Category Archives: Cyclocross

Cyclocross Nationals Wrapup

As you’ve probably heard, five of us (Tim Humpton, Jose Soltren, Kate Harris, Cim Wortham, and myself) flew to Kansas City this weekend to contest the Collegiate Cyclocross National Championships.  We stayed in Lawrence, KS with Nick Loomis’s wonderful aunt and uncle Kathy and Howard Ebmeier.  Nick traveled home early for the holidays to serve as our soigneur, chef, and photographer, taking pressure of us and making the weekend a lot of fun.  Jose thinks he gained a pound in 24 hours thanks to our hosts’ wonderful cooking.

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MIT sweeps opening ECCC Cyclocross weekend

The ECCC Cyclocross series kicked off on Saturday at the Cycle-Smart International in Northampton, MA.  Collegiate riders were out in abundance, with over twice as many competing as at the same weekend last year.  Nevertheless, MIT Cycling continued its winning ways, prompting race announcer Richard Fries to declare it “a rising cyclocross powerhouse.”  The Engineers outscored all rivals, Divisions 1 and 2, with riders winning the Collegiate Men’s B, Women’s B, and Men’s C events.  Particularly fine performances were delivered by Cim Wortham, finishing 3rd of 93 overall (collegiate and non-collegiate) in the C/Cat 4 race, and Kate Harris, finishing 2nd of 63 overall in the B/Cat 3/4 race.  Congratulations also to Zuzka Trnovcova and Rachel Bainbridge for racing competitively in their first ever cyclocross race.

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‘Cross Musings Vol. 5: Online Resources

Greetings ‘Cross racers and amused onlookers,

Our first ECCC cyclocross race is one month from today! In this month’s newsletter I’ll discuss October training, and then some tips on “indoor training.” Such techniques are useful when it’s thunderstorming or hurricaning outside, or when the lecture/lab meeting you’re attending is really boring . . .

If you’ve been diligently training all summer and are currently in good shape, consider the following. You should try to do two really challenging, or “breakthrough” workouts per week for the next three weeks. One day should be just below race pace, either long intervals or an actual race. Consider the race in East Falmouth this weekend, MTB Easterns next weekend, and Canton the weekend after that. There’s also a Sunday morning training series at the velodrome in Londonderry, NH. Your second hard day should be several days away from your first, and might consist of short (3-5 minute) VO2max intervals or a long (45 – 120 minutes, depending on ability) steady tempo ride. The remaining days of the week should be fairly easy, perhaps two days aerobic, one active recovery, and two days off. Sleep lots! Take the final week or week and a half of October as a taper before the double-race weekend Nov 1-2.

If you haven’t been diligently training and fear that hard workouts could induce a stroke and/or torn Achilles, but you still want to do some races, consider the easier plan:
– Ride your bike 4 to 5 days per week, however you feel like, for the next three weeks. Take a recovery week at the end of the month.
– Get lots of sleep, eat well, etc
– Tune up your bike, make sure it’s in great shape, and then pray to the Gods of Pinch Flats and Dropped Chains to strike down upon your competitors with great vengeance and furious anger.

Watching other people ride their bikes is a great way to learn how to ride yours. Some good cyclocross videos here:

For training advice from a pro, check out some of Adam Myerson’s articles:

For ‘cross related news, race coverage, etc:

To find out how you stack up against your favorite pros (or teammates!) play with the gizmo here. Extra credit if you can come up with a superior ranking algorithm and prove to me why it’s superior:

If you need to buy cyclocross parts, this is the place to go. They’re located in Massachusetts, so regular ground shipping is generally next day, and they’re super great folks too.

You *may* be able to learn a thing or two from the chat rooms. The first is full of propeller-heads debating things like which brake straddle cable is the most aerodynamic, while the latter seems to center around the quality of the cupcakes at last year’s Sucker Brook race. Mostly inside jokes, but occasionally a worthwhile post.

Lastly, if you want to improve your Flemish before making the leap to the Benelux ‘cross circuit, read up here:

That’s all for now. In a few weeks, our sixth and final (yay!) newsletter will discuss race-day preparation.


‘Cross Musings Vol. 4: the New England Race Calendar

Welcome back, or welcome to MIT, as the case may be! Our first ECCC cyclocross race is two months from today, and the local USCF races start in just a couple weeks, so I thought I’d use this month’s newsletter to highlight the local calendar and share my (completely subjective) opinions about some of the races on it.* First, though, some training goals for September.

We’re just finishing Week 1 of the Build 1 phase. With base training complete, now is the time to make your training more race-specific. An important workout to include once a week in your training is threshold intervals. Start with two 12 minute intervals at 95 – 100% of threshold (time-trial pace) heart rate and add a little each week. By the start of race season nine weeks from now you should be able to do a single interval the length of your race. The biggest challenge around here is to find a course where you can do 20 to 40 minutes continuously without stoplights, traffic etc. The Charlie Baker course is one option, or take your ‘cross bike to a local park and do it off-road. Here’s one decent route with few stoplights: Ride to Waverly as your warmup, start the first interval up the Mill St climb, and finish the last to the top of the hill on Concord Ave before coasting back down into Belmont.

Continue to do one day per week of tempo work and two days aerobic. The fifth day might be sprints, VO2max intervals, or handling skills. Keep the remaining two days for rest or active recovery (<75% threshold HR) - threshold work takes a lot out of you. Hours come down to perhaps 10 per week. THE NEW ENGLAND RACE CALENDAR New England has arguably the richest cyclocross calendar in the country. There are races every weekend from mid-September to mid-December, many a short drive from Boston. With gas averaging $3.59 of late, it's probably sensible to choose your races by proximity. To that end, I've created an interactive Google map of the races. Red markers indicate races we'll target as a team, and dots in the markers indicate official, points-carrying ECCC races. Check for more detail on each race. Sun 9/14 - Amesbury Cyclocross, Amesbury MA Fairly close, in its second year, moderately technical, fun course. A bit rooty last year, but supposedly they've corrected that. Recommended. Sat 9/20 - New England Velo-Cross Challenge, Londonderry NH Located at the New England Velodrome! New course for this year. Sun 9/21 - Sucker Brook 'Cross, Auburn NH Just off I-93, fast non-technical course, the cupcakes at last years concession stand were highly acclaimed by none other than master framebuilder Richard Sachs. Sat 9/27 - Green Mountain Cyclocross #1, Williston VT Sun 9/28 - Green Mountain Cyclocross #2, Williston VT The first weekend of the Verge New England Championship Cyclocross Series, held at a cross-country ski resort outside Burlington. The Verge series races tend to be well-run, well-attended, and very competitive. With national-caliber pros in the A field, many local A's race the B race, and some B's the C, etc. Start line staging is by order-of-registration, and the closer ones such as Gloucester will fill up fast. Sun 9/28 - Quad 'Cross 2008, Bedford MA Very close by, sponsored by Quad Cycles in Arlington. The second year for this course, last year was fast and dusty, like racing in California. Fun! Sun 10/5 - Coonamessett Eco-Cross, East Falmouth MA I'm not sure what the Eco- means, other than that they have limited parking and strongly encourage carpooling. Sun 10/5 - Casco Bay Cyclocross, Biddeford ME Second year for this one as well. Basically a long dirt road climb followed by long winding grass descent. Fun, in an intervals sort of way . . . Sat 10/11 - Gran Prix of Gloucester #1, Gloucester MA Sun 10/12 - Gran Prix of Gloucester #2, Gloucester MA The Queen of them all, Gloucester is the biggest and one of the oldest races in New England. Part of both the North American Cyclocross Trophy Series and the Verge New England Series, it's a great race to compete and/or spectate. Most of the top pros will be in attendence, and the venue is simply gorgeous. Fast, non-technical course, but the big fields (up to 125 racers) pose challenges of their own. Note that this is the same weekend as MTB Easterns, so if you have a mountain bike you should do that. If not, registration opens Sept 8, sign up early! Sat 10/18 - Downeast Cyclocross, New Gloucester ME Another New England tradition, held at a cross-country ski area and conference center in southern Maine. Moderately technical course - years past have featured mud, a steep run-up, and a long off-camber section. Formerly part of the Verge series. Sat 10/18 - Mansfield Hollow 'Cross, Mansfield Center CT An under-rated little gem of a race in Central Eastern Connecticut. Moderately technical, with some beach runs to make things interesting. Sun 10/19 - Canton Cup Cyclocross, Canton MA One of my all-time favorites. Very close by, a fairly fast course with a good mix of terrain. We'll use Canton as a pre-ECCC warm-up race, so stay tuned for details! Sat 10/25 - MRC Cyclocross, Wrentham MA Also close by, but I've never done it so I don't have much to say. They run a training series on Wednesday nights on this course, starting this week. Sat 10/25 - Opa Opa Beer Cross #1, Dayville CT I once did a night-time training race here. They lit it with dozens of electric lanterns and hundreds of yards of extension cords. Logistically impressive, but still super sketchy. Their daylight races were pretty dangerous as well, from what I hear. As Phil Liggett would say, I'd give this one a miss. Sun 10/26 - Wicked Creepy Cyclocross, Bennington VT Don't know much about this one. Bennington's nice! Sat 11/1 - Cycle-Smart International #1, Northampton MA Sun 11/2 - Cycle-Smart International #2, Northampton MA Finally, the first ECCC races of the season! Previously a one-day race, the old course was short, twisty, turny, rooty, with a gnarly run-up. I'm not sure what promoter Adam Myerson will do with the second day this year, but we'll find out! I'd like to send a decent contingent to each of the two days to start off the ECCC season with a bang. Also part of the Verge series. Sat 11/8 - Plymouth North Cyclocross, Plymouth MA Site of two cyclocross national championships, held at Mark McCormack's high school, a nice balanced course. Past primes have been known to include oysters! Sat 11/8 - VT Psycho Cross, Brownsville VT Another sophomore effort, near Mt. Ascutney. Technical, I believe. Sun 11/9 - Plymouth South Cyclocross, Plymouth MA Day 2 of Plymouth, at a completely different venue. Super-positive fans cheering you up the tough ride-up. Awesome. Barriers before and after the sand pit. Not so awesome. Sun 11/9 - West Hill Shop Cyclocross, Putney VT Another classic New England race, featuring a killer run-up a hundred yards before the finish. Sun 11/9 - Highland Park Cyclocross, Highland Park NJ OK, not New England, but the closest non-New England ECCC race. If we can find the money, I'd like to send a few people down to show Rutgers how it's done. Four day weekend for MIT. Sat 11/15 - Brockton City of Champions Cross, Brockton MA Did this a few years ago, can't remember much except that they scored me as "Pam Williams." Which was OK, since I'd had a crummy race and didn't need any cyber-stalkers finding that result on the Google! Sat 11/15 - Opa Opa Beer Cross #2, Dayville CT See comments above. Sun 11/16 - Shedd Park Cyclocross, Lowell MA Another close one, and an ECCC off-week, so maybe we'll put together a carpool. Fun course, well balanced. Sat 11/22 - Cheshire Cyclocross, Cheshire CT Fun woodsy descent, followed by an epic run up. Search youtube for "Cheshire Cross Hill People" and see for yourself . . . Sun 11/23 - Easthampton Cyclocross, Easthampton MA No idea. Sat 11/29 - Baystate Cyclocross, Sterling MA The closest ECCC race, and part of the Verge series. The course is fairly non-technical, but the cool weather could make it interesting. Sun 11/30 - Palmer Cross & Bike Swap, Palmer MA Another New England tradition. Pretty technical, I believe, with a lot of dismounts. Talk to Eric or Illana for details. Sat 12/6 - NBX Gran Prix #1, Warwick RI Sun 12/7 - NBX Gran Prix #2, Warwick RI The Verge and ECCC series finale. Another beautiful venue, in a large park on Narragansett Bay. Good mix of terrain, well balanced with a couple good sand sections. Sun 12/14 - Natz Schmatz Opa Opa Beer Cross Finals, Dayville CT Irrelevant, since we'll be in Kansas City at Nationals! Go Engineers! Bill *The opinions expressed in this email are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of MIT Cycling, the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference, or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

‘Cross Musings Vol. 3: Technique

It’s August, which means that cyclocross season is just around the corner!  For the true diehards, the first local race is August 24th in Springfield.  For traditionalists like myself, the season doesn’t really start until mid-September.  Either way, August is a good time to start practicing your cyclocross technique.  I’ll try to give a few tips in this email, and we’ll run some clinics once school starts.  If there’s anything in particular you’d like to improve on, please drop me a line and we’ll tailor the clinics accordingly.

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‘Cross Musings Vol. 2: Equipment

A few people have expressed interest in trying cyclocross this fall, but don’t yet have a bike, so I thought I’d devote this month’s newsletter to equipment. First, though, a quick reminder of the training objectives for July.

According to the schedule I mailed out last time, we’re currently ending Week 1 of the Base 2 phase. Your main focus should still be on aerobic development, with at least three zone 2 rides per week. Your second objective is to start easing yourself into harder efforts. Start with one tempo workout per week, riding at 85-95% of your time trial heart rate for extended periods without interruption. Start with 20 or 30 minutes and add 5 or 10 minutes per week. The third objective for Base 2 is to start to get your legs accustomed to working at different cadences. You may not realize it, but on the road you generally pedal within a very narrow range of your preferred cadence, unless going up or down a steep incline. A cyclocross course, on the other hand, changes terrain quite rapidly, often faster than you can shift, so it’s important to be able to deliver power over a wide range of cadences. Spinning at high cadence requires pedaling efficiency whereas a low cadence requires strength. To develop the former, try to incorporate some spinning intervals into one or two of your aerobic rides. Shift into a low gear that will enable you to spin 10 or 20 RPM above your preferred cadence, and hold it for five minutes. Recover for five minutes at your normal cadence, and repeat. To develop leg strength, your fifth workout of the week should incorporate hill-climbing that requires you to drop your cadence 10 to 20 RPM below your preferred cadence. Some good local climbs include Eastern Ave in Arlington, Prospect Hill in Waltham, or Great Blue Hill in Milton. Start with three 3-minute intervals and build from there. Exercise caution when doing strength workouts as it is possible to overdo it and injure yourself. If you’re in your first or second year of cycling, skip the strength workouts and do a fourth day of aerobic riding instead.

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