Cyclocross racing is made to take you to your limit. You have a power profile (Peak Power at different durations) and it’s important that you take inventory and identify the different efforts that you have in your arsenal.
The start is like a sprint. The entire first lap is a VO2max nightmare. The middle of the race is normally more on the FTP side of things with wicked little ebb and flow situations necessary to either drop or stay with others. The last lap is usually an FTP normalized power/VO2max feeling death march with a possible sprint at the end. Take inventory, know what you have to work with and develop every aspect:
.02 (12 seconds, explosive power): This is your start and finish. Starts are pretty straight forward. The finish is more intricate so know what distance suits you best – usually 150-300 meters. When you get to a race course make note of a stationary object that is your sweet spot distance away from the finish line and key in on it as a place to launch yourself into the final sprint. This type of effort will also get you over short hills and, if necessary, short gaps.
1 minute, lactate clearance: Jam up short hills, close small gaps or go into “cling-on” mode when things really get tough. If you’re feeling awesome then go ahead and let it fly from a kilometer out from the finish.
6 minutes, velocity at VO2MAX: Work this duration out and it goes a long way. The first lap of a race is often as much about who can suffer as it is about who is the strongest. Peg it as long as it takes and things will calm down at some point long enough for you to recover and settle into a group.
12 minute: See CP6, but with twice as much misery and pain! Also consider this as a way to help make an attack stick in the last couple of laps.
CP30 (30 minutes, lactate super threshold): The field is made up of those that have this type of muscular endurance and those that don’t. It is a more useful number in road racing should you find yourself off the front, but still an important one to build for cyclocross as it represents the sustained power that will get you to the end with a little something left.
Use your tools to build a good result. Get a great start, bridge up to the group just ahead, attack at THE critical point of a race, maintain good position……these are all necessary evils in the pursuit of happiness (winning will make you a happier person). Don’t do anything unless it is a direct benefit to you or a teammate. Pulling at the front of a long headwind section with no help from anyone else in your group is like running sideways at a marathon. Have a plan, know what you have going for you and use it to win!