Knowledge Level: Beginner
We caught up with Evie Richards, former U23 World cyclo-cross champion and Commonwealth Games MTB silver medallist, to find out how she’s preparing for the upcoming cyclo-cross season, her routine for big races and more top cyclo-cross tips.
What are the key training sessions and workouts you do in the lead up to the cyclo-cross season?
Evie says: “I have my favourite sessions that I tend to repeat. I have a hill that’s just outside the front of my house that I’ve ridden pretty much from when I first started riding. It’s about a 3-minute effort, it’s my go-to workout, I’ve done those today and I’ve got a book with four years’ worth of times for that one climb noted down. I’ll also do 8-minute efforts and 30-second efforts.”
Insight Zone says: Having a repeatable benchmark session is a great idea as it’s a brilliant way to track your progress. A mix of effort lengths from 30 seconds to 8 minutes reflects the top end nature of cyclo-cross and, especially if you’re coming off a sportive season, doing this higher intensity work in preparation for cyclo-cross is essential. This is reflected in our .
Given that cyclo-cross races are relatively short, how much time do you dedicate to longer endurance rides?
Evie says: “For my head I still do a fair amount of endurance work to keep myself feeling happy and confident. Yesterday I did 4 hours on the MTB and today was 3.5. I do enjoy riding long. Cross for me has always been a training tool for the mountain bike which is a longer race so I do need to keep that endurance base. It can be harder in the winter though with the weather so split days can be good.”
Insight Zone says: If you’re coming off a decent summer of riding, you’ll have a decent endurance base and you’re not going to lose that. Don’t worry if you don’t get a long ride in every week, if it’s only a couple of hours and definitely don’t try and cram it in if it compromises the quality of your more intense workouts. Split days, with a morning and evening session, are worth trying, especially if you’re commuting.
Do you do any dedicated cyclo-cross skills sessions or does it all just come naturally to you now?
Evie says: “I really struggle with skills work as I don’t feel out of breath, so I don’t feel like I’m doing anything! I'm still developing as a cross rider, so I’m definitely going too work on my skills and really learn to ride a cross bike. I want to be one of those riders that people look at and say, wow, she can really ride a cross bike.”
Insight Zone says: Skills are essential for cyclo-cross. Check out our skills videos and a dedicated skills session with some mates can be great fun.
How do you minimise the stress and impact of travelling?
Evie says: “Travelling does have a big impact. I’ll try and sleep as much as possible around travelling, make sure I’ve got the right food with me, take my foam roller and wear compression garments. When I arrive, having an easy spin on my bike sometimes helps. I always used to go round all the Duty Free shops, but it’s amazing how many steps you can accumulate. Now, I’ll get through security, sit straight down and be the last person on the plane.”
Insight Zone says: Even though you probably won’t be flying to your cyclo-cross races, you can apply some of Evie’s advice to minimise the impact of your drive and definitely to enhance your recovery. If you’re lucky enough to be heading off to a warm weather training camp this winter or even an event abroad, follow her advice.
What do you like to eat the night before a big race?
Evie says: “I’ve been experimenting a bit as I’ve struggled with bad sickness the last couple of years when racing. So now I keep it really simple with white rice and some protein. I don’t really eat vegetables the day before racing to keep fibre intake as low as possible.”
Insight Zone says: It’s essential to find what works for you and then stick to it. Check out our recipes for some ideas to try.
What does a race morning look like?
Evie says: “It’s all about being organised and sticking to a tried and trusted routine. I’ll try and have breakfast 3.5 hours before my start time, get to the course and get some practice laps in and then have a snack. I’ll then get changed and start warming up ready to race. Being organised is so important as the time goes really quickly.”
Insight Zone says: 100% preparation is key. Get packed and ready the night before and then work back from your start time to calculate your timings. Have a look at our Cyclo-cross Nutritional time-line and don’t forget to factor in time for parking, signing-on, practice laps and a warm-up.
What’s your post race recovery routine like?
Evie says: “It’s slowly getting better! I normally have doping control which actually really helps as it forces me to rehydrate. I’ll take my rollers to dope control and try to have a protein shake but hands up I’m not great and sometimes milk is just easier for me.”
Insight Zone says: As a cyclo-cross race is only 30-60 minutes long, you might not need a recovery drink, especially if you’ve got some lunch ready back at your car. Do focus on hydration though and a light spin for 10 minutes after your race can definitely help.
Why should someone try cyclo-cross?
Evie says: “I got my cousin racing for the first time last year. The cross races in the UK are so amazing from a social perspective. They’re great for families, you’ll make friends and they just have such a welcoming atmosphere. Races are only short so they don’t take a massive chunk out of your weekend and there are loads of them taking place all over the country.”
Insight Zone says: Cyclo-cross is definitely one of the most accessible and inclusive forms of cycle sport. Give it a go this winter and put a big muddy grin on your face.