Whether you are an Elite racer aiming to work your way through a UCI field, or a cowbell-ringing spectator looking to enter your first race come September, all riders who throw themselves into the competitive arena dream of better results. Your lofty goal could be a podium finish, but it could also be something a little more modest—say finishing a forty-five minute race without pulling out. As August is here, and cyclocross is just around the corner, even jaded riders start to feel the butterflies when they think about the new race season ahead.

Inevitably, this excitement brings about the need for preparation. For beginners, this might mean practicing unclipping pedals or lifting a mountain bike over imaginary barriers. For more experienced riders, training could be a three-month dedication to strength and core work, threshold workouts, VO2-max intervals and technical rides.

While training by yourself has its advantages, nothing beats actual cyclocross races for improving conditioning and skills. Landing on your saddle when your heart is skyrocketing is much different than jumping on your bike in your backyard. You might have to wait until race day to push yourself to your body’s limits, but if you want the best simulation your other cyclocross buddies can provide, look no further than Wednesday Night Worlds.

For today's Training Tuesday piece, we're focusing on how to prepare for racing, by racing. See our tips to finding a good practice and creating your own practice through our guide below.

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Who to Invite

Gather riders of all skill sets. Some of us plan to only follow Sven Nys all season, but I can promise you that everyone will eventually be caught behind someone with “greener” legs and handling skills. Wednesday is the day to practice patience and being aware of unpredictable riders. Besides, riding with the new generation of riders is one of the best ways to grow the cyclocross community. On the other hand, inviting racers faster than you, or with better skills than you, will help make sure you’re challenged and have someone to chase.

Cyclocross sessions incorporate daily start practice. Hitting the pedal the first time, every time. © Tom Robertson.

Cyclocross practice should have manageable numbers and can incorporate daily start practice to hit the pedal the first time, every time. © Tom Robertson.

Keeping a manageable number of riders is essential, for the venue, chemistry and predictability. If your practice is too small, you risk it being unreliable because someone is traveling, sick, or caught in traffic. If the group is too large, the venue can take a beating; cohesiveness and the vibe can suffer; or smaller cliques of riders may go off and practice on their own.

Find people with similar goals and compatible temperaments. If someone really just wants to work on barriers, while another person only wants to do his coach’s one-legged efforts, your practice will never be a success, and there will always be some tension.

If you found the perfect practice spot and want to grow your Wednesday Worlds, talk it up on our Cowbell Forums and your local scene’s email list. And don’t forget to look for the rider who looks mystified and beat up after a race! I can guarantee he or she would love to be in on your secret.

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