Extending the Cyclocross Season

6:09 AM

Can we please get some sketchy conditions soon?

My third best point total is about to drop off of my Results and Rankings report at USA Cycling.  Last year’s MN State Championship was a pretty good race for me – it was snowing, cold, and each lap made conditions just a bit icier – so as the one-year anniversary approaches I should be packing up my racing kit for the 2012 edition.

Nope, it’s two weeks later this year – in December.

Trivia question: who won the 2011 US Cyclocross Championships?

Answer: no one. 
The season that started in 2011 was the first extended CX season, so the championships were in January, 2012.

With the pushing of the US cyclocross season into January to match up with the international calendar and the World Championships, there have been a few adjustments for crossers to make.  My local association mirrors others around the country that are organizing competitions for their racers through December to bridge to January’s finale.  This is my first year on the new calendar (yep, I signed up for my age-group race at Nationals…eek!), and so far there are some new challenges and unexpected benefits in training and races.

Training 

With the move back to Standard Time a week ago, training has just gotten more difficult to sandwich in when the sun is up.  I work an early job, so I am one of the lucky ones that can get out on the roads before full darkness hits around 5:00 pm if I scramble and rush home after work (and don’t have any meetings or last minute details to clear up, which never happens).  But as we are losing over two minutes of daylight every day, even these hurried efforts are going to be put at risk as I head into December.

Of course, you have to remember that crossers don’t need the huge hours of training we needed in September.  There is no reason to be working on the base right now, and training plans should shift toward solid intervals and shorter speed work.  More than anything, the self-coached athlete has a tendency to over- rather than under-train, so while the dwindling hours and distance totals in the training calendar may cause some concern, they are probably a good thing.

By December, though, those of us still training for races will have to face the inevitable move to the spinner.  Ugh.  Even typing it makes my face screw up into a grimace.  The dark, the cold, and the unpredictable weather of the last month of the year will have me searching my i-pod for a song list that makes spinning less annoying.  I hope I find it.

Races 

Yep, I actually want a mud race that ruins
my bottom bracket...
I was looking forward to this year’s later-season races because they are more likely to be plagued with cold, wind, wet, mud, and snow.  So far, nothing, but I have hope.  I’m a bit annoyed with Minnesota cyclocross this year because every course, with a few notable exceptions, is a flat pancake with no technical elements.  If the promoters won’t design selective courses, weather, it appears, is my only hope. 

The 2012 National Championships brought more variety in course conditions over five days than many expected.  The early races were unbelievably warm (60s in Madison, Wisconsin in December is hardly something you would even dream of), and some recent rain quickly turned the course into a mud-fest of epic proportions.  Those that raced early in the morning, on the other hand, had to deal with frozen ground (lows still dipped into the 30s) that ripped at tires and made the corners slick and slippery. 

So while things have been pretty tame so far, I look forward to more chaotic races in December…fingers crossed!

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