The Truth About Cross: Part 2 – Key Workouts

By Adam Pulford, CTS Pro Level Coach, featuring SRM

Key Workouts:

The whole goal with this article series is to set you up with all the tools that you need in order to make this season, as well as the seasons to come, as successful and enjoyable as possible. With that said, and as a follow up to yesterdays’ article, let’s dive right into the good stuff!

VO2 Max Workouts:

When we refer to VO2 Max workouts, we’re talking about workouts that train your body’s ability to get the maximum amount of oxygen in to the lungs. The power (effort) which is required to do this is quite high, so plan on a tough session. Here is one such workout that will increase your VO2max and performance at the next cross race:

The CrossMax Workout:

4x5min Max Efforts with 5min Rest Between Intervals (RBI)

Warm up: 15-20min easy spinning with 3x30s “Openers” and 90s RBI

Main Set: You can do this on the road or a cross bike, but since we’re in the season, let’s use that cross bike. The key is the intensity. From a standing start, stomp hard on the pedals, spike the power up into Zone 6 or above for the first 10-15s (as you would in a Cross race) then aim for Zone 5 (or a 9/10 out of 10 perceived effort, since it’s a max effort) and 90-100rpms for the remaining portion of the interval. Spin easy at moderate cadence (80-90rpm) for 5min between intervals, then repeat a total of 4 times. Feeling frisky? I doubt it. If you are, do a 5th interval, but no more… remember, you’ve got a race coming next weekend!

Cool Down: 5-10min easy spinning as you head home.

For those of you visual learners, let’s look at what this workout looks like on the new SRMX analytical software. We’ll use a workout from Alex Grant of the Cannondale 360 Fly Factory MTB Team:

Click to Enlarge.

As you can see in the file above, green is cadence, blue is cadence, red is heart rate. Alex’s Zone 5 is 320-370W. Zone 6 is 370+. Recall that these are MAX efforts with a hard start, so we’re spiking high into Zone 6, then giving it our all to complete the 5min. In MAX efforts like this, it’s normal to see the power go down on the final intervals; you don’t want it too drastically, but some decay compared to the 1st interval lets us know he’s giving a true max effort and fatigue is occurring. The whole point of training is to induce fatigue, then we rest and become faster. In general on efforts like these, if you’re seeing a 10% decrease in power from that first effort while still giving your maximum effort, you’re fatigue is high enough, and it’s best to be done with intervals and ride home.

Overall, Alex hit the power #’s well, cadence was fine and HR was nice and high: a great workout for this Salt Lake City resident prepping for the next cross race!

When to do this workout:

Most of us are racing or putting in some big rides over the weekend; we’re usually ready for a rest day on Monday and need to know what the best use of time is during the week. I suggest doing the above workout 1x per week if you are racing or doing big rides on the weekends. Keep Tuesday as a short recovery ride, and Thursday can then be your technique days: not easy, nor overly stressful before the weekend. What’s a technique day? Try this next tip:

Mounts and Dismounts:

One of the defining features of Cross racing is the repeated need to dismount and remount while trying to not hurt yourself or lose time.  Because this is such a technique driven element, it’s best to get a video tutorial, or even work with a local coach to help you with it. I recommend these two short videos from Global Cycling Network (GCN):



When to do this workout:

Do it the day after the CrossMax workout above. To start, get in a good warm up of 20-25min moderate riding in Zone 2. If you’re an advanced rider, set up small barriers or use natural features to get in 10 reps total, below race pace, and work on a smooth transition as scene in the videos above. If you’re new to the sport, slow down & just focus on the basics. Simply break it down to the dismount first and getting proficient at that before moving on to the remount; or, if you have that down already but the barriers are tripping you up: don’t use a barrier and just focus on being as smooth as possible on the dismount and remount. Being “smooth” will eventually translate to being fast over time when using proper technique. Consider session “play time”, have fun with it, and be patient with yourself. Again, the point of this day is to refine and train some of the specifics of the race, not impose a large training load. Save that for Wednesdays and race days. 

To Wrap It Up:

We’re still having fun: during that VO2 Max workout, you may not think so, but come race day, and after proper training and refining technique, you’ll be smiling from ear-to-ear.

Check back in a few weeks for more training tips and Cyclocross workouts! 

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