Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Refletions on a cyclocross clinic: Skills to work on

Start/Finish flats at Aldor Acres. I have my angry face on.

The School of Cross has come and gone, and I have a need to jot down some of the finer points that Mr. Schooler schooled us on. Cross is all about compartmentalizing each individual technique, obstacle, or challenge, completing it with the most efficient means possible using the least amount of energy. Essentially, cross racers are lazy. Or hasty, but highly skilled.... Hopefully. Be smooth, as Schooler definitely was, on all of his examples before we practiced.

On the race report via CX Magazine, Aaron writes

"The first clinic of the School of Cross series went off without a hitch on Saturday with over 20 degree Celsius weather kicking off the clinic, and it only got hotter. The morning started off with the basics: mounting, dismounting and shouldering, with more of the practice skills coming in the afternoon like bunny-hopping, cornering, stairs, barriers, and much more!"

So here are my two cents from the clinic. 

Dismounts: At the clinic, AS taught a different way to dismount by swinging the leg over, then grabbing the TT while approaching the obstacle (e.g. Barriers), saddle firmly attached to the hip for (always) three points of contact. The rider then dismounts and suitcases the bike over said obstacle. This sounds simple enough, but I managed to crash on my second go of this technique. Very different from keeping my hands on the hoods and approaching the barriers one leg over already. On bumpy terrain, this is difficult to keep the bike headed in a straight line. I experienced this at the race where I had to keep both hands firmly on the hoods heading into the very bumper terrain before the Aldor Acres barriers. Funny how old habits come back in times of stress.With 35 practice dismounts this evening, I think I have it now. 

Remounts: This one still needs a tonne of practice. Tonight I attempted 35 remounts. I think I hit 3 or 4 clean ones without a double left foot hop. A work in progress. It feels good to nail a proper remount. It does not feel good to nail your junk. As a bigger guy, I feel like I am going to break my frame or something else. Need more remounts to be more comfortable, so that it is second nature.

Shouldering: Piece of cake. I have the running down, no problems there. Except for the knocking of the saddle on the back of my head.  Keep the bike level with your shoulder so the saddle doesn't bump you in the back of the head when going up. Remember, small, quick steps, high cadence, and no sprinting. That is how you pull a muscle or exert too much energy. 

Putting all of these together (I know I have missed others) is key to being smooth, efficient, and quick. If you do all of them right every time, you might be Sven Nys. I am still figuring how to put a clean race together for everything that I have to deal with in a cross race. Fitness is big, knowing how to read a race is huge, lying in wait then pouncing is crucial. And technique.

Fitness/form, awareness, bike preparations, and technique are the few things you control in a CX race. Get good those four, then you can concentrate on your redlining. Practicing each compartmentalized skill makes things easier. When they are second nature, old habits will die.