As I write this, it's exactly 4 weeks until Tacchino, the starting gun for this year's MABRA cross season. A little early? Sure, but with an historically excellent event and the first points for the MABRA Super8 series on the line, it'll fill and you'll want to be there and ready to go. That month is going to pass more quickly than you can imagine, so how do you prioritize the time you've got remaining?
Hopefully you've got your gear sorted out. If you don't, there's still some time to get it together, but you're burning daylight so get on that. Ideally, your bike (or better yet bikes plural) is built and maybe you've even ridden them. New cables, fresh brake pads and whatever else seemed like it was ready for the trash heap should be installed. There are so many things that a cross course can throw at your equipment, and mechanicals ruin races SO quickly, you really just want to have everything as dialed in as much as possible.
Wheels and tires are always a big topic. I'm fortunate to live in that so-called "ideal world" as far as wheels go. It's pretty mint. The wife and I each have a set of carbon tubulars, mine 38mm hers 50mm - personal preferences. We'll each have Challenge Grifos on those, since Grifos are fast on relatively dry, fast courses, and you want to use your fancy, fast, stiff carbon wheels in those conditions. Note that carbon wheels are a complete luxury, and if the budget allows room for two sets of aluminum tubulars or one of carbon, get the aluminums - no doubt. For the muddy days, we have some Fangos mounted to aluminum tubular wheels. I don't buy the "deep wheels steer better in muck" stuff, and I'd rather abuse a set of cheaper and less finicky aluminum wheels when it's nasty. We use Stan's in our tubulars as a preventative. If you must run clinchers, God be with you.
That covers equipment as much as we need to, so what about getting yourself ready? First thing on order is just to get on your bike and ride it. Gravel paths like the C&O towpath are awesome for just getting miles in and assimilating to your cross bike. Feel out the gearing, feel out the position, feel out the handling.
When you've got a couple of rides under your belt, why not take a trip to ride on some singletrack? And what better place to do that in a place like Rosaryville State Park in Upper Marlboro? The single track there is PHENOMENALLY BORING when you are riding a mountain bike, which makes it PERFECT on a cross bike. The flowing turns give you a great feel for engaging your tires and committing your bike to a turn. It's also ridiculously fun. Last but not least, ROSARYVILLE IS WHERE TACCHINO IS HELD. So go.
There's training, but just as importantly, there's practice. Set up some simple PVC barriers (MABRA barriers are regulation 16" high, so make yours the same) and start working on your dismounts, lifts, and remounts. I'm a huge fan of breaking any skill down into its individual components and practicing them to mastery before integrating the components into the whole skill and practicing that to mastery. This means you'll set a simple line and practice dismounting in time to start running at the line, carrying as much speed as possible. Then practice getting to the line on a shallow uphill, and from right and left turns. Practice lifts and barrier hops separately, first over just one barrier, then over two (place them 4 meters, or about 13', apart). Practice remounts until you are blue in the face. Then put them all the moves together and make the steps flow together smoothly.
One of the most efficient ways to work on turns is to set up a "u" drill, using 6 sticks. I got 6 pieces of dowel and tied different color marking tape to them. Every hardware store in the world has everything you need, total bill about $12. Set the perimeter sticks up in a box 10 paces wide by 30 paces long, and then place the interior sticks halfway between the ends that are 10 paces apart, and 4 paces toward the middle of the box. Ride around the "u" in one direction, getting a feel for how much speed you can carry, how late you can brake, and learning that how fast you go into the turn is far less important than how fast you're going coming out of it. When you've got the hang of it in one direction, reverse direction and practice the other way. Do this for 20' each way and you will be solid. Then orient the box on a hill to practice uphill, downhill, and side hill turning.
Your regular training is hopefully going to serve you in good stead for the bulk of your training, but one drill in particular is really helpful. Each cross race starts with a field sprint, and it's REALLY important to do well in it. From a standing stop, give yourself a 10 second countdown, then clip in and go as hard as you can for 20 seconds, then back it off a little bit for 20 seconds, then hold TT pace for 3 minutes. You will feel like you are going to do when you do this drill, full stop. This is what the first few minutes of every cross race feel like. The people who are going to take home the prizes are physically capable of doing this type of effort and mentally capable of staying aggressive and coming out of the initial effort ready to keep swinging.
When the holiday seasons goes off the back, racing season comes into view as that breakaway just on the horizon. Yes, it is time to start thinking about our 2012 season! MABRA needs you!
At the regional and state levels, the planning for 2012 is well underway and features a very full schedule. MABRA's schedule can be viewed here and the Virginia Cycling Association can be viewed here. Racers will notice that there is very little white space on the calendar and -- for the first time -- it includes an aggressive track schedule. Details about track and, of course, cyclocross are forthcoming.
To make it all a reality, new officials are needed! Desperately!
According to Jim Patton, MABRA Officials' Coordinator, last year's "response was outstanding and the class of 2010 was one of the best we've ever had." Despite this quality, nearly 50% of the clinic attendees never worked an event due to the transient nature of the MABRA region. Thus, there is always a need for new recruits. This year there is a special need for help in the following areas to help keep promoters' costs down: north in the I-95 corridor (especially Delaware); north in the Frederick and Hagerstown areas; and west along the I-66 corridor.
The entry level USA Cycling Official's training takes one day plus a little study preparation -- and there is NO cost to the new official. The first Entry Level Official's clinic is scheduled for February 4 in Odenton, MD -- and there will be other options for training. Check out this link to learn all you'll need to know and send any candidate information directly to Jim Patton. He'll make it easy for you to make it easy for racers to make it hard on race day.
Washington, D.C.'s only cyclocross race is already offering an equal payout for elite women and men, with a $1,000 purse going 10 deep. The Cat 1,2,3 Women's race is sponsored by Whole Foods Market.
Now newbie female crossers can bone up on their skills the day before.
Hub Racing's Arley Kemmerer, the 2009 Ed Sanders elite winner, will host a free clinic for women racers on Oct. 24 at 2pm. The clinic takes place on the Armed Forces Retirement Home -- on the DCCX course. This will give those women signed up to race on Sunday a chance to go over the course in advance with a seasoned pro.
Topics for the 90-minute women's clinic will include mounting/dismounting, cornering, line selection and starts.
Any woman who is registered to race can sign up for the clinic at no extra cost. To participate, you must first pre-register for DCCX and then send an email to DCMTB Clinic. The clinic is free, but riders must email to the address above in advance in order to be able to get on the grounds for the event.
DCCX - Presented by Family Bike Shop - is Washington, DC's only cyclocross race. The third-annual event will be held on October 25th on the grounds of the Armed Forces Retirement Home. The historic venue near Georgia Ave. in the heart of Washington is off-limits to the general public the rest of theyear.
The race, sponsored by the DCMTB team, is part of the nine-part series of the Mid-Atlantic Bicycle Racing Association. DCCX registration opened last month and there are already 263 pre-registered racers. Proceeds from the race are donated to help veterans living at the facility.