Practice basic skills like barriers at a clinic. Frank Overton

Practice basic skills like barriers at a clinic. © Frank Overton

On Friday, we talked a bit about what to look for in a training camp. But today, we want to look at what exactly you can expect to get out of a training camp, so you know what to look for if you’re planning on dropping some dollars on a camp this summer.

by Frank Overton, FasCat Coaching

The primary benefits of a pre-season cyclocross camp are threefold:  1) you learn basic to advanced cyclocross skills 2) you get your bike set up right and 3) you set up your training. Then (because its still pre-season),  you’ve still got time to practice and train before the racing season starts. These are items that are much more difficult to tackle and improve once you start racing. Right now, there are clinics run by coaches and pros being held all across the country, so consider taking advantage of at least one of them.

Skills & Coaching
We all know having ‘skills’ is essential for successful cyclocross racing, but have you been shown the correct skills by experienced coaches?  There’s a right way and wrong way to dismount, remount, carry your bike, and corner. Plus, there’s a plethora of other technical skills that you need to be shown and coached through. Lots and lots of athletes think they know what’s up and every weekend we continue to see bad technique demonstrated across the board. If you’ve got a lot of watts with poor skills you’re at a disadvantage to a not as powerful rider who’s got skills.

Just breaking down the maneuvers into their separate components and being shown what’s what is valuable. Then your cyclocross skills are just like a baseball player taking batting practice or a golfer at the driving range: you gotta practice! You’ll be given instruction on how to practice so that you can go home and get the reps in. Plus, because this is a pre-season camp, you’ll have time to hone these skills before the first race.

Bike Fit
A pre-season camp is also the best time to set up your bike fit position as well as spend time practicing in that position. A good cyclocross bike fit will help you handle the bike better and race faster.If your road and ’cross bikes are set up with identical positions, one of them is not optimal. These two sports have their own sets of demands, and there are different priorities with regard to issues like weight distribution and aerodynamics. It’s imperative to have enough weight on the front wheel of your ’cross bike for the tire to be able to bite in corners, too much weight on the rear wheel results in the bike “pushing” in tight turns. Likewise, while aerodynamics are an important component in a road racing bike fit, the lower speeds and more abrupt changes of such in ’cross make it less of a priority.

A cyclocross bike fit is independent of any previous road or mountain bike fit you’ve had. Ultimately, you are setting up your ’cross bike to handle better so you race faster!

A seat too high or too long of a reach can make learning how to corner and remount your bike more difficult. Having a coach watch you practice your skills on your bike is important because the coach can let you know if your bike is limiting your handling and skills. This is an important distinction from going into a bike shop or a fit studio and saying you want a cyclocross bike fit, unless they begin by watching you practice your skills outdoors. Having a fitter on staff that also coaches the clinics is best because he or she observes first hand how a poor fit can impede a rider’s learning curve, and their enjoyment of ‘cross.

Equipment Setup
At our first camp three years ago, I distinctly remember our dinner conversation: tire pressure, tire tread, wheels, and on and on. Camp is a cyclocross bike geek’s paradise and at any good camp you should be fed knowledge about specialized cyclocross equipment. There’s a lot to know about tubulars, tire tread and how to set up a true cyclocross bike.  Many camps will have an equipment clinic at a bike shop to help you understand how you can spend (and save) your dollars with as much or as little specialty equipment as you’d like.

They can tell you exactly what you need to really optimize your rig by working with them and getting set up pre-season you’ve got time to get everything together. No more wondering if those mud tires will be available in time for the first wet race weekend.

Last but certainly not least is your training. Watts this, anaerobic that – the most important part of a camp is that you immerse yourself into the ’cross culture and hear what other athletes are doing and what their goals are. You get psyched to race and motivated to double down on your training.

Most importantly, you sit in on cyclocross training talks from experienced cyclocross coaches. Most camps offer special deals to get you going on a training plan or coaching program. For example, we happen to offer a complimentary 12-week training program for campers to take home after they’ve had a one-on-one consultation with a coach. Just getting on a plan will net you greater gains that riding hard once a week and racing both days every weekend. Finally, since it’s a pre-season camp, you have time to accomplish a great deal with your training.  Not cramming it in before the first big race.

In short, a Cyclocross Camp is a turnkey solution:

1. Skills practice: check
2. Cyclocross bike fit: check
3. Equipment: check
4. Training: check, check!
5. Custom 12 Week Training program: check, CHECK!!

A cyclocross camp has everything you need to make your 2012 ’cross season a huge success. You’re going to get it at a time of year that’s early enough to really work for your training plan and practice the skills, but also close enough to ’cross season that you’re not going to forget what you learned. As an added bonus, you’ll meet more people who are as passionate about ’cross as you are, and you’ll be super amped to get ready for the 2012 season!

There are several coaching groups putting on clinics, like the original Cycle-Smart Coaching on August 17-19th in Northampton, Massachusetts. Of course there’s with National Champion Jeremy Powers.  JBV Coaching is hosting two clinics also with JPows in Washington, DC and in Ohio on September 1st and 2nd, respectively.  There’s probably more in your part of the country, too, so ask around and get thee to a ’cross camp!

Frank Overton, owner & head coach of FasCat Coaching and the FasCat Performance Cycling Center.  To learn more about FasCat and their services to make you faster, including their cyclocross camps visit or email [email protected]