Coach Steve’s recipe for grassroots cyclocross training

blog Mercredi Racing

The entries for 3 Peaks have opened for applications, so it is official: Cross is coming! As the season to hit the red for an hour at a time in local muddy fields is upon us, Coach Steve takes us through his top tips for cyclocross training. 


1 – Consistency

When making your training plans and setting your schedule achieving consistency is key. Be realistic about what you can fit in and works for you amongst all the other commitments in life. Four hours evenly dispersed every week is much more effective than a three hour ride here and a two hour ride there. It’s amazing what you can achieve on very little time by following a consistent and structured approach to your cyclocross training.  

A good coach will work with you to look at all the other aspects of your life and how they will place various stresses on you, both physical and mental, and the effect of that on your training. They will work with you on how best to use the time available to you in order to create a programme that allows you to be as consistent as possible and achieve the results you’re looking for.

2 – Ride off-road

Sounds logical right? I’m always surprised to hear how many people do all their training on a road bike and only crack out the cross bike on race day! There are huge gains to be made by improving your bike handling and ability to ride a variety of terrain. It is important in cyclocross to understand the response of putting the power down and responding to accelerations and decelerations on different surfaces.  

A simple an effective workout is to find a full size football pitch and perform laps with the long edge being a full-gas sprint followed by a soft pedal along the short edge for a tabata style interval session. After 10 laps take five minutes to pedal easy and then perform laps the other way, repeat 4-8 times. You can use cones to tighten or broaden each of the four corners to give a little extra variety. This then combines your interval session with work on acceleration, braking and cornering practice, winner.

When working with my training clients I look to assess the areas in which they ride and try to come up with some varied and interesting sessions that keep things fresh and exciting.

3 – Strength training

It’s pretty well acknowledged now that adding some strength training to your regime is a pretty good idea, however a lot of people still fall into the same trap of focusing on the legs with lots of squat variations and expecting to become faster because of it.  

Strength training alone won’t make you faster but by focusing on a range of dynamic exercises that address all the key muscle groups you will be building a stronger body that’s able to adapt better to intense training on the bike as well as stabilising key joints and preventing injuries. Combine this with some time spent focusing on mobility and stretching, this could be a yoga or Pilates class or even putting together your own programme to focus on your particular needs.  

For the best results perform your strength training on the same day as your intense interval training, it is important to maximise recovery and allow adaptation to take place so keep your rest days as just that, rest days!

4 – Skills!

You can never place enough importance on developing your skills and bike handling. Cyclocross is the ultimate combination of fitness and skill. Many peoples focus is not solely on cyclocross and often come into the season having spent the summer on the road or mountain biking. Bringing in this summer fitness often means that over the season you are unlikely to get any ‘fitter’ but there are huge gains to be made in adapting your fitness (see no.2) and improving your skills. Get hold of a few cones and knock up some barriers out of some plumbing pipes, grab a couple of friends and spend at least one session a week working on those key skill: cornering, braking, dismounting/remounting, bunnyhops, off-cambers etc.  

Use these sessions to play around with all those factors that can make a difference, how you hold your weight over different parts of the bike, when to pedal and not, not to mention tyres and tyre pressure! Another of my favourite things to do to improve your bike handling is to grab the CX bike and head to my favourite MTB single track trails, which leads me to the final tip…


5 – Fun, fun, fun

That’s what it’s all about right? We’re constantly told to keep it ‘fun’ and I don’t know about you but I certainly find that this is easier to do on the CX bike rather than the roadie when you have spare hour to ride. If motivation is low then sack off the intervals and get out and reignite the fire. Go for a blast in the woods, do some skids, get muddy, race a friend, learn a new skill. A fun ride with no aim or agenda always helps to remind us why we love this sport so much.

Training and being coached shouldn’t be all about improving FTP and hitting target watts (in fact you don’t even need a power meter!), it’s about getting the best performances out of yourself and making the whole thing enjoyable along the way.


If you are at all interested in joining the Good Vibes Only team on Coach Steve’s growing list of coached clients, get in touch via