Cyclocross Transition Season

Curious how others are preparing to transition to cyclocross season. I have been racing marathon MTB and 100 mile gravel races this year with large volume and significant work around LBP or SST to create high CTL numbers for me around 95.

What strategies are you employing to transition summer fitness to cyclocross specificity? Continue high volume in a polarized fashion while the weather is nice while focusing on Vo2 max and anaerobic capacity work during intervals? Are you still hitting SST or FTP in your lead up?


@bikeguy0 once your season starts how many races do you have that are double weekends?

Or how many races do you plan to do and how many are back to back?

Sorry - updating this after looking again.
Hey Steve. 7 race weekends, two are double header, one stretch of 3 race weekends in a row and one stretch of 4 in a row to end the season, rest have a week in between them. First race is September 18 and last weekend is state champs November 20.

@bikeguy0 thanks for the info. Will respond tomorrow with some ideas.

@bikeguy0 sorry a little more detail, are the two double header weekends the first two race weekends? If not can you just put in what order the races happen.


1st weekend double header
2nd weekend single
3rd weekend single
4th weekend double

and so on.

@steveneal sure Steve :grinning:

9/18 - Race 1
9/25 - No racing
10/2 - Race 2
10/9 - Race 3
10/16 - Race 4
10/23 - No racing
10/30 - Race 5
11/6 - 7 - Races 6 & 7 Double Header
11/13 - Race 8
11/20 - 21 - Races 9 & 10 State Championships Double Header last weekend of Racing

For the above I think I would try if it fits with your life. Focus is trying to continue to maintain your endurance/tempo capabilities for the early part of the season. Let racing start to work on the specific intensity. First race shouldn’t be all out. Towards the last one in this block you should have pacing figured out and finishing very strong near your limit but NOT failure.

Sat Race
Sun - longest ride of week with tempo
Monday 2nd longest ride only endurance by feeling
Tues Off
Wed easy endurance with coordination
Thurs Easy Endurance with corners and dismount/mount practice
Friday - Course pre-ride or pre-race intensity

I would normally not plan this far and see how someone is responding but here we go.

Week of no racing likely add in some mid-week technical training at race pace. If you race for 60 min do 10m pieces at or above race pace but equal pacing across all laps. Make sure that the course you build/chose has as many aspects of upcoming events as possible.

The week of racing I would see how you feel and likely combing\e the above suggestion but only 30m intensity total plus some tempo after that in the same session.

Make sure to go into the doubleheader weekend rested. I would try NO intensity the day before the first race, and see how the second race goes. If you feel strong on the second day then I would use the same before state championships.

Let me know if that makes sense, or if you have any other questions.


Thx Steve. Interesting strategy of letting the racing bring up the Vo2 and anaerobic capacity. Generally I’m starting to do on/off style efforts in the 3-4 weeks prior to the races to get used to pushing the pedals harder, increase sprint power, etc. That combined with hill sprints 2 times per week to build up that specificity as that first race has a long stair run up in it. We’ll see how it goes and report back.

Anyone else have a take on what they are doing? Would love to see some more engagement in the forum. Where are all these people posting about #crossneverleft and #crossiscoming? Ya know, the people that apparently don’t realize there are other disciplines of cycling other than cyclocross… :wink:

@bikeguy0 we will see what others have to offer I am sure there will be some good feedback.

I have had a masters champion and multiple podium athlete (or two or three) training just the way I posted. As you know I am always honest so that is what I would give my athlete.

There is the possibility of mental training or technical training that I also provide my athletes that allow them the confidence to train this way and succeed.

Good luck with your training and I am here if you have questions.

@bikeguy0, I’m pretty much in agreement with Steve on his suggestions and think there is a lot to be said for that approach of allowing the racing to bring up that top end.

Because cross is so technically demanding, doing focused technique work can help, and if you incorporate some of that at race pace as Steve suggested above, you have some quality intensity already built into the sessions. My feeling is that with the seasons being relatively packed with races, if you can keep that engine strong, you’ll race into some good fitness.

My other suggestion is that there should not be a focus on the same high volume that got you into shape for marathon and 100 mile gravel races. I would basically ignore CTL coming into cross season. I’m curious for @steveneal, when you say “longest ride of the week,” what kind of adjustments do you make, if any, to their endurance sessions?

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@bikeguy0 @ryan in regards to longest ride of the week I like to keep one session a week around the athletes longest session that they are used to.

So if I have someone that usually does a 3-4h per week ride then I try to keep that through the first half of the cross season. Then I would drop it down each week or so to about 2h through the last half of season, depending on how things are going.

Coach Neal, I fall into the 55+ Cat 3 category and in the past I’ve been toast by seasons end…so I’m intrigued by your weekly template which seems to treat mid week intensity as heavy medicine. Yesterday at the race, after using your template, I showed up with fresh legs, lined up 2nd row with an eye to simply let the race happen…and sure enough, great race. My question today regards your Wed/ Th rides above: are those lite skills rides to touch the dirt, feel the tires move underneath, but don’t deaden the legs…? How long are these Wed/Th rides? Thank you, Frank

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@Frank_O really glad to hear things are working out with a little less intensity with the racing.

Really glad you followed up really appreciate that.

The Wed coordination session would be some cadence drills at low power (endurance) done on a trainer or flat terrain.

The Thurs session would have a cross focus, endurance pace but skills involved, corners, dismounts and mounts.

Let me know if you have any more questions.

Really interested to hear how the season progresses.

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Thanks Steve, this is helpful. Again, I don’t hear, " do a bunch of intervals and show up on race day with dead legs…" which was my usual MO. Regardless, it’s great to have the races back after missing them last year - thanks again


In-season is always where I struggle. Finding the balance of racing and what to do the rest of the week is always a challenge. It also happens to be leaf-raking season with really piles on the TSS.

This is old news, but leading into this season I decided to kick off my training block in late August with a block-periodization approach. That involved 3 consecutive HIT days on week 1 followed by 1 cyclocross race the following 3 weeks. The remainder of the riding for those 3 weeks was usually tempo or endurance or a mix of both. I did throw in hard 4x8 session the last week of the block.

I felt destroyed, but have since reaped the benefits. I think I did it right. Now, I’m trying to determine what to do during the weeks when I’m racing.

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@steveneal What are your thoughts on mixing in run training pre-season and/or in-season?

I think that depends on how well the athlete runs. If the athlete is a really good runner, and it isn’t holding them back in races, then I would include a pre breakfast morning run 3 days a week, just easy.

If the athlete was having trouble with the running, I would likely focus on this on a more year round basis to try and get them be better runner.

With poor runners, really work on bike skills in season as there won’t be much room to improve to much once you are racing.

Including running and dismount/mount training during the week.

Just be careful with injury, if the person isn’t a good runner, really watch. This is another reason to work on this year round as running and strength training might really help come the next cross season.

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Coach Neal, It’s now mid-season and I’m happy with how things have gone. Between my Z2 base work, your Cx early season training recommendations (show up on race day with fresh legs and allow the races to bring up the top end), and a relaxed “lets learn something today” mindset, I’m having a hoot out there.

Above, you broke the season in two and added some mid-week race simulation. Since all systems are go for me, is that something you recommend I add now…and then see the effect come race day?

Funny…this last race, I followed the series leader to see his lines and how he tackled the course. It was illuminating and attests to Coach Ryan’s recommendations to work skills. The series leader isn’t up there solely on his engine, he’s up there because he limits his mistakes. Suffice it to say…the engine will only get me so far - I’ve got to keep working the skills. Thanks again for your recommendations and to Coach Ryan - you guys are both right! Frank

Cx pix


So good to hear!

Yes, skills are so important!

When you were following the leader what did you notice most about where he was able to get away? or where he was able to ride sections with less effort than you if you were keeping up?

Let me know your thoughts there and will get back to you with some ideas.

Steve, thanks for your reply and question. I’ve been thinking about that…and what jumped out to me re the series leader was that he remained seated and maintained a steady effort around most of the the corners…whereas I would stand to ride the BB around many of the turns only to chase him back by the 6th turn or so. In retrospect…my sit, stand, sit, stand…chase, chase, chase, has to take a toll after a few laps. But that’s the most obvious thing I observed: he was steady, remained seated and wasn’t a bobblehead. thanks, Frank