That moment you realize the cyclocross season is 6 weeks away…

…and suddenly, cyclocross season was 6 weeks away.
That’s where we’re at, somehow. It just snuck up on us. The first UCI races in The US kick things off in just six short weeks.
So where are you in your training?
Feeling ready?
Yeah. I didn’t think so.
Well, it’s probably time to get after it.
The training that you should be doing right now is largely determined by what your level of fitness is today, and what your goals are for the season ahead, which determines where you need to be in your fitness right now.
There’s a pretty broad spectrum represented there.
If your cyclocross goals revolve around a run at Nationals or Worlds in January, you simply shouldn’t be training the same way as someone who needs to be flying two months from now in hopes of success at their local series. If your goal is to just show up at the local series a couple/few times this season and have fun, you probably shouldn’t be training the same way as a person who needs to podium right out of the gate at the first race in order to have a shot at winning a 3-month long series with no drop races (ugh.)
As I said, this is a broad spectrum.
So, step one: where do you lie on this spectrum?
Need to be fast soon?
Need to be fast 5 months from now?
Need to be fast for as much of that whole damn 5 month stretch as you can?
Don’t really think “fast” is the right adverb, and just kinda’ hoping to be a wee bit more competitive out there?
Pick one.
If you need to be fast soon
You should be out there doing fast stuff now. Intervals, hard group rides, maybe some crits or short mountain bike races. We’re not quite at the point where you need to be doing sets of short sprint efforts or start drills, but we aren’t far off.
Fast five months from now?
Long miles, or off the bike entirely. Depends on how much riding you’ve done already this season. If you’ve been racing the whole damn road season, odds are you could use a rest. Roughly half the athletes I coach are taking a break right about now.
Fast for the whole damn season?
Long weekends, fast weekdays. Something of the sort. This, frankly, is where stuff gets complicated. You should think about hiring a coach. Seriously. No coach looking likely for you?
Go long on the weekends for the next couple of weeks, then start to cut back on the volume, and ramp up the intensity. Don’t push that ramp rate too high, though. It’s going to be a long season, and before things even gets started, it’s a good idea to start telling yourself “when in doubt, default to rest.” Burnout is your biggest danger. Don’t forget that.
Wee bit more competitive?
Think structure. For most people just looking to break through the back-marker level of the sport, the single best thing they can do is to ride with intention.
What do I mean by that?
Don’t just ride, understand what you’re hoping to accomplish when you get on the bike. Are you doing intervals today?
Do intervals.
Getting in some long, steady miles?
Do that.
Just headed out for a fun ride with some friends?
Do that, damnit.
Riding with intention doesn’t mean that you can’t just go out and ride for fun, it just means that when doing something like that, there’s no pretense to accomplishing something else. Don’t get it twisted; fun is, and should be, a goal in and of itself. Everyone should at least think about having some days on the bike that consist entirely of doing whatever the hell is going to put the biggest smile on their face.
This also means that when you head out for a long ride with your buddies, you shouldn’t expect that they’re all going to do interval stacks with you. It just doesn’t work. You aren’t going to get in quality efforts, and they’re going to wind up hating you. Group ride means group. If you’re doing structured, set time effort, do them by yourself or with a really small group of like-minded individuals.
Small as in… hell, just do them by yourself. It really is easier that way.
“Easy” is a good place to leave this. There’s nothing “easy” about cyclocross, but that doesn’t mean you have to turn every aspect of it into an exercise in sports science and data analytics.
Mix things up. Get some long miles in under your belt if you can. The sooner you really need to be fast, the sooner you need to do structured work to support that speed. Regardless of your level, try to ride with intention, even if – perhaps especially if – that intention is just to go out and have a fun day on the bike.
More soon…
As a coach and trainer, Matthew’s client list includes multiple National Champions, a World Champion, and many successful local racers, fondo and recreational riders, and entry-level enthusiasts.  At the 2015 Cyclocross National Championships, ¾ of his clients placed in the top ten of their respective events, with two reaching the podium, including 3rd place in the Elite Men’s category for long-time client Zach McDonald. Athletes who first learned the basics of Cyclocross from him have gone on to win National Championships and international distinction, and to podium placings at the World Cup and World Championship level. Head coach for the Marymoor Velodrome Cyclocross practice sessions, Matthew has taught cyclocross fundamentals to thousands of cyclists over his more than a decade at the helm. Riders at all levels of the performance spectrum can and do call on Matthew for his skills instruction, including professional teams who have been known to send new recruits to him for skills assessment and old hands to him for refresher courses and refinement. Learn more about Matt.