‘Starting Cyclo-cross’ with Helen Wyman

Photo Courtesy of ©cyclephotos.co.uk

Photo Courtesy of ©cyclephotos.co.uk

The Cyclo-cross (CX) season may be well and truly underway, but there’s still plenty of time to get kitted out and give it a go.

With my first off-road sportive coming up at the weekend, I caught up with European Champion and newly crowned 8 time National CX Champion Helen Wyman to get her top tips and advice on getting into cyclo-cross.

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What makes CX different to any other cycling sport?
It’s short, fast, hard racing off road. So it’s like the combination of the accelerations of a criterium, the basic skills of MTB, the bike from road racing and the heart rate of a threshold effort.

What are the differences in the set up of a road bike to a CX bike? Are there any specific differences in the way they should be set up for use?
The bottom bracket on a cyclo-cross bike is slightly higher than a road bike and the clearance around the brakes is bigger to allow bigger tyres and the mud to not clump up.

In terms of set up you may want a shorter reach and maybe a slightly smaller frame for this. I use the same set up on all my bikes but I am a cross rider first.

What first attracted you to CX?
I was studying physiotherapy at university and had placements in the summer so couldn’t train enough for road racing. In the winter I could use my commute to work placements for training so took up cross. I was hooked instantly, so then it was too late to go back ha ha!

What are your top 5 (or more) tips for those transitioning to CX?
1) Take family and friends – it’s a great day out with races for everyone and a great environment to get you out of the house on a weekend.

2) Play on your bike beforehand, get to know how it feels to slip and slide and what your bike will do when you race.

3) Try to get a day at a cross clinic so you can get an idea of how to get the most out of your racing.

4) Tyre pressure is such an important thing and don’t be afraid to lower them so you get the most out of your tyre.

5) Smile! You will absolutely love getting wet, muddy and cold as it’s only 40 minutes to 1 hour long.

What about racing? How can someone get into this?
There are a lot of local league races so check them out on the British Cycling website. Just go along and have a go. You will find instantly you will be racing with someone of your own level having your own little personal battles.

The dismount and remount is fundamental to a CX race, what key steps can you take to perfect this?
I think in the beginning it’s probably not the most important thing but it is something you can easily learn at a clinic. It’s hard to describe but very easy to demonstrate in person. I would say the most important thing in cross is knowing your minimum speed and not be afraid to run if riding is slower than that speed.

How else do you train for CX?
Skills training is really important so that you learn the feel of your bike under different conditions. After that, lots of high heart rate intervals and short sprints with some threshold work is where most of the training comes from for cross. You can be a really good level local league racer with one days cross training a week and 4 days of 1 hour each day in my opinion. If you want to be a good national level rider it takes a lot more obviously.

CX is very much considered a winter sport – what about the summer months?
Criteriums are good for summer training and you can get a good endurance base from road racing too.

There’s always much discussion about tyre pressures at races, how do you determine what pressure to ride on?
The best way to determine tyre pressure is whatever makes you feel most comfortable on your bike. As you move up levels in your racing then seek advice from the people around you. If you don’t know where to start, take a pump to your local park and try doing laps on different pressures and surfaces and see what you feel gives you the best grip.

Helen Wyman’s Kona Super Jake CX with disc brakes. © Cyclocross Magazine

Helen Wyman’s Kona Super Jake CX with disc brakes. © Cyclocross Magazine

You recently started racing with disc brakes (since UCI regulation changes) how do these differ to cantilevers, what are the benefits and what are your recommendations?
Disc brakes operate by braking on a disc at the centre of the wheel.

Cantilevers operate by braking on the rim of the wheel.

I love disc brakes as they stop you better, however cantilever bikes at entry level naturally weigh less. At my level it’s about the same so I get all the advantages of braking while not loosing the ability to carry my bike. However, it depends on your budget and if you already have road wheels, cantilever bikes are better as you can use those wheels.

Keep up to date with Helen on Twitter and Facebook.

 

COMING UP:
Part 3 of my CX adventure – tips and recommendations on how to buy a CX bike, with help from Hadron Cycles

Hayley Davies

Hayley Davies

Writer

Riding since Feb 2011 Hayley is a 30 year old female who loves adventures. If she’s not on one of her many bikes or in the water on a bodyboard/surfboard, then Hayley is probably out looking for something new to keep the adrenaline pumping!
Website: www.hjdonline.co.uk

A Woman’s Guide to Racing (Part 4) – Practice! Practice! Practice!

 

A Woman’s Guide to Racing – Part 4

Practice! Practice! Practice!

Last week’s article was all about training – general advice and more specific tips about women’s racing and how best to prepare for it.  I know that at the end of last week’s article, I said that this week would be about race preparation, but unfortunately, you’ll have to wait another week for that as I thought I would concentrate on something that often gets forgotten about – things to practice for when you are racing.  So without further ado, here we go:

1) Drinking from your bottle

Ask yourself a question – when you decide that you want a drink whilst out on your bike, what do you do?  Do you stop, unclip and then reach down and grab your bottle?  If so, the first thing you need to practise is reaching for your bottle whilst on the move, taking a drink and then putting it back, whilst still moving.

This may seem really simple to some people, but the point is that if you don’t put your bottle back in the cage correctly and you subsequently hit a pot hole, I have seen so many bottles take flight, which then means that you have either

2011 Bedford Stage 4 ©www.VeloUK.net (Larry Hickmott)

2011 Bedford Stage 4 ©www.VeloUK.net (Larry Hickmott)

inadvertently caused a crash behind you, as people swerve to avoid your bottle, or you have to complete the race without any drink – not the best idea!

Whilst I am on bottles, please do not throw your bottle away unless you need to in order to take another bottle on board.  And if you absolutely have to throw your bottle, be careful where you throw it as again it could end up in the middle of the bunch, with possible crashes as a result.  Carrying an empty bottle won’t make that much difference to the weight of your bike, and unless you are lucky enough to get an unlimited supply of free bottles, if you lose a bottle every race, the cost of replacing them soon adds up, AND you become a litter lout too, so don’t do it.

2) “Clipping in”

So you are on the start line, and the flag is waved to start the race.  You look down, check where your feet are and push off, again looking down to clip your other foot in.  When you look up again, the rest of the riders have already entered the first bend and you face a chase to get back in contention.  And it’s only the first lap.

Again, this might seem simple, but a race can be won or lost, or points gained or lost, on your ability to “clip in” to your pedals quickly. It is easy to practise, and your riding will benefit from it as you will get used to clipping in and out easily, so there’s no more worries then about stopping at junctions, etc.  Plus, why use extra energy chasing to get back in the race when you could be up there from the start?  It’s a no-brainer for me.

3) Eating on the move

Joaquim Rodriguez having a snack on his bike. ©William Perugini/Shutterstock

This doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) be a problem if you are doing a 30 or 40 minute circuit race as you should be able to survive on a gel just before the start and a bottle with energy drink in it, however, for anybody looking at doing road races, you need to be able to take food on board in order to replenish your energy reserves BEFORE they get depleted.

There are many ways to do this, and you should try different types of food to see what suits you best – some people will tell you to use energy gels, other people will say bananas, others will say sweets or chocolate.  I will give you some alternatives, but remember that energy foods can prove quite expensive and sometimes just toast and jam will do (that’s what I used to use in the 1990s!):

My advice would be to shop around, try different things and stick with what works for you, which may not be what your mates tell you!  Practice taking them out of your pocket, eating them and putting the wrapper back in your pocket – again no litter bug antics please!

4) Cornering

Hmm, now this is something I can tell you about from experience!  This can be a bone of contention at ANY race – circuit or road!  The first thing you need to practise is adjusting your speed going into the bend/corner – far too many people go into a bend at full pelt, only to realise on the apex of the bend that they have totally miscalculated their speed and brake

Image ©Huw Williams

to avoid going completely out of control. Not at all helpful for the people who are unfortunate enough to be following that person’s wheel.

When approaching the corner, look beyond the bend to see where you are going – do NOT look down at the ground.  If you look at where you are going, this will help you to hold your line (which I will explain in a minute).

If you lean in to go around the corner, this helps with fluidity and momentum, make sure you keep your inside pedal (in the UK this will mainly be your left pedal) up, which means that your opposite foot should be at the bottom, with your outside leg straight and your inside leg bent.  Also, keep relaxed to help you “flow” around the corner.

When you approach the bend, look first to see where you are going to exit the corner, brake as you approach the bend to reduce your speed, and keep your head up to see where you are going.  As you come out of the bend, do not drift to the other side (for example if you are going around a left hand bend do not drift to the right) – this is called “holding your line” – you must bear in mind that you will hopefully be in the middle of a group of riders at this point and any movements that riders to either side of you or behind you aren’t expecting could potentially cause a collision.  Even if you think you are on your own, hold your line as there may be other riders coming up behind you.

I think the key to cornering in a group is respect other riders – give them space (not too much though!) and keep an eye on what is ahead.

5) Mutual Respect

One thing you will notice in a race is that people can get a bit annoyed if you do something that they don’t agree with – rightly or wrongly – and it will also get on your nerves if somebody does something to annoy you.  But that is a part of racing – it is emotional whether you like it or not, and you are competing for the win essentially.  Respect your fellow riders, give them the space that you would expect but don’t let them walk all over you!  So, if somebody else who is nothing to do with you, shouts at you to do some work, think about whether it would be of benefit to YOU to work  – if you are in a bunch, and your strength lies in sprinting at the end of the race, why would you do any work to help other people who aren’t on your team (you wouldn’t see Mark Cavendish riding at the head of the pro peloton on the last stage of the Tour de France if he thinks he is going to win, would you?)?  On the other hand, if you are not a sprinter but would prefer to get in a break and win that way, then it might work in your favour to put the hammer down.  Far too often I have seen riders do what their rivals (on a different team) tell them to.  But why would you do that?  Remember that you are competing – don’t be overwhelmed by riders who are supposedly better than you on paper – you have entered the race for a reason.

Next week, I will be covering race preparation and the final instalment will be what to expect on race day.

In the meantime, keep riding and stay safe!

 

Click below to read:
Part One – Where Do I Start?
Part Two – What Do I Enter?
Part Three – What training should I do?
Part Five – Are You Ready To Race?
Part Six – Race Day
Part Seven – Circuit Racing

Time To Banish Your Cycling Demons

 

It’s time to introduce our resident pro cycling coach Lee Povey, he’s here to to help you with all your coaching, training and bike set up queries, any discipline, any level from leisure to racing and general fitness. Please just drop him a line via our contacts page and he will help you avoid a cycling catastrophe, you can ask as many questions as you like… no restrictions. If certain subjects reoccur Lee will put articles together on the subjects. So why not get some insider tips without burning a hole in your pocket!

So go on… you know you want to!
 
Q&A’s will be posted on the website but you will get a response to your query by email. Only your basic details will be published on the website (first name & country or region).
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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