up but still do something fun and exciting. Go out there and enjoy!

-Set a Goal

Maybe there is a big late season race coming up. This is an excellent way to keep motivated. Just like the start of the season, set a goal and stick to it. There are several bodies of research that show how well the human psyche responds to goal setting and achieving.

What about a break?

Taking a break is very important, especially in a sport that is repetitious as cycling. If you consider the average training season is 4-500 hours long; that is 2 to 2.4 million pedal strokes. You need a break. For high endurance athletes (cyclist, some runners, long distance triathletes, adventure racers) your body can not maintain this for ever. You therefore need a break at some point. After a full season it is desirable to take 2 weeks or so off. I know I mentioned above you can and will loose some fitness, it is good to have cycles to everything during the training life.

Enjoy the off season.

Ride Hard


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