Cyclocross, World Cup

Continue our journey into the world of cyclocross and, waiting of the debut of van der Poel and van Aertlet’s try to find out other secrets of one of the disciplines of off road. We talk about off-road and it is therefore clear that cyclo-cross has substantial differences from road cycling. From used vehicles, there are special bikes for cyclocross with specifications based on the tracks used and the preparation for each individual race. Both in terms of training and in terms of nutrition. Let’s try to look at all the differences after a consultation with our prep expert Wladimir Belli.

The used bike: many (small) differences

The premise is necessary. Cyclocross? A discipline that takes place in about an hour and mostly on land muddy, therefore the modifications of the vehicle will be implemented according to these specifications. We will have, unlike road bikes, more elongated and lower front bikes to give a more aggressive setting to the vehicle, allowing riders more thrust but, above all, more balance on slippery surfaces. We were talking about mud and, therefore, we will have substantial differences. One above all that of central movementhigher – compared to road or gravel – precisely to avoid picking up a lot of mud, although this will be inevitable. The higher bottom bracket will also allow us to have ‘higher’ pedals which also have the function of collecting as little mud as possible, but giving us – overcoming obstacles – more ease in pedaling without putting foot on the ground.


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Another trick is the distance between the fork and the tire, as well as the rear and the tire, again for a mud collection speech. Speaking of tyres, they will have to be special to increase grip in extreme situations, although watch out for the measurements of the sections that are regulated by the UCI, as well as having to inflate to a few atmospheres (1.4 or 1.5 even if it depends on the weight) so as to help us grip on uneven terrain. Tubeless or tubular tire? If on the road everyone is adopting tubeless, in the cross – for reasons of habit and practicality – we stay with tubular, at least among the agonists. We also have substantial differences on the saddle, which will be lower in the cross. This is because it will allow us to get on the bike more easily after overcoming an obstacle on foot and, having to immediately relaunch once the pedals are reattached, the lower saddle will help us push, developing strength with the quadriceps. The position of the handlebars is also different, about 2 cm taller and close to the runner. All of this will help us push on inauspicious terrain, to the detriment of aerodynamics of course, but the aerodynamic factor in the world of cyclocross it’s almost irrelevant. Last trick, that of front triangle. In the world of cross it will be much wider, for a matter of practicality because, as we have often seen in races, the riders – sometimes – will have to carry the bike on the shoulder. To do this, therefore, we will have a wider triangle to let the arm and shoulder pass and better distribute the load of the bike on the limb without having to weigh too much (we are talking about 8/8.5 kg).

Van Aert in a stretch on foot

Credit Photo Getty Images

Cross-country skiers who will then go with their hands in a high grip, contrary to the world of the road where the ‘good ones’ go in a low grip, as well as not carrying water bottles and gels. You run for an hour and, if you’ve prepared well, you shouldn’t be hungry or thirsty. But, above all, you wouldn’t even have time to drink…

Pidcock what a debut in the cross: he too takes a nice flight to the ground

Preparation: it is important to eat well the day before

Here too the differences are substantial compared to road cycling, but also for a very trivial fact. In the world of the road it varies in stages ranging from 3 hours or even 7, while in the world of cross the hour of racing is exceeded by a few minutes. Obviously, from the point of view of nutrition, the preparation of a runner will be different. Even in cyclo-cross each team has its own trainer and nutritionist, and the diet for the day before will be chosen on the basis of the calories to be spent on the following day (the teams already have a general indication based on the route). They will hire carbohydrates plus protein, with a majority of carbohydrates. All trying to take foods with a longer glycemic release without having peaks either at the bottom or at the top. A little white pasta, bresaola or chicken and, if there is one, even a slice of cake without too many calories.

On race day, however, we will have to eat, but without exaggerating. As he says Wladimir Bellifor a cyclocross race you have to prepare as if it were a time trial and arrive on the starting grid with a warm leg and an empty bellyto. We repeat, we are talking about an hour of running, and being packed with something that we find it difficult to digest will make life difficult for us as well as not making us competitive. Is spinach good for you? Of course, but we won’t eat them before a cross race, with the risk of having a mush in the stomach. Then, light breakfast at 8.30 (porridge with fruit and yogurt) and lunch two/three hours before the race (White rice, always to keep a balance in glycemic level). Then, before the run, a gel just to give energy, e drink lots of water because, as mentioned, you don’t have time to hydrate during a race.

Van der Poel, World Championship trials: van Aert ko at Flandriencross

Heating and watts

One extraordinarily important thing in cyclocross is the pre-race warm-up. Which is not the case in road cycling, or rather, it is not so aimed at a crazy start. In cyclocross there is the speech of mass start and, in the former 10-15 seconds, we really go to great lengths to find the best position. With the cross, overtaking is less frequent and more difficult, a bad start could make life difficult at the level of the race, thus arriving at the head of the race that has already spent everything. In road cycling, unless you have no idea about breaking away, you can do it take it easy, even if we use a lot of quotes for this expression. But there’s not all that rush to start at full speed, it’s like this for 90% of the stages. There are exceptions, such as those mountain stages where a team wants to block attack and isolate the opposing team’s big name. As mentioned, it is an exception, in the cross it is a rule.
Then, an hour before the race, a nice warm up job on the rollers, doing repetitions, training zone 2 (long base) and zone 5 (anaerobic threshold). But how many watts are exercised in a cross race? We talked about mass start, a sort of sprint for positions, but we can’t compare it to a sprint on the road at the end of a stage or a Classic. In the mass start we start from 0, in a sprint at the end of the race we arrive after 180 km of racing. And above all, at the start we won’t have that adrenaline accumulated during a stage that is released at the end of the race with the possibility of winning. So we will produce so many watts, but never able to make a comparison with a final sprint of road cycling. Also with regard to the peaks, in pedalable uphill stretches, a van Aert and a van der Poel will be able to go 800 watts of peak power. Both manage to produce a much higher value in street racing. In cyclocross, however, it goes to tears and, therefore, the ability to alternate and have these peaks on the run will help you have a great change of pace in the long-lasting Classics (obviously after specific workouts). In addition to the handling of the vehicle, it is another point in favor of the cross. With riders who can handle multiple changes of pace when it comes to the therefore.

The first lap and the passage on the beach: van der Poel and van Aert make a vacuum

Where to see Cyclocross races on TV and live streaming

All cyclo-cross races of the season will be live-streamed on Eurosport Player (also on TIMVISION) and on Discovery+, Discovery’s new ott service featuring all the best in Eurosport’s entertainment and sports programming. You can also follow some of the tests live on Eurosport 1 (Sky channel 210, also available on DAZN). All stages will then be available On Demand on Eurosport Player and Discovery+.

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Cyclocross, World Cup – Cyclocross vs Road Cycling: What are the differences? Let’s discover them together