It can be pretty stressful and overwhelming to do your first cyclocross race. As humans, we are often scared of the unknown, because we have no idea what to expect and aren’t sure how we can prepare ourselves to face that in the best possible way.
Hannah Bauer, the CX Fever Grant recipient has been racing cyclocross for 2 years. However, it’s only this year that she started to dip her toes in the UCI cyclocross world cup waters.
Photo Credit: Luke Batten
Before the first race of the weekend, I asked Hannah how she was feeling and if she was excited for the CX race. She told me that she was excited, but also pretty nervous, so I asked her what made her feel that way. “The fact that it’s such a big field and that it’s a UCI cyclocross race scares me a little” she said. She was also nervous that her equipment might fail her, because a similar situation had happened to her at her previous race.
Having those anxious thoughts are perfectly normal and understandable; everyone has them. Furthermore, Hannah is only 17 and this is the highest level of cyclocross racing in North America. But honestly, being nervous means that you care and that is a good thing.
Based on her thoughts and on the challenges Hannah had faced at her first UCI event a few weeks prior, we came up with a strategy together in the hope of making her racing experience more enjoyable, and to help her be satisfied with her performance.
Here are 5 cyclocross racing tips we came up with:
1. Focus on what you can control
Hannah mentioned that she was a bit nervous about the fact that she would be racing in such a big and competitive field. She felt as if she was jumping into the unknown. As humans, we are often scared of things over which we have no control. So one of the best ways to bring down the stress level is to focus on yourself and on the things you CAN control. With Hannah, we sat down and pointed out some things that she could concentrate on that would help calm her down and make her feel as if she was in a more familiar environment. Those things included knowing the course by pre-riding it, making sure she ate well before the race, making sure her cyclocross bike was in good working order and doing the warmup she was familiar with. We also came up with achievable goals and small reminders on which she could focus on during the race.
"Rhythm, rhythm, rhythm". Personally, that was all I was thinking about on the brutal climbs during the Pan Am Championships CX race. Thinking about my pedalling rhythm helped me not only to go faster, but also to have my mind focused on that, instead of on how much my legs were hurting at that moment. Photo Credit: Luke Batten
2. Set achievable (and controllable) racing goals
As stated above, it is crucial to focus on things we can control. With Hannah, we came up with very simple goals that she could focus on during the race and that would ultimately help her have a performance that she could be proud of. One of those goals was to look ahead during the race. This simple act would help her to see what was happening in front of her and prepare or react in the best possible way for the coming obstacle. Another simple goal that we set was to consciously take some deep breaths in all of the descents so she could relax and recover as much as possible and be ready to attack the next hill.