Long time EE athlete Stacey Barbossa on the top step of the 2018 CX Nationals podium

Cyclocross Nationals are known for having conditions ranging from dry to mud to snow. How do you advise clients practice riding mud and snow and other conditions they might not have locally?

I like to have athletes go out very early or late, in slicker conditions. Start with 12-13% of body weight, this is PSI, and get used to riding tubulars at lower tire pressure. They perform entirely differently and you must learn these limits and proprioception – once you relax and gain confidence, you will be amazed how much traction and speed is possible.

Also, have them ride at night. The eyes lie to you, create fear. You look to where you go, and at night you don’t see the loose dirt or ruts to spook you, and you will be surprised how much better you’ll ride the same terrain in darkness. The athlete continuously gets more comfortable on this terrain and gets used to it, sliding a bit, slipping, never panicking, always able to remain in that flow state and efficiently moving forward.

With a month between the end of most local scenes and Nationals, getting sick is a possibility. What advice do you have for managing illness before Nationals (or any big race). Have any guidelines for when it’s okay to still work? 

Walk around with a gallon jug of water and drink water like it’s a job. Buy Oil of Oregano in dropper bottle, take every other day, is secret number-one remedy to ward off illness when form and power-to-weight is at peak levels – always a precarious razor’s edge.

Take Vitamin C supplement every day. The moment you feel sore throat or sickness creeping in, suck on Cold-Eze lozenges, one after the other. Empty bag into pocket and consume them all day; this is ultimate IV drip of zinc into your body, will stop a cold in its tracks.

Make sure to have pre-ride and post-ride meals, stay hydrated through day, and get to bed EARLY. These are the 3 best things you can do for yourself.

What about avoiding weight gain and generally bad eating habits during the holidays? Is it possible? Thoughts on logging food and exercise? 

For athletes who are aiming for Nats, this should not be an issue. I am not a handholder or cheerleader, I don’t need to create motivation. For athletes needing inspiration, I would say to keep reminding yourself the time-frame is very short… Tgiving to Nats is 6-7 weeks. Hanukah and Christmas is 3 weeks – it’s nothing. The sacrifice is well worth it if you want to win. If you do not prepare 100%, you are not going to Nats to win, you know that – you are just going.

Diet is one thing we have full responsibility over. You cannot control how fast I will be, how the track will ride, how cold it will be, rain snow, if you will wake up sick, if your chain will snap, if you’ll get cut in the third turn. These things you cannot control. However, diet you have 100% control over, and it’s something many athletes don’t respect. Most races are 12-14 mph avg speed, superior power-to-weight is what creates masterclass in this game.

Eat for purpose, not pleasure. Do you want to find your best on race day? Because you will not if you don’t find your best now, in preparation.

If you’re hungry, drink a glass of water. If you’re still hungry, drink another glass of water. Still hungry? Chill lemon water.

Athletes should be restricting portion sizes but still eating in same manner for 6-8 weeks pre-race. Metabolism will be through the roof, Vo2 will rise and the body will shred out. 6-8 weeks, erring more to 6 weeks is optimal build and timing.

What advice do you have for avoiding mental burnout between now and Nationals?

There are no last-minute fixes. Peaking for Nats is a long, year-long process. If you are getting burnout now, something went wrong during the year. Athletes who have prepared correctly should be salivating to live cleaner through the holidaze (not typo) to ensure peak performance at Nats.

I advise Less Is More. The work is done. Nov and Dec should’ve been huge months, the diamond is already hardened. Look yourself in mirror every day, speak your goals out loud, commit to a clean diet, don’t miss a workout or rest day, make sure to stretch 1-2x/day, typically post-ride and some point before bed. You can link together 4-5 stretches, do 2-3 supersets, 10-15min each session, stretching improves blood flow to muscles, a longer, loose muscle is a stronger muscle, will enhance peak effect and confidence levels.

The one thing athletes can’t do it rest. I am adamant about tapers, about finding your best in competition, not leaving your best in preparation and training. You are on a journey forward and you will find your best at Nats – make it that way. Better diet. More time off feet with legs up. More rest. More water. More sleep. Make sure to find 100% sharpness and focus during workout time. This is why you work hard, for moments like this. Embrace this time, you will look back at these years forever.

With so many good riders heading to Nationals, riders can face the new challenge of an undesirable call-up spot. How do you advise racers on preparing for the challenges of a unique race like Nationals?

STARTS STARTS STARTS, master your start. Practice it a few times every week, the movements should be intrinsic. Set pedal flat at engagement point, know exactly how you keep foot on ground, hand placement, gearing, everything is always 100% the same. START, either stay seated or stand and find pedal instantly, power into gear and shift when spinning out.

Repeat START drills in warm-ups, to start intervals, as loose form drills to warm down, do EZ reps on Recovery Days – master the start and become very good at hard starts, you always want to be in top-5 kopgroup.

Practice starting in bigger gear. You will adapt and start faster, carry more speed through course early parts. Train it and get used to it.

Also, prepare yourself mentally for hardest race ever. Nationals, biggest prize, hardest competition, you will be at your best and expect to push to new levels or pain and fatigue, to find something new, to persevere through the toughest adversity. If you are mid-pack after a lap, keep on gas and have confidence in your skills and form, you are going to keep knifing forward.

All that matters is how the race ends, not how it begins. #KnowThat #NeverPanic

It’s cold and nasty out in many parts of the country. Is it too late or risky to hit the gym and add some new activities like weights or yoga to stay in shape before Nationals?

I advise not doing anything severely new in the 21 days pre-race. The diamond is hardened – just need to dust it off, this is the easy work, the fruits of your labor. New activities can risk failure or injury, and can really wreak havoc with confidence. Committed athletes and champions should not need to add new things to preparation in last weeks. The taper is the best part. The proprioception is set. Trying to teach yourself new thing at last moment can diminish peak potential.

Having said that, I don’t believe in superstitions, just superior preparation. I have coached athletes who love doing light gym wkts as active recovery workouts, because of work or training availability, but this is something they do all year. The main thing is to not deviate from your plan and add new things haphazardly in final weeks.

You should have everything planned out. Now is time to rest, enjoy, and visualize a winning performance. #HappyHolidaze #ChampionBehavior

Training Article By: Kenneth Lundgren