‘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

Interview with Marianne Britten – Elite Women top British Cycling points scorer

Marianne Britten

Interview with the Team Captain of VC St Raphael Women’s Team and lead British Cycling points scorer for Elite Women in 2010 and 2011.

 

How did you get into cycling?
As a youngster I grew up riding horses and used to compete in tetrathlon, that’s swimming, running, horse-riding and shooting at Pony Club. That ends when you reach 21 so I was looking for another sport similar so ended up trying triathlon. I quickly realised that cycling was the most fun out of all the disciplines and so started to focus on that with a local bike club. I quickly fell in love with the whole sport and so here I am. I never tire of striving to achieve more, cycling is a great leveller so you never quite feel like you’ve conquered everything, leaving you thirsty for more.

You work full time but still manage to be successful on the bike – how do you manage your time?
Managing my time is very difficult. Some years I have reduce my hours over the season to give myself a break but then it’s still not easy and I have raced the last 2 seasons having worked full time. I’m very lucky to work for such an understanding group of people as they are very flexible with me allowing me to work from home and flex my hours so that I can train and race. I love my job and it’s the reason why I have never tried to be a full-time bike rider, for me I have to have other things in my life other than riding the bike. My partner Jason also helps me out a great deal and is often ferrying me around to races…allowing me to sleep on the way!

You’ve won many races and have a number of National Champion jerseys – which would you say is your proudest achievement and why?
The Masters titles I have won mean a great deal to me but my proudest moments have come this year taking the sprinters jersey at the Bedford 2-day and getting on the podium at the Hillingdon GP, finally perhaps putting myself on the radar as a sprinter. I always take pleasure in doing the best I can and if a result comes from that then that’s a bonus.

What would you say to anybody who is thinking of starting racing, especially as it can be daunting getting on a start line for the first time? Any top tips?
First of all I can’t stress how important it is to develop your bunch riding skills before attempting to race, going out with a local bike club is a good way to learn some of these skills and gain confidence of riding with people around you and at speeds you wouldn’t by yourself. There are also a few Women’s training sessions that you can attend which are excellent. Then when you are confident, try to pick races that are within your reach to start with, perhaps local women’s races, don’t try to take on too much too soon as you can easily find yourself out of your depth both in terms of speed and technique. Always be realistic about your ability and recognise your strengths, some riders are better over hilly terrain and some are better at sprinting. Recognising these and targeting races to suit you will mean you will have positive experiences and enjoy the sport more. Don’t be swayed to do every race on the calendar just because everyone else is, be confident in your own training and race plan and stick with it. Most importantly it’s about your sport being fun.

Is there any advice in particular that you have been given over the years which has helped you to succeed that you could share with us?
I read a book once by Lance Armstrong, one of his quotes was that “pain is in the moment but failure is forever”. That’s something that has stayed with me and I try to remember when I am racing. Being the best that I can be is what I strive for so I train hard to save myself from disappointment.

Do you have any sporting heroes? Do you see anything in them that you could model yourself on?
I did a bike race a few years ago where a certain Lizzie Armistead rode and lapped the field twice. I witnessed first hand something special that day and hopefully she will pull on a rainbow jersey one day. I’d like to think like her I have some steely determination and a bit of a sprint at the end….just a little less of her talent!

Do you have a favourite event or circuit? What about the event/circuit do you like so much?
My favourite circuit has to be one local to me, at Thruxton Motor circuit. I love the circuit because it’s tough with the rise before the finish and can be very fast in places. When I heard that the National Master Road Race was being held there instead of the original road circuit I knew I was in with a chance at winning the title I’d been after for 4years, which I did and was delighted.

You have recently become the official Team Captain to the VC St Raphael Women’s Team, which in itself is one of the new kids on the block. How do you see the team evolving?
I’m excited and honoured at taking on that role, other teams have asked me to captain them over the last few years but I’ve not felt ready until now. I hope that I can lead the team to work together and get results. We now have a strong mix of riders covering track, road and time trials. It is a great mix of youth and experience and we have some exciting new talent joining the team as well as the hard core from last year. Having had 2 excellent training weekends over the winter I think we are ready to test our legs and get working together as a team, Cheshire Classic will be our first event.

Do you have any aspirations for the 2012 season?
Mainly I want the team to get some results and work together, a result for a teammate means just as much. I’d like to defend my National titles and perhaps the sprinters jersey at Bedford 2-day again.

Where would you like to be in two years’ time?
I’d like to be still riding my bike and enjoying it, perhaps with a World or European Masters title to my name.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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