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cyclocross training program

Skills needed in cyclocross racing

Skills needed in cyclocross racing

Cyclocross racing requires a special skill which can stem from road cycling, mountain biking and a small amount of running. Raced around a man-made circuit which usually involves open fields, parks, sand and sometimes snow. Cyclocross is a unique sport which requires you to train specifically to the demands of cyclocross racing.

Cyclocross racing usually follows a lapped circuit of between 2-3km in distance, and the duration of the race lasts from around 45mins up to 1hr. How do we train specifically for an event like this?

Cyclocross racing is typically raced slightly above your threshold heart rate. This includes numerous bursts of power from 10-30secs followed by a period at a controlled effort (usually at or above your threshold heart rate).

A typical cyclocross course consists of many laps over the 60mins. You can have over 100 of these short bursts of power efforts. Accelerating out of corners and accelerating up short climbs is part of cyclocross racing.

While short bursts of power are needed over the course of a cyclocross race. Leg speed is just as important. Leg speed provides a foundation for the faster hard packed surfaces on the course or the grass fields.

Some races you will find yourself fighting through wet conditions and slippery surfaces unable to produce a lot of force. You are then required to tackle these parts of the courses with a higher cadence.

Training for a cyclocross race requires focusing on these variables. Training to replicate these bursts of power. Change of cadence during the event and an increase in your threshold power.


Putting together a plan for cyclocross racing.

  • Focus on 1-5min power output
  • explosive power over 10-30sec also combined with the above
  • higher cadence and changes in cadence throughout threshold efforts.
  • 20min threshold efforts building up to slightly above your threshold.
  • replicating courses, by doing fartlek type sessions broken into 2x30min efforts – replicating the total time spent during a race.

Fartlek comes from running but can also be introduced into cyclocross training.

Taking 2x30min efforts over similar terrain to that of cyclocross. Replicating the efforts needed in the race and using half the time of each effort as recovery.

This means accelerating climbs, higher cadence efforts across parts of the course, and riding at steady state efforts. These can help you adapt to the rigors of cyclocross racing while also being fun and enjoyable. This also allows the body to work through a range of Heart rate zones.


Cyclocross Technique

The technique is a big part of cyclocross racing. Good technique through corners, picking the right lines and being able to dismount is all crucial factors for cyclocross racing.
Focus on key things such as dismounting and getting back onto your bike at speed. Focusing one day a week on the technical side of the training can help improve both the enjoyment, result and safety in a cyclocross race. Practicing the safest and correct lines through a corner can help keep momentum both in and out of a corner.
These techniques can be put into practice on single trails, remounting and dismounting can be practiced in an open field.


The technique can be implemented 

3 sets of 5 dismounts, running with the bike and then remounting. Starting at a slower pace and decreasing the dismount and remount time as you move through each set.
Taking a small single track effort of 30secs and practicing different lines and finding the safest and fast route through the corners.
Practicing riding through sand or mudding terrain focusing on a higher cadence while controlling the bikes handling.

cyclocross racing


Putting together a cyclocross training plan

Here is a sample layout of a week training for a cyclocross racer.

Guidelines throughout the season

  • Focus on two days a week with intense efforts.
  • 2 days of recovery (with one of these days being a low-intensity ride)
  • In season focusing on one-day technique training, with the beginning of the season focusing on two days a week.
  • Include 1-2 days a week focusing on higher cadence efforts. This can be included in long rides or distance rides.



Usually a recovery day. Keeping in HR zone 1. this allows the body to recover from the weekends training and prepare the body for the week to come.


v02 type of efforts. this involves efforts above your threshold hr.
20mins warm up in HR zone 2 including 2-3 efforts of 30secs to raise the hr and warm up the legs.
Followed by:

5x3mins @ HR zone 5 and increasing the cadence by 5-8rpm across each effort. Recovery between is 3mins.
20mins warm down @ hr zone 1-2
as the season progresses We can add in a steady state 20min threshold effort after this type of session.


Distance ride of 60-90mins. which includes 10×15-45sec high cadence efforts split across the ride
Usually spent in HR zone 2-3


Typically, Thursday efforts we focus on longer threshold efforts such as
10-20mins warm up @ hr zone 2 including some efforts like Tuesday in the warm-up

Followed by:
3x15mins/ 3x20mins or 5x10mins with half of the interval time in HR zone 1
these efforts are produced anywhere from 92% up to 104% of your threshold. Depending on what part of the season you are in.


Complete rest day


Technical training or Fartlek type session
Start at 1x30min effort and building into 2x30min fartlek efforts with 10mins easy riding between blocks @ HR zone1


Longer ride of up to 2-3hrs in duration including some bursts of high cadence spread across the ride



Of course, this layout of training has been taken during the season. The offseason is a great time to focus on cadence and technical riding. Building up into the Tuesday efforts and slowly increase the percentage of your threshold HR or Power during the threshold sessions.

Depending on the type of rider you are, and your background it is recommended to have a recovery week every 4-5weeks.

During this recovery week, we can introduce tests such as max cadence tests, threshold 20min tests, technical riding tests and so forth. This way you can manage performance gains or technical riding gains. Then take this information and constantly adjust your training to maximize the best results.

Then adjust the training to what you think needs to be developed more.