Cycle-Smart x TBD Cross Camp 2019
Words by Lucia & Cullen. Photos by Matt.
The Origin - Why/how we planned it
ICYMI: Cross is coming and there’s no better way to shake off the cobwebs like a full weekend of cross-specific drills and trail riding. TBD racers have been regular attendees at Cycle-Smart Cross Camp, a premium experience that consistently lives up to the hype. Due to scheduling conflicts on the cross squad, we were going to miss the single weekend for this year’s Cycle-Smart camp. Luckily, our Cycle-Smart coach Jacob Fetty, offered to do a custom TBD cross weekend.
Lisa’s parents graciously let us use their East Hampton home as camp HQ and Coach Fetty, along with assistant coaches Merv Davis and Ian McDonald, would be stopping over on their way home from Cycle-Smart Camp the week before. So all the stars aligned, and Matt, Lisa, Travis, Daghan, Cullen, Seb, Austin, Liz, Lucia, and Winnie all headed East for #TBDshredfest - 2019 CX Camp Edition.
The Days - What did the days look like
Given the flexibility of our smaller crew of campers, Coach Fetty’s familiarity with the team & individual athletes, and a wealth of really awesome trails & beach to play in, we were able to focus on those skills that were a priority for us and also spend time shredding in the woods. For both days, Fetty proposed targeted skills work in the AM, when our attention spans and bodies were freshest, followed by post-lunch trail riding where we could session our new skills in the woods, while still getting a solid ride in. The crew enthusiastically bought in, and we had a plan for the weekend!
Friday afternoon recon ride. Those of us who were able to “work from home” on Friday got a chance to open up our legs on the local trails. Matt led out the squad through the maze of tight, twisty, loose and surprisingly punchy singletrack that meanders through the Northwest Harbor neighborhood of Eastern Long Island. Having just returned from a 2 week no-bikes Bali vacation, I thought I was going to pass out several times due to the zesty pace being set on the front of the TBD train. Thankfully for me, Daghan suffered about 20 mechanicals (including full crank disengagement), so we were able to recover every 10 minutes or so… After a couple hours, Fetty and the rest of us were very impressed with what we had to work with for the weekend, so we rode back to HQ after a quick dip in the Sound.
After a hearty home cooked breakfast, we spent the morning at the beach where we focused first on some of the key technical skills for cross: dis-mounting/re-mounting, barriers, and of course, sand riding. We chose some particularly difficult sand sections for this latter work, but as it turns out it would come in very handy on some of the sandy trails of East Hampton just a few hours later.
In the afternoon we shifted gears to trail riding, with a focus on smooth and fast, not hard. This meant more practice riding in sand, and more mechanicals for Daghan. On the trails we even worked out a short 5-7 minute loops for hot laps where Merv showed off what speed on a cyclocross bike really looks like. After setting another very fast pace on the ride home we topped day 2 off with some very needed chill time back at the beach before doing team taco night back at the house.
By the second official day of cyclocross camp (and the third day of trail riding for most folks) the fatigue was really starting to set in. Despite this, we kicked the morning off with more technical practice including barrier hoping and starts. Once again Merv showed us just how fast UCI Elites are on the bike, decimating us repeatedly in the starts. After a quick lunch break those of us that had energy left in our legs put a few more hours in out on the trails, including perhaps the fastest riding of the entire weekend.
The Takeaways - nuggets of cross knowledge
Stand up out of every corner - The goal here isn’t necessarily to accelerate and burn matches. Two things are achieved with this tactic. The first is that someone behind you will have to constantly stay on alert in case one of the times you stand up, you actually do attack. The second is that it causes the person behind you to delay a pass attempt.
Standing start foot & pedal position - At the start, your unclipped foot should be in front of the pedal, and the corresponding pedal should be parallel to the crank arm. These two tips allow you to position yourself for maximum torque on the first pedal stroke, with the highest probability that you’ll be able to connect your loose foot to the pedal immediately as the pedal comes around.
Keep pedaling - Even if you miss and you aren't clipped in, just keep on pedaling. I promise you that you will eventually land a clip.
100mm Stems - Apparently everyone who knows what they are talking about is on 100mm stems. We didn’t get a ton of specifics here except that it helps prevent you from putting too much weight on your front wheel through turns.
Choosing where to spend your efforts - Following Fetty or any of the other coaches through sections with multiple turns, I was amazed to see how little they were pedaling while pulling away from me. Both through turns themselves, and in the straight sections, the people who knew how to be fast were doing only a few big pedals and then coasting. This meant they were braking less but also using fewer matches. Could you be pedaling less times into a section you know you're going to brake for? This is honestly the biggest take away for me, and it's pretty clear it's going to take years of practice to nail this consistently.
Anipals are weird sometimes - Winnie is a very good cross dog, but she is a very bad bike wash station assistant. Two hoses were destroyed (by Winnie) as a result.
The Summary - feeling excited for cross season
Even though I’ve been to Cycle-Smart Cross camp 4 or 5 times now, I still get a lot out of a professionally coached skills camp. While practicing on your own can be great, you run the risk of reinforcing the wrong technique. Having a coach observe you and point out mistakes or better ways of doing things really accelerates good skills progression. And having a solid crew of teammates to practice with definitely makes the time fly by, and ensures an endless supply of laughter. We all returned home on Sunday night utterly exhausted but super stoked for a new season of cyclocross racing ahead...