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Cyclocross 101: How to Train for Cyclocross?

Cyclocross racing season is coming! You’re probably wondering how to prepare yourself for the demands of the cyclocross race. The bad news is: It is not easy, and the good news is almost everyone can do it.  While cyclocross is fun, like every other sport, it requires time and training. In this article, we will teach you everything you need to know about cyclocross and how to prepare for it.

What Is Cyclocross?

Cyclocross is a unique, challenging, and fun discipline of cycling. It is considered a mix of mountain bikingroad cycling, and steeplechase. These races typically take place in Autumn in a closed or open space. The cyclists have to go through various types of rough terrain and traverse different obstacles. Because this race usually takes place in October or November, the rain, snow, mud, dirt, and other barriers make for good theater. The race lasts for about 30 to 60 minutes plus a final lap, making for a relatively short riding course. Because of this, everyone can train and participate in a cyclocross race. These races feature artificial as well as natural barriers, which make it more challenging for the riders, and more fun for the spectators who get to see them up-close. So, get on the saddle and get muddy!

What Are the Fitness Demands to Cyclocross?


Cyclocross is a demanding race. But, the good news is, even if you haven’t started preparing for it yet, you can hone your fitness and the skills needed in a pretty short time. The main fitness demands to cyclocross are:

High functional reserve capacity (FRC)

FRC is the volume of air that is left in your lungs after a passive exhalation. Simply put, it is the work you can do when you ride over your critical power before burning out. A high FRC will help you perform better in terms of endurance and power.

It is important to understand FRC and train your body to utilize oxygen efficiently to prepare your body for the cyclocross season. This can be achieved by base training. Base training makes the aerobic system as efficient as possible and speeds up the process of recovery after the hard cycling efforts. 

Functional threshold power (FTP)

FTP is the highest average power that you can sustain without fatiguing in approximately 60 minutes, measured in watts. But why does it matter for cyclocross races? Knowing your FTP is essential; it enables you to track your growing progress, compare it, and challenges you to improve it. You can measure your FTP at home, on an indoor trainer. There are also apps such as Swift that make testing your FTP easier. Knowing your FTP helps you create training zones that are suitable for your fitness level.

High endurance

Building endurance is also important when it comes to cyclocross. Without endurance, you will quickly fatigue and burn out. You need consistent endurance training for cycling as well as running. During cyclocross races, you will have to get off the bike often and run while carrying your bike in rough terrain; that’s why you need to prepare yourself for these demands. Do warm-up exercises and some running workouts, especially with your bike, so that you build endurance for the actual race. 

Why Do You Need to Train for Cyclocross?

While cyclocross races are usually short (about 30 minutes to an hour), they require serious training and effort. A proper cyclocross training plan prepares you for the race and will help you build endurance and tolerate the intense demands of the race better. 

When Should You Start Training for Cyclocross?


It is best if you start training for cyclocross at least five to six weeks before the races. If you take cyclocross more seriously, then start earlier than that. The cyclocross race is a priority for many cyclists, so they like to start preparing for them in spring or early summer. Whatever you decide to do, don’t forget to leave the last few days for resting so that you feel energized and well-rested before racing. 

What Equipment Do You Need for Cyclocross Training?

You need the proper equipment for cyclocross training to help you get ready for the wet, cold, and muddy conditions that come with the cyclocross race.

A bike

Choose a mountain bike, road bike, or cyclocross bike that you like. Obviously, a cyclocross bike is the best for this purpose. Make any adjustments that you need to make your bike as suitable as possible for the race.

A helmet

When riding, a helmet will protect you from potential hazards, especially when cyclocross training.

Appropriate clothes

Choose breathable, waterproof clothes and shoes that keep you dry, warm, and comfortable in wet, cold, muddy conditions. 

Cyclocross Training Program

We have already established the fact that you need to prepare for cyclocross. It is a challenging race that requires effort and skills, and you can develop these skills with a good cyclocross training program. 

Cyclocross workouts and drills

  • 15-20-minute warm-up on the road: Before every workout, you should warm up to get your body moving and ready for the exercise. Get on the saddle and ride your bike on the road or (preferably) mountains for 15 to 20 minutes to wake up your legs. 
  • Running: During the races, you are going to need to run. So start preparing. Fast pedal for 2-3 minutes and get off the bike, and sprint for 25 seconds. Repeat this five to ten times. Recover in between sets, but the recovery time should not be longer than the workout time.
  • Barriers: Practice riding with obstacles. Set some barriers and start riding. Practice getting off and on the bike as fast as you can, hopping, and remounting. 
  • Ride and run uphill: Unfortunately, cyclocross races will not be set on a flat, smooth surface. So, you have to be confident riding and running uphill too. Start practicing riding on a hill and carrying your bike and sprinting for about 20 to 30 seconds to the top, and sprint for ten other seconds before you remount your bike. Repeat this about eight times.
  • Dismount and shoulder the bike: You’re going to need to get on and off the bike often, so here’s how to do it easily: hold the top of the bars, adjust the speed, unclip and bring your lead leg down and then the other leg, shoulder the bike, and start running for 20 seconds. Repeat this process 6 to 8 times so that you can do it fast and smoothly.

Cyclocross training mistakes

The first mistake is not practicing running because you will need to run with your bike (often uphill) during the races. Run or sprint regularly so that you gain the necessary speed and endurance for the races. Secondly, you shouldn’t practice only on smooth, flat surfaces; you need to practice somewhere that resembles the setting of the races. Ride on rough terrain and set up some obstacles such as sand, hills, rocks, etc., and practice riding for at least 30 minutes in such conditions. And finally, many don’t rest enough before the race. So, don’t forget to rest and recover. Give yourself one or two days to rest before the race so that you will be ready to give your best at the cyclocross races.

Cyclocross can certainly be a challenge in itself, but with the right amount of training and effort, we’re sure you’re going to make it! So, now that you know what you should do, get to training and make us proud!


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