Coach’s Corner – Cadence

The Concept


Cadence (RPM’s) has an influence on fatigue, power output and economy on the bike.  There are two ways to make your bicycle go faster; push a larger gear and/or complete more revolutions per minute of the pedals. By increasing your cadence you can increase wattage and pace while putting less stress on your muscular system than you would while pushing a larger gear.

The Rationale

To watch a cyclist with effortless and fluid motion is a thing of beauty. They are more likely to maximize efficiency, avoid injury and prevent mechanicals. The load placed on the knee, for example, at 75 RPM’s vs. 100 RPM’s at the same speed is very different. The load placed on your muscular system is also very different – higher at lower RPM’s – and so with proper training you will be able to maintain a high pace/power level at 100 RPM’s for a longer period of time.

Different events require a different cadence.  The metabolic cost of mashing a big gear at 70 RPM’s during a cyclocross race is too high, as is trying to maintain 120 RPM’s.  Maximum efficiency reached during a road sprint is at 120+, while an ultra-endurance event requires a much lower cadence (65 – 85 RPM’s).  Cross is somewhere in the middle and maximum efficiency, similar to a 20 – 40 K TT, falls in the neighborhood of 90 – 100 RPM’s.

This guy needs a high cadence


Jamming out of the myriad of corners faced in cross race is also a huge contributor to the overall fatigue experienced during a race.  Coming out in a big gear is akin to a dead lift; corner after corner.  A nice high, smooth motion will reduce that effect tremendously.   My favorite guy to watch to this end in the CCC series is Brian Conant.  We train together occasionally and he is almost always in a lower gear than everyone else and you can see for yourself on race day how quickly and smoothly he jets out of every corner.



The Work


The idea is not to become comfortable at 130 RPM’s. It is to be comfortable at 95 or 100 RPM’s….but truly comfortable and fluid. The athletes that I coach usually find these to be the most difficult rides during the offseason. By end the base period though they find increased wattage without increased load derived from their newly developed neuromuscular system and pedal stroke. This is just one example of many options and these are so hard to complete that a custom approach to each cyclist is not a bad idea.  Don’t worry about power, use as easy a gear ratio as necessary to maintain cadence:

100 RPMs for 5 minutes 1 minute off 105 RPM’s for 5 minutes 1 minute off 110 RPM’s for 5 minutes 1 minute off 115 RPM’s for 5 minutes 1 minute off 115 RPM’s for 5 minutes 1 minute off 120 RPM’s for 5 minutes 1 minute off 125 RPM’s for 5 minutes 1 minute off 130 RPM’s for 5 minutes 1 minute off 135 RPM’s for 5 minutes

These are “to fail”, meaning hang in there as long as you can and when you can’t keep the pace any longer the set is over, re-group and recover for the next.  If you make it to 2 minutes into the 125 set then the goal for the next is to hang in to 130.   As with all rides warm up for at least 15 minutes and down for at least 10. The above is one set and try to build to three over the course of your base period. Each set should be followed by 6 minutes of recovery. It is meant to be done on a trainer or rollers as I cannot imagine doing this on the road!


Since riding a trainer pretty well blows this time of year you may rather go for an outdoor-friendly version.  As you become more comfortable with these you can add additional sets at increased cadence:


90 RPMs for 5 minutes

1 minute recovery

95 RPM’s for 5 minutes

1 minute recovery

100 RPM’s for 4 minutes

1 minute recovery

105 RPM’s for 4 minutes

1 minute recovery

110 RPM’s for 3 minutes

1 minute recovery

115 RPM’s for 3 minutes

1 minute recovery

120 RPM’s for 2 minutes


Questions?  E-mail me at


Rob Kelley


Categories: Coach's Corner

Tuesday CCC Updates

Photo: Snowy Mountain Photography

- Looks like everyone had a great time again at the Relay CX on Sunday. Thanks again to everyone at xXx Racing-Athletico for getting the CX season started on the right foot. Results are online, but please note results from Relay CX will NOT be used for calculating rankings. The next Chicagoland race is also hosted by xXx Racing and takes place at the new Caldwell Woods venue on Sunday 9/28/14.

- Just 5 spots left for Cracking the Code mini-camp with Pete Webber & Meredith Miller. Saturday, September 6th, presented by Spidermonkey Cycling and SRAM. Details are at

- Just down the road in Rantoul the Heartland of Illinois CX (HICX) series kicks off with Patriot CX on Sunday 9/14/14.

- Speaking of clinics… hey ladies, check out what the Chicago Cuttin’ Crew has worked out for you at the Trek CXC Cup up in Wisconsin the weekend of 9/20/14 – 9/21/14.

- Online Pre-Reg for just about all events is opening on BikeReg next Tuesday 9/2/14 at 9am. So enjoy the last unofficial long weekend of summer and then rev up your Mosaic and Netscape browsers early Tuesday morning. This year all CCC events are utilizing BikeReg’s new category restriction feature. So if you attempt to register for a category you are not eligible for based on your BikeReg rider profile you’ll get a warning and have to write a note justifying why you are eligible for that category. Sooo… save yourself some time next week and update your BikeReg rider profile now with your USAC license number, CX category, team name, etc.

- Last call for Series Sponsors and Series Volunteers. Contact us ASAP at ChicagoCrossCup at gmail if you want to be involved.

- And finally… this holiday weekend if you are out and about spending your hard-earned cash dollars, please remember our great family of series sponsors who help make our little weekend parties happen. If you have a choice and the means, please give them your business!

2014 Relay CX – Pix and Vids and Race Reports

Please post links to your pictures, videos, and race reports in the comments below.

Categories: Photo, Reports, Video

Coach’s Corner – Aerobic Threshold

BR This is the first of our posts that will focus on helping you maximize your time while training for the Chicago Cross Cup series.  If you have questions shoot over a note to  My methods are based on the Training Bible system of periodization as developed by Joe Friel, as I have been lucky enough to learn from and work with the master himself.  Joe is regarded as the foremost authority on training endurance athletes in the English-speaking world and , very literally, wrote the book.  We also hope to have input from other coaches invested in this area and race series and so if you fit that description and have an interest send an e-mail to that same address.

If you race cyclocross it’s time to get back on the horse.  A proper base is crucial in making it to the end of the season both physically and mentally dialed in throughout the Chicago Cross Cup series.

A transition period (see more here) is made of little to no riding; maybe some cross training of some sort and a mental vacation from the rigors of training.  Take at least a week off to that end before jumping back into a regimented program.  And then……

Most are coming off of a summer of racing or just riding for fitness and fun and so should begin with less aerobic focus than is necessary following a long period off the bike like you’d take on mid-winter.  Two aerobic threshold rides per week mixed into your schedule for this first phase of training is normally enough.   Training should be set up in blocks and the most common rhythm is 3 weeks of focused training followed by 1 week of recovery, and this first block should include a healthy dose of aerobic endurance intervals.

Start with heart rate as a gauge and then feed in your wattage as you go along.  Aerobic threshold is built at the high end of zone 2, and look here if you need to identify your heart rate zones.  If you do not have a power meter then just go by heart rate.  This level of effort may sound like a cake walk, but they are not easy!  The intervals are:

Warm up for at least 15 minutes.  60 minutes at the high end of zone 2 heart rate.  Warm down for at least 10 minutes

Warm up for at least 15 minutes.  75 minutes at the high end of zone 2 heart rate.  Warm down for at least 10 minutes

Warm up for at least 15 minutes.  90 minutes at the high end of zone 2 heart rate.  Warm down for at least 10 minutes

Click here for more detail in regard to these intervals.  Solidifying a 75 minute effort with no decoupling – when heart rate rises while power remains the same (see more here) – is enough for all but those in the 1/2/3 races.  If you are going to line up for a 1 hour cross race then take it up to at least 90 minutes.  If you are using heart rate alone you can use speed and/or gear ratio in the place of wattage.  Not as exacting, but will give you an idea of how your output (heart rate) measures up to your input (power) as you progress.

You’ll want to have a consistent effort and so these are best done on the road or a stationary trainer; with a road bike or cross bike with some slicks.  Add in recovery rides and not-so-tough rides off road on the cross bike and you have a solid week of the type of training necessary for this period.  A typical week will look something like this:

Monday – completely off or strength training

Tuesday – 60 minute aerobic threshold interval, 1.5 hour ride total

Wednesday – off road on the cross bike for 1 – 2 hours, easy to medium intensity

Thursday – 1.5 hour recovery ride, or strength training and a 30 minute recovery ride

Friday – completely off

Saturday – 2 – 3 hour long slow distance ride on the road, off road or a combination of the two

Sunday – 60 minute aerobic threshold interval, 1.5 hour ride total

Don’t underestimate recovery!  It is as important as the hard rides.

Good luck!  If you are interested in buying a training plan that will take you through the entire CCC series that incorporates this and much more see here.

Rob Kelley


Categories: Coach's Corner

Tuesday CCC Updates

ROK Coaching – New this season the CCC website will feature a Coach’s Corner post every Wednesday from ROK Coaching with articles on training, racing, recovery, etc. Coach Rob Kelley has been in and around cyclocross for a long time and has developed a 16 week CX training plan here which starts this week. Take a look to get stronger and faster for the CCC.

- The xXx Racing-Athletico CX Relay race is coming up this Sunday in Jackson Park. Even if you can’t or don’t want to race, the venue is so close to the city you should swing down and check it out. Pre-reg has filled for Juniors and the Coed Open fields, but there are still a few spots open in the other categories. Please pre-reg on for this event before it closes tomorrow (Wednesday) at 11:45pm CST. Good luck to all the teams racing, especially those named ‘Hurt Ponies’ and ‘Kevin/Tom’.

- Speaking of BikeReg, right after the CX Relay please make sure to update your rider profile with, at the very least, your USAC license number (we use these to score the regular season CCC races) and all other relevant info. Even if you had a USAC license number in the past but are racing on a One Day license this year, keep your USAC license number in your profile. If your info is not correct in BikeReg we can’t score the series correctly. The reg pages for regular season CCC races will be online soon.

- Speaking of pre-registration and specifically entry fees for Junior races, all CCC races will charge entry fees for Junior races during the 2014 season. As much as we didn’t want to have to do this, last year we found a large number of Juniors (way more than any other category) pre-registered and then did not start (DNS) their races. In some cases 50% of Juniors DNS’d. With the Women Cat 4/Junior field selling out at many venues this led not only to some women not being able to pre-reg, but also large lines at the reg desk as waitlisted riders who showed up to race had to wait again to get in the race. However, since we do not want to penalize the Juniors who actually do show up to race, the CCC is instituting a reimbursement policy. If a Junior (racing in the Junior races) pre-reg’s for >= 4 races and actually shows up to race at least 75% of those races, at the end of the season they can request a reimbursement from the CCC for the full amount of the reg fees of the races they actually raced. We’ll have more details spelled out on the Series Rules and FAQs page soon.

- Also speaking of BikeReg, Half Acre Cycling is hosting a Women’s & Tran’s Beginner CX Clinic. If you have never raced or have one or two under your belt and want to brush up on your skills, join the Half Acre women’s cx squad for a fun morning in the park! Raffle prizes and snacks included!! Mmmm, snacks.

- Even more concerning BikeReg, as promised last week, here is more information about Beverly Bike/Vee Pak’s Saturday 10/11/14 schedule. The Beverly HILLS 5K trail run will begin at 10am on the same course as their cross race. You can register on RunReg here. At 12:00 the fun gets real with the half day cyclocross schedule. The course will be a slight variation of Sunday’s and will include a bunny hop competition! Think of a reverse limbo on a bike. Let’s see who can really fly! Registration for Saturday’s cross race will be open when Sunday’s CCC race goes live, sometime in the next few weeks.

- And finally… we hope everyone is enjoying the last few weeks of summer. Cross will be here soon enough so by all means practice your remounts, and turns, and starts, and heckles… but before you have to explain to both your non-cycling friends what cyclocross is every weekend and why you have so many bruises on your legs and are walking a little funny… please enjoy the summer weather before it is gone all too quickly.

Tuesday CCC Updates

- The CCC has many returning series sponsors for 2014 but also a few new friends we’d like to welcome to the family. More are on the way as well, but in the meantime, say hello to…

ABUS Mobile Security ABUS Mobile Secuirty – Whether you want to secure your bike against theft, protect your head in a fall with a bike helmet or simply transport a few items without damaging them. ABUS provides the right solution for all these tasks. From basic protection to high-tech locks to protect you against theft. Or from the first bike helmet for your child to helmets for professional cyclists. Or from the wide range of sportive, elegant and functional bike bags.

 CBBEL Christopher B. Burke Engineering, Ltd. (CBBEL) is a full-service consulting engineering and surveying firm specializing in civil, transportation/highway, municipal, traffic, construction, water resources, environmental, structural and mechanical engineering. CBBEL is committed to delivering consistently accurate, timely, and cost-effective solutions to a wide range of engineering and environmental challenges.


Print Lauri Novak Photography – Event & Fine Art photography capturing unique views and perspectives. Lauri sees the world in photographs and love that her photography helps others to see the world around them in a new and different way.

- Word in the dirt is Bevery Bike/VeePak is not only putting on their usual CX mayhem Sunday 10/12/14 at Dan Ryan Woods but are also opening up the course on Saturday 10/11/14 for a half day of non CCC-series racing. The reason for only a half day of cyclocross… because in the morning BB/VP is hosting a 5k trail run on the same course. So save the date and break out your running shoes too. More information will follow next week.

- Remember xXx Racing’s CX Relay is in 1.5 weeks and the team name competition is in full swing. The CoED category is already full, but we’re not sure if Bert Wellens and Sylvie Uyttendaele are really coming over from Antwerp to race with us.

- And finally… we want to try a little experiment this season. We know many of you have GPS computers on your bikes and just about everyone has an Internet connection, so let’s have some fun with Strava. Read through our instruction page and let’s see what happens.

Categories: 1 - Sponsors, News, Updates

Tuesday CCC Updates

The Pony Shop – We are pleased to announce The Pony Shop will be the 2014 Chicago Cyclocross Cup Title Sponsor. After 5 great years Iron Cycles is handing the reigns to the gang at the Pony Shop. Shop owner and CX team manager Lou Kuhn is no stranger to the Chicago CX scene and has been a mainstay in the CCC series since its inception 11 years ago. The team has had multiple series overall winners and state CX champions over the years in nearly every category from masters to men to women from Cat 1 to Cat 4. Swing by one of the multiple Pony Shop tents this season and say hello to the guys and gals who call The Pony Shop home. From Lou, “The Pony Shop is honored to be a part of the CCC and help it continue to grow as one of the premier cyclocross series in the United States.  The Pony Shop has been in Evanston since 1969 and is proud to be recognized as one of the many Chicago area shops that truly specialize in and love cyclocross.  Our team has continued to grow for 2014 especially in the junior ranks, and we look forward to seeing these kids develop the same love we all have for cyclocross!”

- Saturday September 6th Spidermonkey Cycling and SRAM are bringing Pete Webber & Meredith Miller to Chicago for the latest installment of Cracking the Code, a CX mini camp and clinic. Leave your pledge pin at home and come learn CX from 2 of the best in the business. Register here.

- Also on 9/6/14, the Michigan CX season kicks off with the Alma Grand Prix of Cyclocross p/b Eclipse Cycling, which is the first race of the Tailwind series.  As a special offer for Chicago racers the race promoter has again created a coupon on the USAC registration page good for $5 off your pre-registration ($25 pre-registration, $30 day-of).  This coupon code expires on Sunday, August 31 at midnight EST and is limited to the first TWENTY uses.  E-mail Brian ( for the coupon! There are a handful of hotels in the area in Alma and Grand Rapids (80 minute drive…) and double up with a Kiss Cross race on Sunday(September 7) in downtown G.R. on your way back home. Early number pick up on Friday night is at the Alma Brewing Company in downtown Alma. Spy photos of the course (and a history of the venue) are available on the Facebook page. More information is available at or Any questions please e-mail Brian:

- The CCC 2014 minimum payout schedule is here.

- Just a reminder the xXx Racing CX Relay race is less than 3 weeks away. Online pre-registration opened on BikeReg yesterday and the team name competition is just getting started.

- Speaking of xXx Racing-Athletico, if you hadn’t already noticed on the Schedule page, the Jackson Park CCC series race is moving venues this year to Caldwell Woods. Since xXx Racing had no other options for using other parts of Jackson Park they up and found a newer, bigger, better, location just North West of the city, still easily rideable to via Milwaukee or Elston Aves. However, even though we’re sure you all can’t wait to hit the dirt in the new location, xXx Racing urges all racers and teams to refrain from practicing at Caldwell Woods between now and race day.  By avoiding Caldwell Woods until late September we are assisting the Cook County Forest Preserve District in their land use management plans. Thank you for your understanding.

- For all you newbies out there, CX National Champion Jeremy Powers explains “What is Cyclocross“.

- And finally…  the organizers of Illinois Women Cyclists in collaboration with the Illinois Cycling Association and xXx-Racing are hosting the first ever Women’s Team Open House at Relay Cross! The group would like to offer a bridge for women navigating through the rush of finding a team that they can call family and Relay CX is the perfect setting! If your team would like to participate, please fill out this survey by Saturday August 8.


Categories: 1 - Sponsors, News, Updates

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