USAC Cyclocross Development CampJul 27 2015 · 0 comments · CX, Juniors ·3
This past week I had the opportunity to attend the USA Cycling Cyclocross Development Camp in Helena, MT, along with fourteen other up and coming junior ‘cross racers from around the country, selected for camp based on last year’s race results. Last season alone I spent almost two months in total traveling to seven states for various races and camps, so the fact that camp was so close to home was an added bonus.
As head coach Geoff Proctor explained on the first day, this camp was not intended to select riders for European race blocks or dictate any other future opportunities. The purpose of this camp, Geoff said, and the reason it was held in July, a full two months before cyclocross season is in full swing, was to provide a low-pressure but intensely focused four-day block of training to provide for a transition between road and mountain bike racing and the beginning of training for the fall and winter season. Furthermore, bringing several of the best junior ‘cross racers in the country together with experienced coaches allows us all to exchange ideas and racing knowledge that will ultimately benefit all of us come fall. Geoff enlisted the help of Montana Velo teammate (and frequent Team Rockford adversary) Scott Herzig, in addition to highly experienced coach Chris McGovern from Nevada City, CA, who also happens to be my personal coach.
Each day started at 6:30 with conditioning. Too many cyclists only ride their bikes without any supplemental dryland training, leaving them weaker and more injury-prone on the bike. After a light jog and a dynamic stretching workout, we would either run the bleachers at the Carroll College football stadium or complete several sprints up a nearby hill-both simulations for common obstacles encountered on the race course. We then transitioned to agility ladders and circuits, which included lunges, burpees, lateral bounds and long jumps. The focus of these exercises is to build explosivity both on and off the bike.
After a shower and breakfast we headed out for a two hour cyclocross skills session. These rides always began with five practice starts. Like a free throw in basketball, there is no reason to ever miss the pedal in a start, as there is so much time to practice what is a complicated but easily repeatable motion. After starts, skills sessions varied in content ranging from barrier practice (both hopping and running) to running and off cambers. Several skills were drilled around shorter circuits in rapid succession, a great way to improve skills and race-intensity and speed while also leading to fitness benefits. On the last day of camp we even had a practice race around a short course at Helena High School where teams of two tagged off Madison-style each lap. After the day’s second shower and lunch, we had mandated nap-time to keep everyone fresh for the afternoon’s training. If only public high schools had the same thing! My GPA would go up for sure.
Afternoon’s were reserved for longer endurance rides on the gravel roads around Helena. Our first long ride on Tuesday gave everyone a taste of some classic Montana weather. We hit a massive thunderstorm going up the first major climb of the day, and by the time we got to the top of the double track road the mud was so thick that only a few could ride while the rest of us with weaker legs or slicker tires were forced into hike-a-bike-mode. Two derailleur hangers were snapped and our bikes rapidly accumulated twice their weight in mud. The result was an escape route down one of Helena’s many gulches and back into town. For the rest of the week we were fortunate to have relatively compliant weather with the exception of another epic thunderstorm towards the end of our long ride on Thursday. Fortunately the storm gave us a tailwind and we cruised into Helena at 45 mph as lightning arched across the sky and rain pounded down. As Geoff said earlier in the week, how can you expect to race in the nasty weather if you never train in it? A big part of training is just getting out there and doing the work. No excuses, no rain checks.
After the third shower (usually in our kits to wash out any mud from the afternoon’s adventures) and dinner, we headed to the final session of the day, this one a classroom session for in-depth discussion on training, race season planning, and analysis of video footage from races in the cyclocross Holy Land that is Belgium and the Netherlands, where many of us aspire to race this season. After about an hour in the classroom, we got ready for bed, and got some much-needed sleep so we could do it all again the next day.
On Friday, instead of spending the afternoon suffering up climbs in the mountains we headed into town for yoga to relieve the growing soreness in our muscles before traveling home the next day. After a relaxing hour of yoga during which two people did fall asleep we pedaled to what is probably my favorite part of Helena, Big Dipper Ice Cream. I can only imagine the terror felt by the poor kid manning the scoop when fifteen exhausted and hungry bike racers came staggering through the door. Pictured are Calder and Layton with the beast of a dessert they ordered. I think they ate it in about five minutes.
All in all, Cross Camp was an intense, exhausting and rewarding four days. I learned a ton and in just four days I feel that I made tangible improvements to my fitness. Huge thanks to Geoff Proctor, Scott Herzig and Chris McGovern for coaching us and to Marc Gullickson and Jim Miller at USA Cycling for covering our food and lodging for the week. I am more excited than ever for cyclocross season, and my coach Chris and I are working together to make sure I’m flying when it gets here.
The entire camp was dedicated to Jim Brown, founder of RAD Racing NW and a giant in the American bike racing world who is currently battling cancer. Jim has touched the lives of countless junior cyclists and is as Geoff describes him, “a first-class human being.” We all wrote Jim from camp and kept him in our thoughts throughout the week. To help Jim out, go to https://fundly.com/jim-brown-every-little-helps-fund and consider signing up for Jeremy Powers’ Grit and Grind ride on August 2 in Elma WA (more info here: https://www.bikereg.com/28644)