Cyclocross is a very popular sport especially in Belgium and in the Netherlands. It is an extraordinary cycling discipline that is clearly different from cycling races on the road. Cyclo cross races are organized during the winter, from October to late February. So at a time when it can be very cold and wet. The races are not held on public roads as it is common with ‘normal cycling races’ but in the field, where mud, sand and snow and ice provide additional spectacle. The race route can be as hard as concrete during periods of frost or almost impassable by heavy rain and muddy roads. The tracks are fairly short so the many spectators can see the riders passing often, allowing them to follow the race perfectly. Another major difference with the road races, which often go for long distances and therefore may take five or six hours, is the short duration of the cyclocross race. That never lasts longer than one hour plus one lap. The result is that the races are very intense and always with a lot of tumult to watch.

Crashes also occur frequently on the one hand because of the high pace during the races but also because of the high degree of difficulty of most tracks. Cyclocrossers must therefore very skillfully handle their bikes and be able to steer very well, where a quick reactivity is essential. These are briefly summarized the main features of this popular branch of cycling.

Cyclocrossers stay in shape during the road season by participating in road races. In August and September, the preparation for the cross season begins by expanding the training on the road, late September early October the training in the field starts. In the beginning of the season there is usually a cyclocross race in the weekends. Later in the season, especially around Christmas and Old and New Year, there are two to three races a week. In the preparation for the season the workouts consist of long endurance training.

Many kilometers, at a low intensity. The field training starts late September, are shorter but much more intense. Two to three of this kind of training sessions per week is quite normal. Add to these training the races then the number of intensive efforts comes to 4 or 5 per week. With this data in mind, a group of cyclocross racers was tested. The question was: please evaluate this field training and give advice to optimize the workout.


Lactate values Lactate 1 and Lactate 2 were determined at two different moments during a group workout of 13 cyclocross racers. There was no training task set. It was an average training, which is done 2 to 3 times a week at this intensity. Participants 12 and 13 were registered by telemetry. See registration below.


The various participants reach strongly different lactate values. That means that this workout has a totally different effect on one athlete from that on the other. Participants 2, 3, 4, 8 and 9 are training their aerobic capacity. The other participants reach high lactate values. That means that the anaerobic energy supply was used extensively and through this lactate tolerance was trained. Training of the aerobic capacity does not happen to them. Three workout of this kind per week together with the races during weekends constitute a far too heavy training load. A maximal performance level cannot be maintained with this quantity of training load. The high lactate burdens cause damage to the aerobic endurance capacity. It is due to this excessive training commitment that many cyclocross racers have a strong performance decline in the course of the season. It takes a lot time and hassle to convince athletes to change their training routine and limit the number of workouts during which high lactate values are reached.

They should be replaced by less intensive training on the aerobic capacity which does not surpass the anaerobic threshold.

Many athletes are not satisfied unless they feel as if they have been ‘torn to pieces’ after a training workout. They feel good if they reach the same feeling of fatigue as in the races. Only then they are satisfied and enjoy the day and the training, in their bed, before falling asleep. But unfortunately they are wrong and with their state of mind they will never reach the top of their abilities. Only when the athletes come to their senses and understand that they are doing wrong and they are also capable of changing their training attitude and are able to change the composition of its training program. Only then they can maintain their high level of performance and even usually improve. Let this true story be a good lesson for all those riders who always train too hard and too one-sided and therefore blocking their development and opportunities. Read the story: Cycling Amateurs often overtrained.