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Training Center: How to train for cyclocross

  • By Adam St. Pierre, Boulder Center for Sports Medicine
  • Published Oct. 18, 2010
  • Updated Dec. 14, 2012 at 12:36 PM EDT

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Training for cyclocross

Dear VeloNews Training Center,
I’m currently training for cyclocross season and I’m not able to afford a coach. I’ve seen lots of different information online about training for ‘cross. Can you give me any advice? How often and how far should I run? Should I do intervals and if so for how long and how many times a week? Do I still go for long rides on the weekends? Help!
— Debbie

Debbie,
Training for cyclocross is similar to training for all cycling events in that you should train for the specific demands of the event. ‘Cross races are shorter than most road or mountain bike races so your long rides can be shorter (2-4 hours). Doing a longer base ride on non-race weekends will help you maintain the aerobic base fitness you’ve built over the summer.

Run training for ‘cross should make up only a small percentage of your overall training volume. 10-30 minutes, 2-3 times per week incorporating some short accelerations and hill sprints is more than sufficient. Most of your cyclocross training should be done cycling.

Since ‘cross races are high intensity endeavors, I recommend doing intervals twice in weeks when you won’t be racing on the weekend, and once per week when you will be racing.

Related articles:
Three cyclocross workouts
Making a ‘cross training plan

Each week should include one cyclocross-specific interval workout combining skills work (mounts and dismounts, short run ups, etc.) with 4-6 minute supra-threshold intervals. Aim to accumulate between 20 and 30 minutes of “On” time in these workouts.

The second interval session on non-race weeks varies depending on your needs as an athlete, sometimes longer (8-15 minute) sub-threshold intervals (aiming for 20-45 minutes of “on” time) are in order, other times short (5 seconds-2 minutes) anaerobic capacity or VO2 workouts (aiming for 4-12 minutes of “on” time) should be performed.

Below are two example cyclocross training weeks (obviously you can modify these examples to meet your schedule):

Non-Race Week
Monday — Off
Tuesday — ‘Cross-specific intervals and short run with sprints
Wednesday — Recovery or short Base Ride
Thursday — Off or Recovery or short Base Ride
Friday — Interval workout and short run with sprints
Saturday — Long Base Ride
Sunday — Short Base Ride and/or short run with sprints

Race Week
Monday — Off
Tuesday — Recovery or short Base Ride and short run
Wednesday — ‘Cross specific intervals
Thursday — Off or Recovery Ride
Friday — Recovery Spin with short accelerations
Saturday — Race
Sunday — Race or recovery ride and short run
— Adam St. Pierre, MS


Adam St. Pierre, MS is an Exercise Physiologist, Biomechanist, and Coach at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine. He also coaches the Boulder Nordic Junior Race Team and competes in trail running. His athletes have qualified for championship events in Cross Country Skiing, Cycling, and Triathlon.

Boulder Center for Sports Medicine was founded by Andrew Pruitt, EdD, PA-C, in 1998. For the past 12 years BCSM has been providing athletes from around the world with the highest possible level of care. BCSM offers a wide range of services, including Orthopedic Clinics, Physical Therapy, Expert 3D Bike Fitting, Running Gait Analysis, Coaching & Training, Nutrition Services, Performance Testing, and more. For more information, visit www.bch.org/sportsmedicine, or call (303) 544-5700.

FILED UNDER: Cyclocross / On the Bike / Training Center TAGS: / /

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