Quitcher bitchin’. If you’re a Cat 4, racing after the pro races at Cincinnati’s UCI-3 Cyclocross Festival this weekend, you should be tongue kissing the promoters. Besides sleeping in like a pro, there’s a giganti-mongous immeasurable positive that no cyclocrosser before you has ever experienced. You’re the man on the moon. You’re the first to summit Everest without oxygen. You’ll get to see how the pros do it, before you race.
People pay grizzled ornery old pro’s (cycling coaches) lots of money every month to get better at cyclocross. Now, for the low Sham Wow cost of $49.99…no $39.99…no, included with your $30 entry fee, you can study the pro’s and learn lots from them and use that information on the same exact course on the same exact day while the pro’s watch you. That’s unheard of. If you do it right, you won’t embarrass yourself riding your Kona in front of the Kona Team RV. Here’s how to do it:
The times vary each day, but get to the venue to be ready to ride during the open course window before the pro women race. What!? I should show up to a race three hours before my start time, that’s crazy talk Joe Biker. No. In fact, you should show up FOUR hours before your race. Get there in time to be ready to ride for the open course before the Masters Men race. Print off the confirmed riders sheet from the Bike Reg website to help identify the pros. Ya see, if you get there at the right time you’ll be on the course warming up with Katie Compton, Barbara Howe, Laura Van Gilder and more. If you know who they are, ask nicely, and they might even stop for a photo. No duck billing like Snooki please.
It’s too early for you to be taking a hot (fast) lap, but this is your chance to scout the course when the pros will be taking their own laps. Right off the bat split the course into sections: the start, the sand, the twists, the straightaway, the backside hill, the barriers, the 2nd sand, the finish. Then spend a minute or two on each section. If you luck out, chances are a pro will roll through on a few of those sections. You’re not going to be able to J-Pow the barriers today, so look for the little things that you can easily duplicate. What sections is Katie Compton riding in the drops or on the hoods? If you get behind Barbara Howe, look at her form and mimic it. How does Laura Van Gilder approach the sand and the barriers? When does Sue Butler downshift before the climb?
Elite Masters Men
Put the bike back, finish registration. Chill out. Eat something. Noodle past the pro team trucks. Last year I saw Barry Wicks pin his own bib number to his skinsuit so it when he put it on it was perfectly flat. Click here for that story. When the bell rings, grab your bike and get ready for the 2nd open course window.
Be aware that you’re on the course with the elite women who no doubt will be getting in their last hard efforts before their race. Watch out and yield for them. You don’t want to be THAT GUY who crashed out Katie Compton. Get in a hot lap. Try the lines you scouted earlier at your race speed. If you flub a line, turn around and do it again. With the pro’s, pay attention to what they are doing 15 minutes before they take the hole shot. See if any of the pros are concentrating on a particular section. How long are their hard efforts? How many did she do?
Grab your chair and cowbell and watch a section of the course that’s giving you the heebie jeebies. Stay off your feet. Cheer, eat and drink. You have plenty of time before you need to worry about warming up. Be a fan. Enjoy it.
After the pro women take the bell, grab your bike and your camera. When the course is clear, get on your bike and ride with the pros. Soak up the moment. You got your hot lap in. You know the course. Have fun. See if you can hang on Parbo’s wheel. Ride along with Katie Compton as she cools down and say, “good job.” If your name is Harry Wicks, get a photo with Barry Wicks. Compare sideburns with Canadian National Champion Geoff Kabush. Ask a friend to snap a photo while Jeremy Powers bunny hops you!
Pro Men Race
You’ll want to start your own warm up within an hour, but that still should give you enough time to watch at least 2 laps of the pro men’s race. Watch the holeshot. Since you registered late and are in the back row, pick a pro who’s a few rows back at the start and watch the strategy they use to work their way through the field. Run over and catch them on a part of the course you had trouble with. Then get on the trainer or roll through the neighborhood to warm up your legs. When you hear the bell, ride over and catch the finish.
Cat 4 Warm Up
Here’s your chance to put what you’ve learned to the test. Take another lap. Eat a Gu. Ride the tough sections at speed. Get a few hard efforts in. Practice your start. Go get ‘em Tiger.