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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Keeping Practice Fun

While it’s not a stretch to assume that most organizers and attendees of a weekly practice are predominantly motivated to get faster and have better results at the races, I should be stating the obvious by saying that the key to a great practice is to also keep it fun. Talking with Yee, it’s easy to conclude that fun might be his primary goal, with fitness a close second. “While our weekly shenanigans like relay races and singlespeed laps certainly keep things fun, light-hearted and still a great workout, the highlights of each season’s worth of practices for me are the stupid games we play, like our pumpkin pie-eating race relay around Thanksgiving, and our White Elephant gift exchange in December… And, of course, going for burritos after every practice.”

Some Wednesdays, the refueling process is the highlight of practice. photo: Crystal Luxmore

Some Wednesdays, the refueling process is the highlight of practice. photo: Crystal Luxmore

Yee has continued the post-practice burrito tradition he began in 1996 after his Wednesday practice in Boston, and only half-jokingly says all those dollars spent on burritos over the 20 years since are a major reason he’ll never be able to retire. “The benefit of doing a night practice is that not everyone has to run off right away and head to work. If you can add a social element, there will be more of a draw and incentive for people to come out when it’s cold and they’re tired. Plus, the added peer pressure doesn’t hurt.”

One last thought about Wednesday Night Worlds: There is no “one trick” to having a satisfying ’cross season other than having realistic expectations, but if you are not incorporating race day simulations into your training, you should seriously reconsider it.

This article originally appeared in Issue 25. Subscribe to our print or digital magazine to read and support more content like this.

Want more training tips? Cross Is Coming. Get ready for your best cyclocross season ever with more Training Tuesday pieces here from coaches Mayhew, Adam Myerson and Kenneth Lundgren and others.

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