Knowledge Level: Intermediate
Our 8-week Cyclo-cross training plan is ideal if you are looking to compete in this fun and accessible form of cycle sport. If you have been riding Sportives or racing during the summer, cyclo-cross is the perfect way to keep your motivation and fitness high through the autumn and into winter.
Download the 8 week cyclo-cross training plan here:
Who is it suitable for?
The eight week cyclo-cross plan is suitable for riders who want to develop fitness specifically for cyclo-cross and have been cycling consistently through the summer. The minimum requirements are that you have ideally completed the12-week Improvers' Plan, recently completed a 60-mile (100 km) ride or most weeks ride three times, including a ride of two hours or more.
It is also suitable for more experienced riders, who may have followed our Pre-season training plan and our In season plan through the summer, or regularly ride longer sportives or race. With training intensity prescribed using heart rate or power, every session is effectively tailored to your own fitness level. There are also optional bonus sessions suggested each week which gives you the scope to increase your training volume if you want to.
How much training is involved?
The highest training volume of a week of the plan is six hours 50 minutes, if you are completing all of the bonus sessions.
Intermediate and advanced riders may find that the volume of the plan, especially of the weekend rides, is less than they are used to. However, particularly if you are completing the bonus sessions, their high intensity nature more than makes up for the lower volume. Remember, you will already have a great endurance base from the season and that cyclo-cross races are only typically 45-60 minutes in duration.
It is worth remembering that Paul Oldham, who won the 2014 National Trophy, typically averaged about seven hours training per week. Cyclo-cross training is about quality and not quantity. If you are not well rested for the sessions, you won’t get the most from them.
Is it all cycling?
No, cross training workouts are part of this, as they are in all of our training plans. These sessions help to prevent boredom, provide options if you are unable to ride and build all-round injury preventing robustness. Running, especially off-road and including hills, is particularly relevant to cyclo-cross.
What about skills?
There are a number of skills and techniques which are essential for cyclo-cross and, because of this, one session each week is dedicated to mastering them. You will need to find a suitable grassy area and some cones and bamboo poles are also useful. These sessions are far more fun if you can rope some mates in. You will also gain valuable race specific fitness from these sessions and learn pacing.
What equipment do I need?
To follow the plan, if you don’t already possess them, you will need a bike computer that displays cadence and a heart rate monitor and/or a power meter. An indoor trainer is also useful for the higher intensity mid-week sessions.
A lot of the training in this plan can be completed on the road but you will also require a bike to ride off-road. Most cyclo-cross races will allow you to compete on a mountain bike and, as all of the sessions in this plan can also be completed on one, there is no requirement to buy a dedicated cyclo-cross bike. That said, once the cyclo-cross bug bites, you might not be able to resist. You will definitely be faster and a cross bike is incredibly versatile, and can easily be used as a winter training or commuting bike. If you do choose to use a mountain bike, remove mudguards, bottle cages and racks and consider fitting some narrower tyres.
How will the plan be delivered?
This overview of the entire eight week plan allows you to see how it progresses and the commitment that you are making, before you look at each week. The detailed sessions, are delivered on easy to view and printable single page documents for each week.
What should I do at the end of the plan?
You should ideally aim to coincide the final week of the plan with the week before your first cyclo-cross race of the season.
If you’re then intending to go on and race a full season, probably competing every weekend, you can rotate back through the plan, making a few key changes.
Although a cyclo-cross race will feel hard at the time, the actual “training load” it delivers is relatively low. This means, if you can fit it in, that Mondays can be good for fitting in an endurance style ride rather than taking a rest day. It doesn’t need to be epic, 2-3 hours is plenty and mostly at a solid Zone 2 intensity. If you can’t get out, use it for cross-training.
Perform the Tuesday workouts as described in the plan, this includes a Threshold Test every 8 weeks.
Wednesdays should stay as a rest day.
On Thursdays, you should complete the prescribed Bonus Session.
Friday can be a rest day but, if you didn’t manage to fit an endurance ride in on Monday, you could do it today.
Saturday should just be a leg loosener such as a Spin Out Session. You don’t want to do an endurance ride today.
Sunday will be your race.
It’s important to remember, this is very much just a guide and you need to listen to your body and see how you perform at races. If you find your legs feel heavy and slow, you might need to back down what you’re doing during the week but, conversely, if you feel fresh on a Sunday, you might be able to do a bit more training.
What other support will there be?
The supporting introduction to the plans will contain links to key articles relevant to that training block. You can also find dedicated cyclo-cross content on the site.
You can also e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any queries you may have regarding the plan and your training.