Are you tired of dominating chumps in the local rec-league, and not getting the street cred you deserve? The problem is not your ability to send less athletic foe to the E.R. with a kickball line-drive, but rather the sports you are choosing to crush. For years it seemed genius to resurrect games we played as children with the addition of kegs and clever, pop-culture names. Unfortunately, your 2009 “Celebrity Death Panel – Akron Dodgeball AA Champs” t-shirt no longer warrants a free drink at the local pub. No, need to start winning sports that give you real souvenirs – scars and pain med prescriptions. You need “cross” sports.
A sport with “cross” attached to the end of it is instantly harder, faster, and more dangerous than its parent version. They also afford better stories. For example, the mountain-biker says, “I rode a narly downhill today, on a beautiful forest trail. Caught some jumps and fresh air.” The cyclo-cross participant says, “I rode so hard I puked, then had to carry my bike up a steep, muddy slope. It was snowing.” You get the idea. Now with Skier-Cross becoming an official sport in the 2010 Olympic Games, “cross” sports are sure to use mainstream media coverage to boost their rising popularity amongst American endurance (read: bad ass) athletes. You must understand how to win them.
You own skis and a bike; you can compete, right? Not so fast, grasshopper. While being able to stay upright on the snow or two wheels is essential, cross is a little more than your average stroll around the lake or groomers in the sun. In Skier-cross you will be racing 4 or 5 other competitors, at the same time. You will all be jockeying (read: elbowing) for position as you burst out of the start gate and negotiate an assortment of airs, hills and turns. While fighting is not allowed, you will get hit with a pole, it happens. Similarly, in Cyclo-cross, you will be riding in very close quarters, until you take the lead at least, while encountering a course full of varying terrain, obstacles, straights and sharp corners. Still interested? Great.
What does it really take to win? Mira Copeland, cross competitor and all around saucy babe puts it in one word, “Fearless.” That seems a bit cliché, so we asked her to expand. In both sports, you will crash and get bumps and bruises, so a certain recklessness is required. However, if you blindly throw yourself at the course, without regard for your chew solid food, you will only end up on the ground, and off the podium. A competitor must be able to convince himself he can fit through a narrow gap of racers, around a turn, and have the skill not to send all three of them into the fence. Mira teaches, understand your abilities, and then push them. A conservative approach will not allow you to pass, but wild aggression will fail.
To avoid untimely spills, and control the race, stay out front. If you are stuck in the pack, another competitor’s mistake could cost you. Practice getting off the line quick. Especially in Skier-cross, an early lead can go a long way. Since Cyclo-cross allows large fields of competitors on the track at once, there are often opportunities for bottlenecks, meaning a bunch of nubes, slowing you down. You can’t dictate the race from the back. Take advantage of your opponents weaknesses and gain some separation. If you can ride up steeps that others have to dismount and carry their bike, you not only free some space, but demoralize your opponents. Also, interval training will allow you to endure short chunks of super speed while maintaining a high steady pace overall, leaving other competitors gasping for air.
Respect the Course
Even sports come with homework. Scope out the course in advance of race day. This allows you to know when to attack and avoid painful errors. If you are sprinting hard on a flat straight-away, you had better understand where the next turn occurs and how sharp it is. Preparation is the difference between competing for the win and carrying your mangled bike to the finish line. Check the weather report as well. You are not going bowling, so find out if you will be battling the elements in addition to the course. Remember, knowing is half the battle.
Have a soul-crushing plan for the competition. You know strengths and what the course is giving you. Prepare for different race scenarios. Decide how you will race if you are ahead, and have a plan to catch up if you are behind. The race will only last so long; where can you pace yourself and when must you go balls-out? You cannot predict how a cross race will unfold, but you do not have to be caught with your boots unbuckled if events do not go your way. So go out and earn some memorable stories. When you reach the podium, act like you’ve been there before.