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Cyclocross

We offer 3 versions of our Cyclocross Training Plans to accommodate weekly training volumes ranging from 4-8 hours. Each plan is primarily focused on indoor, interval workouts but there are recommendations for Run workouts which can be performed on a treadmill but ideally outdoors.


There are also time slots for Skills Work sessions, and both are very important components of cyclocross training and racing; however, our focus here at TrainerRoad is primarily the cycling component.

So the Run workouts and Skill workouts will not be addressed in the same level of detail as the bike workouts but recommendations concerning where to insert these workouts as well as general workout descriptions are included.

Weekly Hours and Plan Durations

  1. Low-Volume: 3 weekly workouts, 150-330 TSS range, 2.5-4 hours/week; additional Run/Skills workouts add about 1-1.5 hours/week.
  2. Mid-Volume: 4 weekly workouts, 180-450 TSS range, 3-5 hours/week; additional Run/Skills workouts add about 1-1.5 hours/week.
  3. High-Volume: 5 weekly workouts, 220-600 TSS range, 4-8 hours/week; additional Run/Skills workouts add about 2 hours/week.

 

Plan Durations

We offer 2 straightforward plan-duration options as well as a third, more flexible option based on your specific race schedule and incoming fitness level.

  1. 12-Week: Riders can bypass the 8 weeks comprising Base 1 and Base 2 if their incoming fitness level is high or their cyclocross season is a short one.
  2. 20-Week: Less conditioned riders are advised to incorporate the 8 weeks of base conditioning prior to tackling the more demanding Build phases.
  3. Somewhere in Between: Based on intended peak fitness/key events, riders can begin anywhere within the Base phases that suits their schedule and needs.

Additionally, any riders who are starting from scratch but wishing to do their first cyclocross races are advised to begin with our Sweet Spot Base plans.

They can then use weeks of the Cyclocross Training Plans as their primary means of race conditioning. 

Specific Intensity

At the heart, our cyclocross training plans are workouts comprised of numerous, very short VO2max efforts immediately followed by equally short, and sometimes shorter, recovery periods. These workouts are in the same vein as the loved/loathed microburst workouts.

These efforts are not only very much in line with the demands of relatively short but highly intense cyclocross races, but they're also an exceptional way to cultivate anaerobic power, aerobic power and aerobic endurance simultaneously.

Reduced Amplitude Billats

Reduced-Amplitude Billats, henceforth referred to as RAB's, allow riders to accumulate lengthy overall durations at very high percentages of FTP. Compare riding continuously for 2 or 3 minutes at 125% FTP to accumulating 2 or 3 minutes in 15-second increments and it's easy to see which is the more tolerable approach.

This allows riders to accumulate greater time at intensity than they'd otherwise be able to achieve. These bursts are short enough that they diminish the acidic muscle accumulation that so often forces riders to back off. Just as the muscles start to really burn you enter a lower-intensity valley referred to as a float that quickly clears this accumulation.

This isn't to say that 2-3 minute VO2max intervals don't have their place, but how often do you perform efforts of that intensity for minutes at a time during a 'cross race? But how often do you hit it really hard for 15-20 seconds before easing up for a few seconds and then going again? It's clear that RAB's are the more event-specific training approach to cyclocross racing. 


Too Much of a Good Thing

Reduced Amplitude Billats are exceptional when it comes to balancing suffering with productivity, training stress with training benefit, work with reward. But there comes a point where additional work will come at too great an expense during your next workout and consequently your overall training progress.

Learn to find that line between productive and detrimental amounts of suffering in order to avoid performance setbacks. Just because you can do more doesn't necessarily mean that you should do more; unfortunately, the only way to find this balance is through a bit of trial and error.

But here's the line we're trying to walk: accumulation of time at a very high percentage of FTP or even the highest level of aerobic output, i.e. VO2max, manageable levels of lactate/acidic accumulation, and repeatability without excessive fatigue during subsequent sets and subsequent workouts.


General Notes

  • Assess via our 20 Minute Test, 8 Minute Test or Sufferfest's Rubber Glove prior to beginning a new training plan or new phase of training. 

    Reassessment can be done in lieu of race simulations or simply inserted at the end of a Recovery Week prior to your first interval workout of the coming week.
  • Whenever possible, substitute an actual race for any scheduled race simulation workout like BlueBarren, or Blood.

  • If you know that you race better with a priming workout the day before your race but you're very limited on time, consider scheduling a short but intense Run workout, e.g. 3x1 Hill Repeats, the day prior to your race.

    While it might not be on the bike, the intensity is high and a Run workout can often be accomplished in very little time.

  • Riders short on time may elect to skip the LSCT warmup by starting at minute 16:00. In this case, it might be necessary to drop the Workout Intensity by 10% on the first couple of intervals then 5% on the next few intervals until eventually reaching full power fairly early in the workout.

    Alternatively, starting the workout at minute 10:00 will still include a couple easy minutes plus the final 3 minutes of the warmup which often includes some higher-intensity efforts.

  • If you're using an electronic trainer and usually rely on Erg mode, switch to Slope mode for Race Starts and Big Gear Starts

  • Almost all warm-downs are 3 minutes in length but you can extend them by loading an Active Recovery or Aerobic Endurance ride after your workout. 

 

Skill Workouts

  • Skill workouts can be part of your longer Aerobic Endurance rides and don't necessarily need to be independent workouts.

    For example, if you have a 3-hour AE ride, trim the ride to 2.5 hours of AE and use the remaining 30 minutes for Skill work.

    Occasionally, try inserting the Skill work at different times during the workout, e.g. just before the AE ride, just after the AE ride, even occasionally in the middle of a longer AE ride.

  • Races can fulfill some or all your week's Skill work requirement.

  • Detailed Skill workouts are outside of the scope of our area of expertise but should include fast starts, dismounting at various speeds, remounting both in the handlebar drops and on the brake hoods, bunny-hopping, cornering, and riding in sand. 

  • Skill workouts should be as specific to your racing demands as possible. If you anticipate cornering in mud or riding through sand, drills of this nature should be take precedence over skills you anticipate relying less upon.

 

Run Workouts

  • Running, though often just a minor component of cyclocross racing, should be as specific to your needs and abilities as possible. If you know you'll frequently run in mud and/or ice, some of your training runs should take place in similar conditions. 

  • Races can fulfill some or all of your week's Run requirement.

  • Running needs to be periodized in much the same way as riding, i.e. some level of base should be in place before any intensity is recommended.

  • Early Season Runs can be as short as 10-15 minutes at a leisurely pace but should build to 30 minutes of steady effort over 6-8 weeks.

  • After 6-8 weeks of these relatively easy base runs, try to add 2-3 runs per week to your training schedule. Keep them in the 20-25 minute range and run at a pace increasingly quicker than your early-season base runs.

  • As your fitness improves, so too should your running pace but the duration remains short.

  • It's best to run on fresher legs in order to avoid injury, so try to schedule your runs before your bike workouts.

  • If you notice that your runs are negatively impacting your ride workouts and/or races, reduce the weekly number of runs or omit them entirely after the initial 6-8 weeks of base runs.

  • Conversely, if you recognize running as a limiter in your races, something that's costing you positions each lap, consider incorporating more running in your weekly regimen.

  • There's no need to incorporate high-intensity intervals into your running regimen - your bike workouts will cover those bases.
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Comments

  • Avatar
    James Britton

    Hi Chad, I'm loving the workouts. I'm a week into the 20 week low volume workout which I've been doing using my Wahoo Kickr. I'm not quite sure how we should be mixing this with my other cycling?

    I intend to keep doing the workouts and then add in a commute 40 mins each way commute 3 days a week when I'm not doing a plan workout. You mention about Aerobic endurance workouts. Should I be combining this with longer AE rides? I would probably average 1 2-3hr ride a week in addition.

    So on a good week I'll be doing Monday, Wednesday and Friday - Commute for 40mins each way at low intensity, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday - traineroad workout, weekend 2-3 hr ride (which is when I'll mix in the skills). I may also do a run or 2 a week. Does that sounds about right? Many thanks James

  • Avatar
    Chad Timmerman

    Hey James,

    Your mix sounds excellent, especially if you're keeping up with it and your fitness is on the upswing. Your aerobic endurance is likely to see healthy improvements with your long ride coupled with those shorter commutes you sprinkle into your week.

    As long as you're leaving a bit of time to rest up and keep coming back strong each week, taking a recovery week when you start to fade, you have what I consider to be an ideal training approach.

  • Avatar
    nicholas edwards

    Hi Chad,
    I'm doing the 20 week High Volume CX program. Just wondering I can't see and details surrounding the run workout recommendations within any of the outline. Can you make any recommendations with regards to this?

  • Avatar
    Chad Timmerman

    Hi Nicholas,

    Apologies for the delay, just returning from a short vacation. Much like the tri plans, we don't (yet?) get very specific on non-cycling workouts but this could change as my education/experience background in running & swimming grows.

    But I will say that you don't need much running volume each week, at least not in comparison to runners or multisport athletes, and the runs themselves should be rather specific to 'cross demands, e.g. shoulder your bike, run steps, jump barriers, mounting/remounting included at times, etc.

    Personally, I favor hill run-ups since they're not quite so hard on the joints, you can make them pretty intense as your fitness grows, and they are typically where you find yourself running in a cyclocross race.

    So find a short, 20-30 second hill and sprint to the top, mosey back down and do it again, maybe 6-10 times. How much recovery you include after each hill sprint should be tied to how close you are to your key races, i.e. the closer you get, the less recovery you're allowed between sprints. Over time, lump some of these run-ups into your outdoor and/or skill workouts to make them even more useful.

    Beyond that, 1-2 continuous, low-intensity runs per week in the 20 to 30-minute range following a bike workout is a good idea too.

  • Avatar
    Christopher Welsh

    Hello Chad,

    How should we progress through the plans if the goal is cyclocross racing? Start with sweet spot base 1 and 2, then short power build, and then the 20 week cyclocross plan? Or, does the cyclocross plan incorporate base and build? I am currently finishing sweet spot base 1 and plan to do base 2, but was wondering if I should skip build and go right to the 20 week cyclocross plan. That would fit my schedule for racing in the fall.

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