How To Train For Cyclocross

Riley Wolff

We recently caught up with Garry Millburn and asked him how he trains, and more importantly what advice he would give to people wanting to improve their cyclocross ability. Words by Garry Millburn, all images courtesy of Jeff Curtes.

Cyclocross is my chosen discipline, but that doesn’t mean I spend everyday on my cross bike hitting the trails. In fact I probably spend a lot less time on my cyclocross bikes and a lot more time on my road bike. Most people are surprised when they find out around 85% of my training is done on the road. There are some obvious reasons for this, time constraints and lack of off-road riding around the CBD means training on the road is the next best thing.

Having been a cyclist, specifically MTB, since I was a junior means my bike handling skills are not too shabby and I can mix it with the best of them without too much time spent off road. However with just one or two off road sessions a week and the rest on the road you can certainly get yourself in the mix and improve your cyclocross.

So if you have considered taking up cyclocross in the winter, but not really sure how to fit in the training, don’t let the fact that you don’t ride off-road a great deal inhibit your success in cyclocross. If you have the right base training behind you, then it’s just a matter of tweaking your training to suit the demands of a cyclocross race.

If you have spent the summer racing road and crits, you probably have a good base already built up, so you can move straight into some more specific cyclocross training. One of the great things about cyclocross is you don’t need to spend as many hours training as you would for long road races.

When planning your road training to be ready for cyclocross, think about the demands of racing cyclocross. A high consistent power output is not going to win you the race like it would in a time trial. Cyclocross racing is made up of lots of small high powered efforts, think corner > power out > corner > power out > straight away. If you relate this to your training, it calls for 10, 20, 30 second and 1 minute efforts with short rests between intervals and high volume sets.

A standard week during a block of training could look like this.

Monday: Recovery ride

Tuesday: Endurance 2hrs

Wednesday: Intervals 10 x 30sec on/30 sec off high intensity. 5 sets

Thursday: Intervals 6 x 1min on/1 min off overgeard. 4 sets

Friday: Coffee ride

Saturday: Solid bunch ride 4hrs

Sunday: Off road efforts

When cyclocross season starts there can be racing nearly every weekend and often double headers, racing both Saturday and Sunday. So your training will need to keep ontop of those high intensity power outputs but also make sure you are recovering and prepped for racing

A standard week during race season could look like this.

Monday: Recovery ride

Tuesday: Recovery ride

Wednesday: Intervals varying depending on the upcoming race. If its a tight and twisty course shorter efforts. If there are long straight aways, longer efforts.

Thursday: Easy 1.5hrs

Friday: Steady 1.5hrs including some openers, 20 sec efforts 5-10.

Saturday: Race includes a decent warm up and a cool down

Sunday: Race includes a decent warm up.

If you are training on the road already, you don’t need to make massive changes to get ready for cyclocross. Just switch up the program and include some shorter high intensity efforts.