Cross is here! Hopefully you have already started with your cross specific skills and drills but it's never too late if you have not. There are a few fundamental skills that I highly recommend practicing before your first event and throughout the season. There no better place to start, than with starts!
Cyclocross races start with a sprint! The main difference between this sprint and probably any other sprint you have done before is the fact that you have to start with one foot on the ground. The first VELD tip would be to choose a starting gear which is hard enough so that you don’t have to change gear within the first 5-6 pedal revolutions, but easy enough so that you can accelerate quickly.
Secondly, pedal position. This involves two VELD tips: Firstly, the correct crank angle (of the pedal you are clipped into) is needed to provide enough leverage to pull away quickly. If you’re looking at the crank set as a clock face, somewhere around 2 o clock would be a good starting point (slightly lower if starting up hill). The second angle to worry about is the angle of the pedal on its spindle (which you are not clipped into). This angle differs from rider to rider, so practice is needed to see what works for you so that the pedal comes around to meet your foot in the correct way. If you have a consistent angle which you practice with, the chance of getting clipped in first time significantly increases!
For most people, starting with your dominant foot clipped in will work the best but give it a go the other way around just to make sure.
You can start either in the saddle or off the saddle, both are valid. I prefer to start off the front of the saddle. I have my standing foot very close and just in front of the pedal which I am not clipped into, this means I am just looking to make a very small movement with my foot up and back onto the pedal. By doing this it means I have a higher percentage chance of getting clipped in first time. The pedal is moving very slowly at this point and with such a small movement there is less chance of error. The quicker both feet are clipped in the quicker you can get into your full sprint. Hand position should be on the hoods for a stable position where you can easily change gear quickly.
Finally positioning on the grid can be a luxury to have but if you do get lucky at choosing the first few positions of a new line make sure you have checked out the first straight and corner entry so you know which side of the grid will give you a better run into the corner. As a rule of thumb for fast first corners you want to be on the inside and slow first corners you want to be on the outside.
There will be a lot more tips and some videos coming soon from VELD coaching as the cyclocross season fast approaches.
If you have any questions about possible coaching, don’t hesitate to get in touch via email firstname.lastname@example.org