Arguably the most crowd-pleasing form of bike racing out there also incorporates the most even blend of road fitness and dirt skills imaginable. Cyclocross takes everything that’s technically challenging about mountain bike racing and mashes it together with all things intimidating about criterium racing. Not to mention, Cyclocross riders face the demands of high-level suffering for up to an hour’s worth of all-out effort — all while enduring the mêlée of heckling crowds like those you might see in the high passes of the grand tours.
While the technical skills of a proficient ‘cross racer can only be cultivated outdoors, the fitness needed to win Cyclocross races can be gained entirely indoors. The ideal Cyclocross rider will strike an even balance of indoor interval sessions and outdoor skills work, and our newly revised Cyclocross Specialty blocks are aimed at helping you deftly shoulder the indoor-training burden.
A combination of deep aerobic fitness, high-end muscular endurance and repeatable high-power bursts and surges requires a well-rounded training approach. We’ve tackled this approach before, but it’s worth revisiting.
While our one-stop Cyclocross training plans are still useful, we’ve retired the previous plans to our Plan Archives in favor of a sleeker 8-week Specialty Block that allows riders to keep their Base and Build conditioning a bit more general (physically speaking) and somewhat removed from the stricter, race-specific focus you’ll face later during specialization.
Cyclocross Demands & Training
Now that you’re familiar with the variety of capabilities that create a Cyclocross racer, consider the mishmash of efforts these riders face on courses with a wide array of terrains, weather conditions and technical challenges not found in other events. By doing so, it becomes difficult to imagine how one athlete can possibly address so many training concerns within just an 8-week period.
However, it is possible. We’ve created a set of varied-volume training blocks that narrow down your concern to choosing a plan based on your weekly training allowance, and then finding the right time and place to carry out the necessary skills work and run training that complement the on-the-bike fitness we’ll help you refine in time for your most important events.
These 8-week blocks will elevate your highest aerobic power through a consistent weekly dose of forgivingly-short but punishingly-intense VO2max intervals, and they’ll see to it that you never neglect your ability to generate high watts from low—or even no—speed. Then, when it comes to race-specific simulations, each week contains at least one opportunity to familiarize your body and mind with the harsh, painfully-repetitious, high-intensity intervals.
Additionally, you’ll have the option of swapping out your very first workout for an FTP assessment if you feel your training zones need refreshing. Plus, the higher-volume versions of these specialty blocks will help you keep tabs on your aerobic base anywhere from 1-3 times a week.
Specialty Block Structure
Each specialty block, regardless of weekly volume, will use its first six weeks to raise your training load incrementally at a rate relative to the volume-version you select. Riders training with more intense training blocks with more weekly hours will see larger increases in stress than riders training with the bare minimum weekly hours; however, all riders will enter a recovery week during their fourth week of specialization before tapering during the final two weeks of training.
The severity of each of these taper weeks, as well the recovery format of Week 4, will change based on the amount of training stress you’re accommodating each week. For example, low-volume trainers will see a more subtle training-load reduction than higher-volume trainers will.
Predictably, each subsequent week will subject you to workouts that become increasingly race-specific and often more physically demanding, but steer clear of loading on too much stress during a training block that’s geared toward refinement versus heavy training loads.
We recommend that riders precede the Cyclocross Specialty blocks with a Short Power Build block. That being said, the General Build blocks are perfectly usable Build alternatives if you want to keep those workouts more diverse.
Ideally, your Build training will come on the heels of 6-12 weeks of Sweet Spot Base training or perhaps 12 weeks of Traditional Base conditioning. However, it’s likely you’ll be coming off an MTB or Road season where your base fitness is firmly in place and your focus is more along the lines of shaping your race-specific fitness in time for your second or even third season of racing.
Here are a few recommendations based on some likely training and racing scenarios. If none of these quite suit your specific needs, check out our recent post on additional Inter-Peak Training Alternatives.
- 28 Weeks Out: 12 weeks of Sweet Spot Base conditioning + 8 weeks of Short Power Build conditioning + 8 weeks of Cyclocross specialization
- 16 Weeks between Road & ‘Cross Season: 8 weeks of General Build training + 8 weeks of Cyclocross specialty block
- 12 Weeks between MTB & ‘Cross Season: 4 weeks of Traditional Base III + 8 weeks of Cyclocross specialization
- 5-Week Gap between Seasons: Jump right into your Cyclocross specialty block but start during the Week 4 recovery week
Whether you’re building fitness from scratch or carrying form from training earlier in the year, our new and improved Cyclocross specialty blocks will see to it that you’re training abilities are finely tuned in time for the most important Cyclocross races coming up on your calendar.
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