Thanks to Chris Mayhew from JBV Coaching, we’ll have a strong build up to our ‘cross season. He’s laid out a number of things that we need to be doing to get the most out of ourselves and hit the ground running at those first target races of the season.

From the pre-season break, to cyclocross-specific work to a pre-season taper, we’ll be well prepared to take the line. But before we do, what about openers? Mayhew opens up about openers in this week’s Training Tuesday.

Sea Otter Classic 2016 Cyclocross Race, women's podium, L to R: Rathbun, McFadden, Mani, Clouse, Maximenko. © Cyclocross Magazine

If you’re looking to be in top form for the first races of the season, openers may be the thing to get you there. File photo of the Sea Otter Classic 2016 Cyclocross Race, women’s podium. © Cyclocross Magazine

by Chris Mayhew

Be it a two week taper or one, the other critical issue leading up to your races is what we commonly referr to as openers, So called because we’re “opening up” our legs and all the energy systems we need to race effectively.

Openers are very individual and require some note taking as to what works for each athlete. Keep track of what sort of workouts and ride durations you feel best the day after. If you have a powermeter it’s very clear what sort of ride or workout produces higher short term power the next day. And what you do may change to some extent as the season goes on. By way of example, in October I’m doing about the bare minimum I can to get opened up, whereas in September I’m doing a full workout the day before a race.

I also tell clients to keep track of what actual openers work for them. I give a general recommendation but also check in to see if that actually works for them. Also keep track of how you feel and perform over two days of racing. If you do much better the second day it might be worth hitting openers a bit harder. If you’re really fatigued that second day maybe back off a bit on them.

The main idea is to do a warm up the day before a race. You want to work your way through the various training levels doing just a bit of each. You don’t want to do so much it’s a workout, but enough to prepare you for the intensity of the following day. My general recommendations are to leave your best effort on the table. Do enough that you feel good but don’t go so hard you did you best effort in training. Once you think you might not have another effort that good in you, go home. Keep the overall workout under an hour, maybe even less than that. I’ve done as little as half an hour and as much as an hour. But again, the idea is to feel good, not come into the following day with fatigue. And if you’re racing two days you’ll want to keep these very short, as day one of the weekend will definitely open you up for the second day.

There are no studies regarding openers that I’m aware of. However, having looked at my own power data and having talked to many clients over the years, I think there’s great evidence for them. That said, I’ve also talked to people that don’t do them and feel just fine. They can be a real hassle to fit in if you’re doing them after work but then have to travel to a race that night as well. Sometimes just going to bed might be a smarter move than doing a late night workout, especially if you’re going to be racing early in the morning.

My recommendation is to keep track of what does and does not work for you and let the evidence drive your decision making, and to be flexible in that process as well. Do what works for you at that time.