Cyclocross traditions: smart or silly? We talked to a wide variety of cycloross Elite racers to get their thoughts on cyclocross traditions. Illustration by Jeff RosenhallIn part two of a four-part series (read part one on leg shaving and embrocation here), which originally appeared in Cyclocross Magazine Issue 29, we take a look at two cyclocross traditions that affect both your pre- and post-race routine—caffeine before a race, and getting a massage after.

Read on to see what top pros have to say, and maybe you’ll reevaluate your race day prep. (Illustration by Jeff Rosenhall)

Post-Race Massage

Massages? Aren’t those the things you get when your job has pressed you to the absolute stress point and you need a way to unwind? You might not have knots in your shoulders, and that roller you take on the trip usually relaxes your muscles out just enough.

You wonder how much more a massage therapist can benefit your race day halfway through the season, especially as it is one of the deep-rooted traditions of pro cyclists everywhere. Here’s what the Elites say:

Tim Johnson: Bodywork is about more than just massage. As someone who trained and traveled while racing all around North America, Europe and Asia… it’s a prerequisite. Scheduling a bi-monthly massage during cyclocross season would do someone wonders in keeping ahead of injury and their body working well.

Mo Bruno Roy: Massage, yes, since that what I do for a living, I recommend one to two times a month. It’s not financially possible for everyone, but do look for deals at local spas. Something is better than nothing, but a good, trained sports massage therapist is well worth it.

Don Myrah: I was supple, so I don’t think I really saw many of the benefits that others might have. Is it worth paying for? Well, I think that there are riders who are very tight, and they could benefit. For me it was just a ritual that was good to have.

Helen Wyman: I am a qualified physiotherapist. There are literally thousands of research papers on the effects of massage on performance and yet still no one can say “it works!” I love massage, and I live in Europe and use a ‘pricey’ masseur. He charges 15 euros. I used to go to Gabby Durrin’s mechanic, who also worked as a soigneur for Stef’s pro team, he charged six euros. When something is that easy and simple to get, I would always use it. However I have heard that it’s costly in America and it’s only really beneficial if you get it regularly.

Jeremy Powers: If you’re training and racing hard, massage will become a necessary part of your routine. I get a couple a month, but not at each race. Just when I’m feeling beat up, usually. I try to avoid really deep massage and stick to ‘a nice light flush.’

Josh Johnson: Massage can be very beneficial if you have someone who is well-trained in sports massage and works with athletes often. I don’t get massages too often, but I use other methods to aid in recovery such as: recovery units that compress the legs, ice baths and compression wear.

Pre-Race Coffee or Caffeine

We asked elite racers what their thoughts were on pre-race coffee or caffeine. Photo by Flickr user Russell James Smith

We asked elite racers what their thoughts were on pre-race coffee or caffeine. Photo by Flickr user Russell James Smith

It seems that every week a new scientific report is telling you the advantages and disadvantages of caffeine on your body. Perhaps you’re a pot-a-day coffee junkie or only touch the stuff during an all-nighter for work, but you wonder if the caffeine buzz before race day is somehow dragging you down or giving you the slight bump in energy you needed for the last run-up. Here’s what the Elites say:

Helen Wyman: I love good coffee. But coffee and caffeine are two separate things really. The amount of caffeine required to create a temporary improvement in performance during a race requires caffeine tablets. I don’t think anyone needs that in a cyclocross race at that level. Having said that, if you choose that path it should be pure caffeine with no sugar, and don’t ever take tablets in a hot cyclocross race: You will risk dehydration and heart murmurs. It’s not worth it!

Jeremy Powers: I use as a tool when I need it, during hard training days that are back-to-back. I also like it for late-day events—Vegas is a race I think I’ve always had some coffee before because it’s so you’re coming from the East Coast, it’s like a race at midnight. Coffee can have a great impact, so I don’t abuse that, I really use it as a tool—I always have one cup in the a.m. too. That’s a requirement.

Allen Krughoff: Yes, please. I keep seeing articles come out reporting the benefits of training or racing with caffeine, but my empirical evidence is simply that I race better with it—and I love good coffee. I’ll bring an Aeropress to the races, and last year our mechanic Erik Maresjo had a Jetboil—we could brew up a nice strong coffee an hour out from racing even if “Tillie,” the Rapha Espresso rig, wasn’t around or the friendly Grimpeur Brothers weren’t at the race. In years past, I would make coffee at the hotel and bring it in a little Stanley thermos. A long time ago I would do this pre-race coffee hunt for something around the venue, and it usually ended up in a lot of wasted time and stress, so I had to end that routine.

Tim Johnson: Perking up so that you’re “present” on race day is an old tradition, and a morning coffee and a Red Bull before the gun will help to make sure you’re not wearing the 100-lb. cloak of nervousness or being timid when you should be gunning for that first turn.

Read more about cyclocross traditions, and keep an eye on this weekend, as we share part three of our look into cyclocross traditions—what the elites think about warming up and cooling down before and after a race. Can’t wait? Pick up a back copy or get quick access via a digital subscription to the entire piece.