Starts are huge in cross. Whether you’re on the 1st row or the 10th, a good start can be the difference between a great or mediocre day on the bike.  Maintaining your position and/or passing large groups of people while charging down a straight at the beginning is a heck of a lot easier than making up large gaps throughout a cross race for sure.  Plus it’s fun!

First off you need to have a solid warm up in prior to staging, or else the violent effort needed is going to hit you like a ton of bricks half way through the first lap. Grip the bars tightly in the drops or on the hoods.  Most like the hoods but how often do you see roadies sprinting for the line on the hoods?  Make no mistake; this is a series of short and all-out sprints.  Get your weight back a bit, at least over the top of the saddle.  When the whistle blows jam your hips forward and off you go.

BMX is awesome, just wanted to put that out there. Growing up in that sport teaches some pretty wicked skills for sure, including how to go from a standing start to max speed fast.  While you won’t win a cross race because of a great start, you can lose one with a bad start.  You can win a BMX race purely because of a great start so it’s a large part of training and the core principals are the same.  Notice the hip action, pedal position and all-out/dead-lift type effortBMX Start

As with every aspect of bike racing, practice is crucial. Do 2 or 3 starts the day before race day to get the feel.  You need to find the starting gear that best suits you, get comfortable getting your cleat engaged quickly and work on shifting up as you spin each gear out.  This is a fantastic video and instruction from one of the best in the US: Cyclocross Start

It’s also a very good idea to incorporate focused and fitness based start reps into your training regimen at least once every other week. One or two sets of these is a solid addition to a skills oriented day and will also help train the body to accept and recover from what is one of the toughest efforts of the race:

Warm up for at least 15 minutes.

1 rep: All out sprint for 200 meters. Settle into FTP +10% and peg it there for 1 minute.  3 minutes off between reps.

1 set: 5 reps. Take 8 minutes off between sets.

Hit up some single track for the last half of your ride to work on skills (and to have lots of fun)

Warm down for at least 15 minutes

Good luck and go fast!

Rob Kelley