By: Elite Coach Christian Sheridan
If you watched any of the first three rounds of the USCX series over the past few weekends, you will have seen the extremes of cyclocross conditions. The opening weekend in Roanoke, VA was hot, dry, dusty, and fast. The pros were wearing light weight skinsuits, running file tread tires, and carrying a bottle on the bike. Two weeks later, the races at Charm City in Baltimore were run in the rain of a literal hurricane. Long sleeves, mud tires and the longest shoe spikes you can get your hands on were in order.
To race cyclocross all you really need is a bike with some knobbier tires, no bar ends, and a desire on your part to have some fun in the dirt, but as the description of the changeable conditions over the past few weekends suggests, to race cross seriously, you need to channel your inner scout and Be Prepared. Some of the items I always make sure I have with me when racing cross include:
- Knee, leg, and arm warmers. Even if you only wear them for warm up, you’ll be happier on cold days. On really cold days, I like to start warming up wearing a pair of zip-off warm up pants that I can pull off over my shoes at the line.
- An extra jersey and base layer. Especially if you need to wait at the line or between races after your warmup and your own start, there’s nothing worse than standing around in a wet, cold kit.
- Toe spikes. You don’t need a whole assortment of every length, but I try to have at least some short, soccer-style cleats, and a longer pair.
- If you’ve got them, extra shoes. I always hang on to an old pair when I replace my shoes and keep the old ones as backups.
- Extra clothes, especially socks for after the race.
- A good floor pump or inflator and accurate pressure gauge to get your pressure dialed in.
- If you’re traveling or racing more than once in a weekend, a spare derailleur hanger (and the tools and know how to change it) for your bike will keep you racing if you mangle yours in a crash.
Do you need all this to race cross? Certainly not, but you will have a better time and give yourself a greater chance of success if you’re prepared for everything cross can throw at you.
Christian Sheridan is a Level 2 USAC cycling coach, a professor at University of Virginia, Charlottesville, and a father of one. He has coached athletes at all levels and has helped several athletes upgrade from Cat 5 to Cat 2. Christian can be contacted through firstname.lastname@example.org or www.peakscoachinggroup.com.