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Should you race cyclocross? | A response to Joe Friel

imageGoogle Alerts picks up lots of tidbits for me. Especially the roughly 40 variants of keywords I have set for “cyclocross.” So without fail, my alert discovered that Joe Friel, author of The Training Bible, had taken the time to write an article  on the TrainingPeaks blog about cyclocross! Should you race cyclocross? Hell yeah! And here is Joe himself to profess the merits of our sport. 

Cut to the chase: the blog post…not a testament offering what I hoped would be evangelical prose on racing the beautiful sport.

The brief blog post talks about how taking on a full load of cross in the winter…and along with it blowing-up your body’s stress index…is detrimental to goals you may have in the spring and summer on the road and mountain bike. Honestly: fair enough. I’m not a kinesiologist or exercise physiologist, nor do I play one on TV. I leave that level of planning and timing performance peaks to the pros like Joe. But there are massive tidbits of value on the subject that were glossed over by Joe in his post. Let e try to articulate that without sounding like a knob…

a) On Type A++’ers: I think Joe’s post is right. I think it is an accurate and critical assessment that cross can nuke certain goals. And thus if you are an inordinately driven soul, driven to compete from early bird crits in January to the various road and crit championships in late summer and fall with teeth clenched race after race, then indeed skip cross. The post to me was angled towards a specific breed of person that I think would stress over this ‘heavy decision’ to race cross and likely will heed Joe’s advice. And maybe I’m speaking about folks coming back to fitness after long respite…and they need this level of guidance to be told to skip racing ’everything’ that allows you to pin on a number. The Type A++’er who is going to get it on no matter what, no matter where. The post is absolutely responsible in this light. Joe’s giving you a warning if you fit this demographic.

b) Cross *is* a Focused-upon Season now: The post neglected a massive movement in the industry and in racing. It’s something called cyclocross. I am not sure if Joe is not intimate with ‘cross or the folks now dedicating themselves to it….but cross is a full season raced from September to January, weekend in and out (both days) for that entire period and is the soul focus (and joy) of it’s dedicated participants. It’s not this obscure ‘training season’ any longer for masses of racers (1,600 racers in Portland in ONE WEEKEND last year!). It’s exactly why I haven’t pinned a number on my back to do a crit or a road race in more than two years given my need to preserve my flesh (due to a whole lot of Type A++ folks with little experience in pack riding who tend to make the dominoes fall consistently) and frankly not over cook my old bones before the beautiful season starts. It also precludes all of my favorite people in racing who have, like me, abandoned road and crit racing due to family and job commitments and the fact it just ain’t fun. I’d love to have heard a shout out on this in Joe’s post…or maybe see a subsequent post on how to ramp up effectively for ‘cross.

c) What happened to fun?: So I mention it a bit above: FUN. Competition and goal setting is important to success. It sets milestones you aim for to see, feel and gain improvement in your sport (or family life or business life, or relationships….etc). But ‘cross. Oh, ‘cross she is so fun. She is liberating and cathartic. What Joe missed the point completely on how doing cross can fundamentally re-charge mental batteries on a long road or MTB season and re-galvanize why we ride bikes let alone pin a number on while riding bikes. There’s time to purge demons from your soul by riding until your eyes bleed and slaying your nemeses in your local Cat 35+4 race. But for the masses racing cross, it’s about communing with friends, celebrating the gear and making each lap smooth. The culture is what we have made it and at its core is about the fun. 

So Joe’s post was a interesting one for me and I hope my points are clear. Should you race ‘cross? Remember this face when you are faced with crossing that chasm. You will find the answer.


Reader Comments (9)

I suppose trainin gpeaks knows their clientele pretty well and figure that cross isn't for "theirs." Oh well, in my opinion they missed an opportunity to grow their business by appealing to people like you and I who ride all the time but only or mostly race cross. Seems kind of silly to pander to your base when you could easily expand it in a fast growing area.

August 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDW

Unless you're making much dinero racing which almost nobody is I say if it's not " fun " why the hell are you doing it ???
Cross is WAY more fun too watch as a spectator than any road race will ever be as well. Plus it's way cooler and more awesome than road racing.Try telling the Euro's it's not a " real " sport. They may try and kill you.WWWUUT WWWUUUTTTTTT

August 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRSTEVE

Yeah, I read that post thinking it would be about CX training. No dice.

Although Hunter does have power-based CX workouts for sale on the TrainingPeaks site...

August 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAH

I got into cross about 6 years ago as something to do in the "off season" from triathlon. Fast forward a few years and add a couple of kids and my available time to log the necessary volume in the pool, on the TT bike, and run in order to be moderately competitive (especially in Boulder County) just doesn't exist anymore. I still do a couple of tri's a summer but now they are for base building for cross season! BTW - I'm currently doing an HR based training plan from Training Peaks.

August 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCan't Wait to Race!

Go have fun people, the only people who care about results, are people who care about results, fish counters, NOBODY CARES WHO FINISHED 4TH OR 46TH. Now if you take the beer hand up, THAT makes you a winner. Here here! Nuke that. Come and battle, and win, we all suffer the same, some just get to the finish line a few minutes earlier, and nobody really cares.

August 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterElgee

Thanks for checking out the TrainingPeaks blog! You may also be interested in some of our other recent cross entries such as this one:

Good luck to everyone racing Cross Vegas! TrainingPeaks will have several representatives there - excited to be involved with a great sport!

August 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

All summer I "prepare" for fall. Then in December, I drink and eat without catholic guilt. - Furious

September 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJamie E

A-freakin-MEN to having FUN! Your letter 'C' is what any and all training sites just miss. Period. There are many ways to get fit, and not all of them involve a powertap, road bike, and a structured training regime. Sure, that stuff can work, but also can lead to burnout if you're not having fun. Why do you race? Why do you ride? I hope they are the same answer...?

September 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMeriwether

Friel is quite the purist.

There was such a large differential between my race performance in the heat versus in cool weather that it just made sense to make cross season my "on" season. (And also it is more fun to me than any other type of race.)

September 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermb

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