Joining us again for our bi-weekly column, Ask a Pro, is 2009 national cyclocross champion Tim Johnson (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com). If you missed our first reader submitted Q&A session, check it out here. Have a question for Tim? Send it to email@example.com
Q: Tim, the biggest problem I have late in the year is with my hands and feet getting cold. Day 1 of the USGP in Portland my hands were so cold that I could barely grip the bars. Day 2 I taped warmers to my wrists and calves, which helped but didn’t solve everything. Your race was later in the day, but it was still very cold and your gloves were very thin. You race Worlds in Europe where it’s much colder, what’s the secret?
Phil Avery – Portland, OR. (Much respect, but I’ll always cheer for Trebon and heckle you!)
Tim Johnson: As you might have noticed, Phil, not everyone is born a supermodel. As your favorite rider Trebon can attest, some riders are softer than others when it comes to handling the different conditions we face on race day. If every rider on the start line wore “the warmest gloves made,” you’d still get a big variation on perceived warmth from the group. I’m on the “consistently warmer” end of the spectrum as opposed to the “always chilly” end and that makes it easier for my hands to function when the temps dip. There are two things I focus on to keep things that way. Undershirts are of paramount importance when you’re zipping up a thin lycra skinsuit to do battle with the course, and I always have a selection of probably 10 to 15 in various thicknesses, styles and warmth levels. I’d much rather have an overly toasty core so that I can go with light to no-gloves while racing, mostly for the technical finesse I can achieve with bare hands on my handlebars. The other thing that I might be a little obsessive about are those gloves. I’m still looking for the end-all, be-all glove that I can rely on in most conditions, but I haven’t found it yet. Just like the undershirt situation, I’ve always got a pile of gloves that I’m trying, but I still wind up with naked hands most of the time, it seems.
This is probably the most popular question, but I’ll ask it anyway: how on earth do I go about learning fast leaping remounts? I’m terrified to make “The Leap,” so what’s the best way to build up to it? I’ve tried everything and I just can’t kill the stutter step, due mostly to my fear of getting injured in a way I never want to get injured.
TJ: Matt, don’t sweat it. Making that final commitment to landing on your seat with your manhood still intact is really a watershed moment for a ’cross rider. If it takes you a little bit longer than most to figure it out, that’s OK. Some people might argue that taking longer is a good thing, even.
In this case, practice truly does make perfect. Get yourself out on your local soccer field and do dismounts and remounts up and down the sidelines. Do them fast, do them slow, it doesn’t matter, but break the motions down into the pieces that you feel comfortable with and the portions that scare you. Focus on exaggerating the motions until placing your inner thigh on your seat and then sliding your leg all the way down becomes familiar. One secret I’ll let you in on is this: Just as you’re about to leap towards or on the bike, push forward, then pull back the bike as a kind of jump start. You’re creating just enough momentum from a near standstill that will help in the final motion (and ultimately increase the speed of your remount).
Q: Hi Tim,
As a first year biker, I discovered ’cross and fell in love last fall. A winter of training and a spring of road racing have me in better shape, but I’m still getting dropped by Cat 5 packs too early in races. I fear that as cyclocross looms four months away, I have to make a training change ASAP. How should I train on 10 hours per week? Do you recommend training heavy in long miles or high intensity? Should I just bag my self-coaching efforts and shell out my new bike money for a coach?
TJ: Joe, your problems aren’t unique and have been shared by lots of riders who’ve discovered that that climbing the ladder of cyclocross love has left you wanting more and more. Since I don’t know you that well, I’ll try and generalize as best as I can. If you’re a pretty fit person (i.e. riding, jogging, yoga, mountain biking with buddies) then you’ll be able to focus the 10 hours a week you have on becoming a quicker rider with more intense workouts that include pedaling exercises, technique workouts with a group, and race tactics. ’Cross isn’t the Tour de France, so there’s no need for 30-hour weeks of long miles and months of preparation. ’Cross is fun, exciting and easy (relatively speaking) to do, that’s why we love it, right?