Cyclocross in-season training: Help structure my week!

This is when a coach would REALLY come in handy, but since I don’t have one I’m here. There is another thread that is similar, but my question is about what to do DURING the season. Given I race once per weekend (either Saturday or Sunday), I like to have one more HIT session on Tuesday or Wednesday. I’m trying to determine what the focus of that session is. A) threshold development (or maintenance) B) development of race specific type efforts (anaerobic capacity and repeatability) C) focus on long aerobic endurance w/some efforts D) other

I’m not saying it’s pick one and go, but those seem like viable options.

Right now according to WKO5 my FRC is around 24-26KJ’s, so not high, but definitely not low. FTP is around 315.

When CX is in season I always struggle on what to do during it. How would you handle your mid-week workout if you race 1x per weekend?

Here is an example week that I’ve come up with this leaves two full days of easy between my race and interval session:

Sun: Race
M: Off
T: Endurance
W: Interval session
T: Tempo/Endurance (~2 hr)
F: Off
Sat: Openers

I’ve done 3 local Tuesday-night races so far, and my official season looks like this:

Week 1 (this week): Sunday race
Week 2 (next week): Sunday race
Week 3: Friday and Saturday race (Trek Cup)
Week 4: Sunday race
Week 5: Saturday race
Week 6: Saturday race
Week 7: Sunday race
Week 8: Sunday race
Week 9: Saturday race (State Champs)
Week 10: Drink beer

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Curious if many of you mix in running … pre-season and/or in-season? If so, how much, and what kind of intensity and duration?

I can offer an athlete perspective rather than a coach perspective. Coming into the season, I would typically focus on “B) development of race specific type efforts (anaerobic capacity and repeatability)” first. That way, I would be at least somewhat prepared for the shock of that type of effort—because no matter what I did over the summer, cyclocross is a different beast, and there’s no way to replicate the violence of those efforts in training. It would also mean that I had some race-like fitness, so I could start hard and hang on, if need be. The start is so critical in cross, and if you can get up front early, even if you can’t hang on all race early in the season, you have a much better shot of staying out of the chaos in back.

After a few weeks of getting up to speed and working the skills side of things, I would occasionally hit the Wednesday Worlds practice race. There, depending on the week and time of year, we’d work on different things: sometimes starts, sometimes technical stuff at increasingly faster speeds, sometimes cornering. We’d usually top it off with a 15-20 minute race where we’d put what we learned into practice.

As the season wore on, I would gauge my freshness and use that to determine what I “needed.” Sometimes you just need to take a mellow week. Sometimes you just need to revisit the workout that you can nail, which gives you confidence to perform that weekend. Sometimes you just need to try something new for the novelty of it.

Late in the season I would often feel the endurance slide. So, I would occasionally add in some longer rides. You see the Euro pros do this when they take a later season break, head to Mallorca, and add in a bunch of volume. Obviously that’s harder to do in the U.S. in November/December, but it doesn’t have to be over the top. This is where you might consider two-a-days if daylight is running short. Check out this episode: Fast Talk Episode 166: Effective Two-A-Day Workout Strategies

As for running, @kfb, I didn’t do a whole lot, but that was because I relied on my past experience as a runner to justify not having to do it much :wink: That said, I think it is an important skill to work on, and a worthwhile substitute when you can’t get in your ride for whatever reason. Just remember that an hour run is not the same as an hour ride. Very different things. I don’t think you need to run that much, and eventually I think you want to get to the point where your runs are fairly race-specific, so short bursts, potentially up a climb or staircase. But if you aren’t prepared for such things at the beginning of the season, work up to that with some easier running on trails or grass.


Maybe what to do in the CX season depends a bit on the trainings history of the person. For me I’m an older athlete a decent runner who focus on summer on time trails.
So at the end of the TT season a have nice aerobic base. In the transition to CX I focus very much on anaerobic work. Do a lot of SIT 5-30 Seconds during my skills training in the forest. Also switch my V02max intervals from 3-4x 8min to intermitted intervals 3-4x 11x 30/15.

In the season my main concern is to keep the aerobic base, In some weeks we have two races on a weekend on others none. On this free weekends i made a longer ride or if the weather is bad a two hour run,

What I do in a regular week depends a bit on feel, But usually i do at least a run, a day with weight training, a day with focus on skills with some technical uphill sprints. If I feel fresh also a Vo2max session, bu not necessary every week.
On threshold i donÄt work a all.

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I did about 1200km (700 mi) in 2018, mostly 2 runs per week, for the whole year, at about 6min/km (10min/mi) average pace. My race pace was the roughly the same for 10Km and a half marathon (5:40/Km).

It was meant to be fun, but absolutely killed my (cycling) ability to climb. As a result I would be dropped on every climb, first from the lead group, then the chasing group on the next hill, and even from the smaller groups trying to survive to the finish.

Now I only “run” the hot water in the shower, or add some jogging when on holiday (without the bike).

@anthonylane, your question was our first Question of the Week, so we’re going to dig into your original post a bit for this one!

So let’s start with your metrics from WKO5- your FTP and FRC are really strong. CX will tax that sustainable power. And because CX also rewards your ability to surge, sprint, and take micro-rests in between (see Dr. Cheung’s reply in the thread about Lessons from the Pack), maintaining that with a high FRC is beneficial. However, those numbers won’t be spot on accurate since you’ll have more time off the bike (running), and that’s just not accounted for as well as if you were, say, doing a road race where you’re on the bike the entire time. Plus, you’ll have some very high HR responses, and power may be zero at that time. So you could and should see your metrics change throughout the season.

Let’s think about the adaptations you have and what you’re trying to maintain or build through the season.

  1. Endurance - You’re in-season for CX, so I would ask if you need 2+ hours of endurance every week when you are only racing for ~60 min per week?
  2. Tempo - this is a great endurance workout that also has the potential to add a lot of fatigue.
  3. Intensity - Your race days of course are high intensity. The interval session in that case is the question mark. To your points above, I would suggest that option A) threshold development (or maintenance) is going to be tough to do 1x per week with potentially a lower total volume than you may have had earlier in the year. Option B) anaerobic capacity and repeatability sure sounds like a good option to me initially, and you already seem to have a pretty well developed system there. Option C) aerobic endurance is something I would put less focus on at this time of the year because it’s going to require more time. Time and intensity don’t go well together over the long term with respect to recovery.

As you come into the season, think about it in terms of refining what you already have. Essentially, all of your fitness is already there from your previous training this year. There’s not much more to get, so it will come down to how you utilize what you have.

For your Tues or Wed interval session, I would lean into option B) race specific efforts/anaerobic capacity and repeatability. When working on this, I would normally aim for 4-6 quality sessions for that type of development. In your case, you’ll get 1 opportunity per week to achieve that outside of a race scenario. This may be enough to take you through the season. But pay attention to your ability to perform quality sessions. If this begins to drop, you might then consider changing things up to include some threshold work to take the load off the body while balancing out the systems you’re working. Long story short, remain a bit flexible as you get through the mid-season. So consider how you can maximize these sessions. You’re applying your fitness on Saturday or Sunday at the race. What can you determine from races you’ve already done that can help inform your training week to week? For example, are you slow to accelerate out of corners and can use short HIIT sessions to develop your acceleration? Do you have a couple massive efforts where you tap into that FRC, but then find 25 minutes later there’s not much left in the tank? 30/30’s might be great for helping you work on your application of the power and repeatability. Or simply, is there a skills component where you have the power, but for example maybe struggle on cornering and not being in a good position to use the power? In that case, riding with some buddies or completing your interval session on similar terrain can help with your skill development so you can feel more comfortable coming into the race next time.

Lots of options there, but in general to tie things up, I would lean toward working that top end, and more specifically, refining it so you can best utilize it on the weekends. We can generate adaptations in the top end fairly quickly, compared to aerobic/threshold adaptations, so you can get some good bang for your buck here. The other side of the coin is recovery. I would encourage a reduction in volume (let your CTL drop). You might have one week where you don’t do as much volume or don’t have a “long” ride. This type of reduction in volume can go on for a couple weeks at a time before you would see appreciable changes in VO2 max, and the reduced volume can help with recovery especially later in the season when we can get mentally fatigued. This might be a consideration as you near the last 2-3 weeks leading up to State Champs. If you’re accumulating 10 hours per week now, you might drop that to 5-7 hours as the season starts to wear on the body a bit.

Let us know how you’ve been doing so far, and it would be great to see a follow-up on your progress near the end of your season, maybe when you’re having those celebratory beers on week 10!


@chris, thank you for your thoughtful reply, there’s a lot to learn when it comes to transitioning to CX, I often feel like the work needs to be done in June/July for September races, and that any fitness you hope to carry will either wane or plateau once the season is underway. The optimist in me is always trying to “build” in-season, and historically I think that has left me in a fatigued state for racing.

Wow, this is great. Thank you for your reply, lots of insightful takeaways that I can use moving forward. Again, thank you.