The 90 minute cyclocross workout

Summer is here and if you're like many cyclists, you've ridden yourself into shape this Spring. But the physical demands of cyclocross in the Fall are different compared to the steady-state fitness you get from long group road rides with a group on the road. 

Cyclocross races are very on/off - intense efforts, followed by short breaks (for example, an opportunity to recover while you coast down a descent) and then right back to the next intense effort. To be ready, you need hard workouts that include cyclocross-specific skills, like running with the bike. 

Here is an interval workout you can use to work on your dismount and remount skills, adapted from two excellent books: Training and Racing with a Power Meter, and Cyclocross: Training and Technique. To do the workout, you need a timer like a Garmin GPS or wristwatch, your 'cross bike, and a grass or dirt loop, like a city park. 

In addition to the intense physical effort, you'll also be dismounting and remounting your bike repeatedly, a great way to get your body accustomed to staying smooth while performing those skills, even when your heart is pounding. 

Here's how to do the workout: 

  • To warm up, spin easily for 20 minutes on the way to your course
  • Set your Garmin or watch to beep every 30 seconds
  • Start by pedaling at very high intensity - a pace that would be impossible to maintain for more than a minute. When your watch beeps at 30 seconds, start coasting. 
  • Coast (soft-pedal if needed to keep the bike moving) for 30 seconds. 
  • Now dismount, shoulder your bike, and run at a high effort for 30 seconds. 
  • Keep it up for 10 minutes, alternating the very high intensity cycling, coasting, and running with the bike for 30 seconds each until 10 minutes elapse. That's one interval. 
  • Now take a 5 minute break with easy spinning before resuming the next 10 minute interval, and repeat the 10 minute interval as time and fitness permit

Do three 10-minute intervals followed by a 20 minute spin home, and you've packed a difficult, skill-building workout into just 90 minutes.

This workout packs a punch and you'll struggle to complete it at first. As your fitness improves and the cyclocross racing season approaches, add more intervals and/or decrease the recovery time between intervals to keep it challenging. 

See you at the races!