1) Ride Short and Hard
The most practical aspect of cyclocross is that it involves much less time out in the cold. Races are typically 40 minutes to an hour, so to prepare for this duration do lots of shorter rides at a higher intensity.
These sessions are really easy to execute and can be squeezed into your commute if necessary. Just make sure you are warmed up before hand as they require riding as hard as you can, making it easy to pick up an injury.
An example session would be 30/30s, which are great for improving your top-end power:
20 minute: Warm-up
30 seconds: as hard as you can go
30 seconds : freewheel / soft pedaling (repeat 8-10 times)
10: minute easy riding to cool down.
This is great for a cold morning or evening as it keeps you warm and engaged!
2) Practice getting off!
As the courses get muddier and more technical you will find yourself having to run much more often. Dismounting twice a lap over ten laps amounts to 20 dismounts - so it pays to be able to do it well!
The best way to master dismounting is to practice regularly. By doing it over and over again you will gain confidence and get smoother. This video from GCN shows how cyclocross legend Sven Nys masters getting on and off:
3) Wear a watch!
Cyclocross bikes are extremely minimalist compared to other bikes. No bottle cage, no saddlebag, no front mech and no cycle computer. However the more seasoned cyclocross racers choose to wear a watch, to keep data from races and to know how long you've been riding.
A cyclocross race can feel like an eternity when the pain is kicking, so knowing how long you've got to ride will really help you fight through.
4) Ride off road
The best way to prepare for cyclocross is to regularly ride off road. Get acquainted with the feeling of the bike sliding underneath you and how to find traction on different surfaces. The more surfaces you can ride on the better. Find grass, mud, sand and get used to each surface. The best cyclocross racers can adapt their riding style between sticky mud and sloppy mud, through gaining years of experience!
5) Go watch a race
Cyclocross races are fun to spectate. The multiple laps means you see the riders frequently whilst the tricky sections guarantee spectacular entertainment. For the best spectating, Belgium is the place to go. Cyclocross racers are treated like rockstars and the beer tent is always where the party is!
In the UK cyclocross has gotten increasingly popular with home grown talent like Tom Pidcock, Ben Tullett and Ben Turner, which has made the National Trophy series very competitive. The national championships is the highlight of the British season and is usually contested in January with muddy and attritional conditions.
Whilst you are here...
... did you know that if you take part in races or sportives you are covered by Laka's race cover? The only exception being if you are professionally paid to participate. So if you hit the deck on the first corner of your local crit, Laka has got you covered. Find out more - Laka