Top 5 "need to know" for 1st race
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  1. #1
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    Top 5 "need to know" for 1st race

    So, I am most likely taking the plunge and entering SpectaCross this summer at the NJ State Fair as a "Novice" (or possible the "open" field).

    This will be my first bike race ever. Course is described as "technical", so I am assuming alot of dismounts and barriers/sand/mud/hairpins/off-camber/etc. And the race is very appealing because of the time limit, of 30-35 minutes. I think I can handle 1/2 hour of pain.

    I am in decent shape and getting stronger/more fit as the season progresses. I plan to get back into some longer group rides on the weekend. This race is late July, so that gives me 2 full months to work on fitness and technique.

    So, what would be the top 5 things you would recommend I concentrate on during the next two months, so I am not totally embarrassed, assuming I can get on the bike for an hour or two 2-4 times a week.

  2. #2
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    Not Much Time?

    I would suggest smoothing out the dismounts and remounts as much as possible. Aim for every curb around your rides and practice, practice, practice. Watch the online videos of upper level crossers, and do it just like they do it; watch them ride/run/ride through the pit lanes. The perfect dismount/remount has little effect on speed. Get rid of that nasty little "double step" on the left foot during remount if you have it.

    Otherwise, know how your tires perform in all conditions. And maybe do some hill running, with your bike. And, and, and...............

    Moo

  3. #3
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    Something every crosser needs to know- you will suffer a lot, but everyone else is suffering just as much as you are. They just might go faster while they suffer ;)

  4. #4
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    Thanks, keep the input coming.

    Just so it is clear, I am doing this purely to test the waters. If I come in DFL and don't damage myself, then I'll consider it a success. So, maybe I need to re-state my objectives a bit.

    What are the top 5 things I should know so I don't completely embarrass myself (etiquette, techniques, etc.) and walk away as injury free as is within my control? Oh, and have fun. ;)

    I'm down with the practicing/watching dismounts/remounts. I plan to do that 30-45 minutes a week, starting at a walking pace. I think I will get pretty comfortable pretty quickly with that. The bike fits me very well and I feel good on it as is with a bit of practice already during my road rides (rolling dismounts). Practicing on some grass will give me further confidence, especially at higher speeds.

  5. #5
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    1) Have fun, cross is ultimately about having a good time while going fast in the mud, or on the dirt. Get in the mindset that you are out to have a good time.
    2) Practice your mounts and dismounts, get really comfortable hopping on and off the bike on rough ground.
    3) Get used to running with your bike, experiment with different ways of holding it - shoulder, suitcase, pushing, etc.
    4) Practice riding on rough terrain while close to other riders. Get some buddies together and chase around a field on each others' wheels. Get used to bouncing around 6 inches off of someone's wheel.
    5) Do a few 30-35 minute rides off road at race pace, this will let you figure out pacing and help you make sure you don't blow up with 15 minutes to go.

  6. #6
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    Find a hill in a park or even a small bump, ride up to it, dismount on the fly, shoulder your bike and run up the hilll. Do it at different speeds until you run out of breath and then recover and dial it down a notch to where you still can keep your momentum at the top of the hill. Do intervals of five repeats. Oh, yeah. practice running for 1/2 hour to 40 minutes so that your muscles are used to running. During the race, try to use the guy in front of you as a marker and try to stay with him. That will be your biggest motivation.

  7. #7
    Game on, b*tches!
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    A few other things;
    1) Get there EARLY. Nothing like rushing around and forgetting something or not getting a good warm up.
    2) Get said warm up in.
    3) Have fun.
    Good luck (other recommendations are spot-on).
    Originally Posted by tetter
    'Pain is temporary, and there might be beer at the finish line'

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  8. #8
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    ride the course as much as you can before the race. You can ride some before the race that starts prior to yours, then get you r number and watch some of the race then ride again before your race, more practice is always better and more important that even warming up for you.

  9. #9
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    There are only two things you need to know:
    1. Grip it and
    2. Rip it.

  10. #10
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    Bring some cold ones...a couple for you and some to share...nothing quite like a few beers after a race (if allowed of course). Cross specific recovery drink.

  11. #11
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    and f the long group rides

    if you have good fitness start doing 1/2 hr to 45 minute blasts at max effort
    you need to work on MAX level stuff
    do Pyramid drills
    get used to being at 95% of your max
    find a nice short steep hill on a short loop, switch between riding it and running it every lap
    if you can find a decent loop that takes you around 45 minutes to ride riding as fast as you can. do it 2-3 times a week with recovery rides in between
    when you race, bring a trainer, warm up with some sprints added at the end to get the system primed.The start of a cx race is a shock to the system, followed by a lap of swallowing your heart back down, followed by the rest of the time in the pain cave
    by doing a NASTY warm up you can eliminate the first 2 and do the whole thing at 'pain cave' levels
    when the pain comes, don't run from it, reach out, shake hands and make friends
    one nation, under surveillance with liberty and justice for few

    still not figgering on biggering

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by atpjunkie
    iwhen the pain comes, don't run from it, reach out, shake hands and make friends
    I like that!

    Arrive early, pre-ride the course, warm up, pace yourself during the race, and finish strong.
    Maybe this year I'll take my own advice.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by krisdrum
    So, I am most likely taking the plunge and entering SpectaCross this summer at the NJ State Fair as a "Novice" (or possible the "open" field).

    This will be my first bike race ever. Course is described as "technical", so I am assuming alot of dismounts and barriers/sand/mud/hairpins/off-camber/etc. And the race is very appealing because of the time limit, of 30-35 minutes. I think I can handle 1/2 hour of pain.

    I am in decent shape and getting stronger/more fit as the season progresses. I plan to get back into some longer group rides on the weekend. This race is late July, so that gives me 2 full months to work on fitness and technique.

    So, what would be the top 5 things you would recommend I concentrate on during the next two months, so I am not totally embarrassed, assuming I can get on the bike for an hour or two 2-4 times a week.
    Kris - I've raced the State Fair CX before and it is basically a BMX course with CX bikes and it's an absolute shitload of fun. It is technical in a BMX sense, not so much in a CX sense (they had a rhythm section the year I did it that totally rocked). It will only be muddy if it rains, they may put down sand (did that during Sussex CX last winter), they had a banked U-turn, some barriers after a really short, steep dirt mound, and then some stomach nauseating hard dirt/grass/washboard stuff. Basically expect anything, but don't get worried about it. Just go have fun; I did it on a SS and got smoked and loved every minute of it. Should've run a 46x16 instead of a 36x16 (it's that fast).

    As for training for it, it's super high intensity, so 40/20s or 30sec burst intervals would be useful in the last 2-3weeks leading up to it. From a technique standpoint, just practice barriers really or get out to your local BMX track They used to have 2 sets of barriers, one on a dirt straightaway, and one on the grass on the backside of a hairpin (ie dismount prior to the haripin and swing around). This was really where people in Cat4/C's were passing; the rest was sprinting up to speed followed by slamming on the brakes for a turn/obstacle.

    So top 5
    1 - don't get worked up, it's your first race, you're their to learn and have fun. Bring money for the beer tent.
    2 - the course is in a tight area, so start as close to the front as you can and let the race self-select you. If you start too far back, you'll just never see anything remotely resembling the front as it's really difficult to pass and make up distance on the leaders.
    3 - I promise there will be a crash on the first turn whether its dry and dusty or muddy. Start on the far outside, opposite the first turn. I.e. if the first turn is a left hander after 100m, start on the far right of the grid in the first or 2nd row if you can. You will have lots of clowns trying to cut underneath on the short side, who will t-bone one of the first 5 guys into the turn on the inside of the pack, and he or someone else will dive into the turn, which will cause his wheels to wash out due to dust/mud and take a number of his fellow competitors with him. Only way to survive is on the outside of the start, especially in Cat 4/C's. Trust me on this one, happens all the time. The state fair had a banked hairpin 100m after a straight-shot start when I raced and a huge group was taken out. I was in the back and snuck by the carnage on the outside right.
    4 - don't race with a water bottle and take off the cage, you'll never touch it during the race, even if its hot.
    5 - Like atp said, embrace Mr Sufferfest and buy him a beer afterwards.

    You'll have a blast and make sure you come out for Sussex CX in November; its a real CX race on the other side of where the state fair is located.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by atpjunkie
    if you have good fitness start doing 1/2 hr to 45 minute blasts at max effort
    you need to work on MAX level stuff
    do Pyramid drills
    get used to being at 95% of your max
    find a nice short steep hill on a short loop, switch between riding it and running it every lap
    if you can find a decent loop that takes you around 45 minutes to ride riding as fast as you can. do it 2-3 times a week with recovery rides in between
    when you race, bring a trainer, warm up with some sprints added at the end to get the system primed.The start of a cx race is a shock to the system, followed by a lap of swallowing your heart back down, followed by the rest of the time in the pain cave
    by doing a NASTY warm up you can eliminate the first 2 and do the whole thing at 'pain cave' levels
    when the pain comes, don't run from it, reach out, shake hands and make friends
    This pretty much nails it for me. Work on technique. Do some max level workouts since you will be maxxed out! Make sure to go over your bike the night before the race as best as you can to avoid any mechanicals, warm up properly and have FUN!

    Good luck...

  15. #15
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    Thanks Ted. So, it should be like a BMX track? I never raced BMX, but I have seen some on TV and such. Seems like it would be akind to skicross/boardercross during the winter, except you do laps. Sounds crazy. A quick google search didn't turn up much in the way of BMX tracks local to me. So, I should expect alot of twists and turns and "features". And a super fast pace. Based on your experience, could I get away with a semi-slick tire, like the Ritchey Speedmax as long as it is not muddy?Would that be a better choice over a more full knobby? I took my cages off the other night and picked up a single strap-on one, so I can ride to some of the local fields to practice and still have water inbetween sessions. Ok, got it, warm-up, prepare for pain cave and beer afterward. I am getting psyched.

  16. #16
    weird huh?
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    what TedH said...

    4 - don't race with a water bottle and take off the cage, you'll never touch it during the race, even if its hot.

    get there early
    GIF...guy in front.....hang with him at all costs
    breathe
    have fun

    Cheers

  17. #17
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    Pump up your tires as hard as you think they should be, then let out half the air. If you are not on the rim let out a bit more.
    G-man

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by krisdrum
    Thanks Ted. So, it should be like a BMX track? I never raced BMX, but I have seen some on TV and such. Seems like it would be akind to skicross/boardercross during the winter, except you do laps. Sounds crazy. A quick google search didn't turn up much in the way of BMX tracks local to me. So, I should expect alot of twists and turns and "features". And a super fast pace. Based on your experience, could I get away with a semi-slick tire, like the Ritchey Speedmax as long as it is not muddy?Would that be a better choice over a more full knobby? I took my cages off the other night and picked up a single strap-on one, so I can ride to some of the local fields to practice and still have water inbetween sessions. Ok, got it, warm-up, prepare for pain cave and beer afterward. I am getting psyched.
    I was being slightly facetious with the track thing, but the concept is there. Don't worry, there are no gap jumps, just some berms and rollers assuming they dump dirt on the course. If its dry, semi-slicks with a good side knob would serve you well. I raced Michelin Muds and never slid out, so just run what you brung.

    Don't overthink your first race; just go amuse yourself and try to stick with the guy in front. You'll have the whole autumn CX season to overthink things

  19. #19
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    intervals now and a really good warm up before the race cannot be said enough.

    fyi, your heart will feel like it is about to explode through your chest. keep going, you can rest after the race.

    if there is a large field and an early turn, you really need to be in the front and hit the turn first or near there. it makes a ton of difference. my best results have always been when i've been able to be near the front going into the first tight turn.
    And it just hurts in the very best way possible without a high priced dominatrix.---Ronsonic

    I'm pretty confident that I've pissed off several dozen random strangers on the internet tonight.---Creakyknees

    disclaimer---I make sh!t up as I go along.

  20. #20
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    +1 for intervals. In my area, at least, courses almost never have a long enough straightaway to get tired, but if you can keep sprinting up to speed after each hairpin and runup, you'll float up the pack over the course of the race.

    +1 for practicing mounts and dismounts. Especially practice remounting from running up a hill. I highly recommend carrying the bike over your shoulder. I find it lets me put the weight of the bike in the right place to power up a hill in a pretty natural way, while carrying it suitcase style is a lot of work.

    If you're in good shape, don't sell yourself short at the starting line. For a lot of guys, Cat. 4 cross races are their one real workout every week. You should be able to beat them if you've been training. Here, it's a pretty competitive scene at the top of the Cat. 4 pack. So you may want to let those guys get away from you and have their race, unless you're pretty confident you can hang with them.

    Don't let a race be the first time you take your 'cross bike off-road (I did.) It's different from riding mountain bikes, and I found I needed a less aero position than I use on my road bike in order not to get as punished. Also, you may find you need to do some work on the bike to keep the chain on, keep the brake levers in the right place, etc. So do some fire road and trail riding. If you run the hills you can't ride, it's good training as well as being fun.

    Have fun!

  21. #21
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    the need for water???

    most cross races around here are 45-60 min ordeals. I have a mental need to sip water while I race...no matter how hydrated I am. I wear a camelback during the cross races. It's really easy to pick me out of the pack, because of my pack. There is no cage/bottle to fumble with, only the hose to gather up. It's a simple fluid(no pun intended) motion.

    The sips keep me focused and happy. Not many crossers drink during the race. Having water keeps me closer to my comfort(a relitive term) zone during the race.

    I love the atmosphere, the rabid fans, the bike porn, and the comradire. It's usually over before you know it, but that just means you were holding back doesn't it?

    Have fun, strive to perform for yourself-to your best ability, don't compare yourself to the cross Gods(freaks) around you. Did I say have fun!

    Hopefully the event will split the semi pro's into another group, so you can watch their race too.

    The only negitive thing I can say about it is, most cross races invole much more driving to and from time, than race time. It's a blast that's for sure. And since I started racing, I find I ride my cross bike on local singletrack much more often.

    Mine's getting tuned up right now for a 40 mile destination race in a couple of weeks-The Black Fly Challenge. The field of 200+ goes off in a shotgun start. Cross bikes make up only 15% maybe of the field, mtb's the rest. The direction alternates each year, a 8 mile road section starts this year, then about 28 miles of very rough unimproved forest roads, another 3-4 road miles, and a finishing mile of technical singletrack. It'll beat the hell out of you on a cross bike, but ooh what a hoot it is.

    destination races exist like this all over, search them out too.

    Good luck, and HAVE FUN!

  22. #22
    Game on, b*tches!
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    Do what you want but I'm usually about ready to lose my lunch during the race so drinking isn't really an option....
    Originally Posted by tetter
    'Pain is temporary, and there might be beer at the finish line'

    "Karma is spread in lots of different ways. You know, like herpes."
    catzilla
    "I'm an American male. This is pizza. Leave me alone!"
    Alton Brown
    ohnoIaintsuckingnomore.blogspot.com



  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Magdaddy
    most cross races around here are 45-60 min ordeals. I have a mental need to sip water while I race...no matter how hydrated I am. I wear a camelback during the cross races. It's really easy to pick me out of the pack, because of my pack. There is no cage/bottle to fumble with, only the hose to gather up. It's a simple fluid(no pun intended) motion.
    The cool kids will not allow that. HTFU, dude. More seriously, the camelback ain't light, so you better not be weigh-weenying your bike while wearing that thing.

    As for the original post -- "What do I need to know for my first cross race??" -- the answer is nothing.

    There is no point in trying to perfect your skills or peak your training for the novice race. You will be blown away by how slow and skills-deficient your competition is. The mere fact that you are thinking about training for this race 2 months in advance means you will be mid pack at the worst.

    The worst thing that can happen is that you fall dismounting or remounting, but guess what, that happens all the time in novice races. Hell I've seen people attempt their first dismount in the parking lot 20 mins before the start and they did fine.

    Most people like to pretend that cross is some kind of special art that requires years of practice. It's not. It's a bike race. If you've ever gone really hard on a bike, then you know how to cross race. Get out there and give it everything you've got from the gun and you'll be fine. Once you've done a race or two, then you can worry about your technique or training.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by colinr
    Once you've done a race or two, then you can worry about your technique or training.
    I totally agree with the overall sentiment but I think it's worthwhile to practice dismounts and remounts, even if they're far from perfect.

  25. #25
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    If you are driving more than an hour to do a race, I would definitely do some dismounts and remounts well in advance. If you are doing the local novice race close to your house then i can see just showing up and winging it.

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