CYCLO-CROSS in COLORADO

BY KENNETH LUNDGREN

Hey Gang,

Just read this in Bicycling Magazine: “Ride with the best. To be the best at the sport, you need to go where the best are. If you’re a mountain biker, spend a couple of weeks at Whistler and you will be changed forever. If you’re a road rider and want want to become a better climber, go to Colorado. Find the best, train with them, watch what they do, and learn their secrets.” Gary Fisher

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So here I am, still in Boulder, still riding and learning and racing and HURTING, lol. Damn — the talent out here is incredible. Like, I’m doing these pro/open ‘cross races, and the fields are HUGE, 60, 70+ showing up at these mega-huge local events. 100 guys at the Fort Collins USGP. The energy is UNBELIEVABLE — cyclo-cross is the religion out here…

The breed of athlete is just DIFFERENT. I wish I had my TT bike, as maybe I could exact some revenge, but getting thrashed by these monsters in training rides and races on the dirt/grass just makes me want to work harder, diet better, dig deeper, master the technique, and race smarter. I’ve been trying to stay on a periodized training program, so of course I wasn’t overly strong in July or August — or September, lol.

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But I have a theory. When people in Boulder say they’re ‘okay’ at something, it means they’re PROFESSIONAL! Rock climbing, running, triathlons, marathon running, swimming, cycling. My friend had a similar story, made friends with a waiter in a restaurant, a ‘novice’ cross-country skier… and they go out into the Rocky Mountain foothills and this ‘novice’ had the smooth form and balance and endurance of a Swedish Olympic athlete, lol… If you ever come to Boulder, people, you are forewarned!

Cyclo-cross doesn’t suit me well. #1 I don’t have great world-class ‘feel’ on the dirt and #2 my power curve is VERY flat, meaning my 5m 10m 20m 30m power maxes are all very similar. This is impressive and also equally limiting! And in the past 3-4 years, time trialing has really become my forte and strength, and so I’ve REALLY maximized my strength without really working on my weakness — which is max efforts, short Anaerobic Threshold punches — repeatedly, with micro-recovery… NOT my cup of tea — and the ‘cross rider is at home with these types of efforts.

Do NOT be fooled. Cyclo-cross is NOT a time trial. Rather it is like trying to ride off the front of a techy crit on dirt.

So, this training block has been all about that, working on things that have become almost foreign to me… I am hoping to find my best form around mid-NOV, when things get really ‘crossy in the cyclo-cross world… I have been racing way more than usual because I want to get the experience of racing with the fastest riders in the country — no other way to duplicate this type of training stress or experience…

I also do Wednesday Worlds every Wednesday morning — this is a riot. The first WED, back in SEPT, it was 50 degrees and raining, but I rode to the coffeeshop anyway, thinking there’d be no one there — and there are 100 riders with their ‘cross bikes, wearing rain jackets, smiling and amped for the for WW of the year…

Completely surreal.

Wednesday Worlds. Many ‘a National Champion has been bred on this ride… WW is essentially two 20-25m ‘cross races, starting at 8 in da morn. Just nuts. Only in Boulder, lol. We meet at the coffeeshop, then ride bike paths to Park #1 (there are 8 good ‘cross parks here, any of which could be home for a true race!), do a WU lap, then “race.” It’s balls to the wall, and many of the best riders show up, so the pace is BRUTAL. As of now, I’m in No Man’s Land, can’t go with the 15 strongest riders, but can get away from most everyone else, usually hovering in that middle ground…

Then after Race #1, we get our stuff together, then roll via bike path to park #2, do a WU lap, and race again. I mean, if you want to learn how to ride/race your ‘cross bike, Race ‘Cross. It’s kinda a sad truth, but it is what it is… Last week we ripped Valmont Bike Park (home of arguably the biggest ‘cross race in the country, on Halloween Weekend!!!!! — Hello, Decapitation!) and then rode over to The Elks, a big barren field chock full of twisty turns, off-cambers, even a rock pit, run-ups, and barriers. They say The Elks is the Champion’s Breeding Ground. I hope so! I live just 20 seconds away and have been riding there every day after my planned workout!

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I’ve been racing twice every weekend. I ensured to give myself more of an aerobic base than ever, because I knew I’d be racing so much, plus Wednesday Worlds… So, without much top-end, I was suffering all shades of death in the first few races, just praying a mountain lion would come out and eat me. But, around last week, at Fort Collins USGP (where I finished 32nd and 30th — in epic rainy 36-degree weather!), the legs began to come around… With this ‘cross season, I REALLY wanted to emanate the idea that it’s better to start way slow and finish strong than start strong and finish on fumes — and this is REALLY common in ‘cross, much more so than in road or MTB racing — because ‘cross is last. And typically the roadie or MTBer comes into the early season races with screaming form… and right around now you see that shift — mid-OCT the ‘crossers begin to take control, and then NOV and DEC is entirely the ‘cross specialist’s show. It makes me proud that most Elite Endurance athletes race better on Day 2 — because they have superior aerobic conditioning, it’s as clear as day…

I say it a million times, but so true: the 6 Ps of success — Proper Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.

I was doing tons of aerobic riding this summer, and in pics from late-summer I actually put on muscle, perhaps from the Paleo diet and feeling so fresh… So, this fall I’ve been restricting the calories, weening the weight down a bit, and it’s working… From 164 on SEPT 1st to 157 now… and hoping to be 150-ish once mid-NOV sits in — which is hard, because we’re riding less this time of year… But, in my opinion, super-long road climbs and cyclo-cross is where power-to-weight ratio is MOST important, because of all the twists and turns and tight ascents and accelerations… The trick is to really get as light as possible in this short window of time without losing too much power. It’s like not like you have to slim down and do a 4h race — this is cyclo-cross… I mean, people talk about the giant monster ‘cross riders of Belgium. Sven Nys? He’s 5’9″ and 140 pounds. World Champion Stybar, this colossal dragon? He’s a little smaller than me!

But the riders here in Colorado are FAST — like, every guy in the field is there because he belongs and takes his riding very seriously. No slouches, no easy passes, every rider can handle their bike superbly. I am still amazed how ridiculously stacked the fields are. I have a friend who won the MAC Bs a few years ago, came out here, raced the Elite Opens, got smashed, now just races 35+ — which is no easy ride, either! I mean, I was up in Frisco, up in the Rocky Mountains, for a weekend of racing, and the announcer says there’re 14 previous and current national champions in our field. Imagine 14 cross-specialist Roger Aspholms or Maurice Gamanho’s in the first three rows, and then everyone else is still uber-fast and fit. Many of the CO racers grew up with ‘cross, it’s engrained in their blood — them railing grassy dirt turns at mach speed is as natural to them as it is for me to go out and do TT intervals on my TT bike. Dealing with this high-level of riding is NOT a pleasant experience!!!! (AND, racing at 9800 feet, it feels like someone’s got a plastic bag over your face!).

I mean, last week Jeremy Horgan Kobelski won the Excel Sports ‘Cross Race. I’m suffering in for 25th. This is what I’m dealing with! This guy has won like 15 Nationals Championships and will most likely again be representing our country in the Olympics next year…

But if it were easy, we’d be bored, right? Staying very busy over here, in the middle of reading a new book on time trialing, a book on race weight, am writing a monthly column for Cyclo-Cross Magazine and also doing articles for Velo News (the first on Katie Compton!) — plus trying to ride my bike every day… I’ve made friends with numerous national champions out here, am getting riding tips, learning about their training, their diet, their mindset, their experience, and I very much look forward to computing this and passing the information through to my athletes via superior training…

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I look to be back east maybe for States (would be nice to come back from altitude and immediately race back home!!!) or later… Would like to spend a holiday, either Thanksgiving or X-mas, with my folks, then back out here for training and a winter snowboarding this Rocky Mountainness… then back in NJ for the 2012 cycling season, where the goals are not 100% hammered out yet… Elite Endurance Road Cycling Team might be a possibility, but I’m not pushing that so quickly — it will happen when the time is right.

However, the Elite Endruance CX Team is drillin’ it out there.

Stacey Barbossa is placing top-10 in every UCI race entered, WON the pro Whirlybird race, is LEADING the Mac Series standings. BARBOSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSA!

Nicholas Taylor of Arlington VA is currently 4th in the MABRA standings and took a stellar 2nd and 1st this weekend at Granogue in the Cat-2s…

Sean Pasieka recently took 7th in the Bs at Granogue — oh my, how far we’ve all come in less than a year!

Jerry Gala of NC took 5th in the Raleigh ‘Cross race, his first of the year — HUGE field! 5th of 125 starts! Jerry is a former MTBer who loves crits, and THIS is a scary combination — far scarier than the diesel time trialist, which is what I have become

Chris Fritz won his AG and took 2nd overall at the Martin Truex Great Causeway Challenge!!! (duathlon)

Jesse O’Donnell took 22nd overall at the pro Timberman 70.3 and has qualified for WORLDS 2012 in Spain… What goes around comes around — with coaching, I started with a bunch of triathletes, then cycling took over, and this year I’m coaching a few VERY talented triathletes and the sky is the limit with them, am enjoying this ride very much… If I can work on this whole “swimming” thing this winter and stop looking like a wounded duck in the water, I would very much like to again do some triathlons in 2012 (my last in 1999!).

That’s about it for now… Boulder Cup weekend in two weeks. Let’s see if Tim Johnson can exact some revenge on Jeremy Powers… One has started fast, the other is starting more slowly, and at the halfway point of the season, it will be interesting seeing how their form matches up… Hope all’s well back east!

COMING SOON: An article on “How To Ride Sand,” information from Ben Berden’s BCS Sand Clinic, and an article on “How to Ride Off-Cambers,” interview with National Champion Peter Webber — so keep your eyes peeled for CX Magazine and the new Velo!!

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Kenneth Lundgren's Diary | Tuesday, October 18th, 2011 | | |