The benefits of buying a cyclocross bike as opposed to a road bike for triathlon training
Triathlons provide us with the perfect test of skill across three fantastic events in swimming, cycling, and running. But of all three stages of the triathlon, be it a standard race or a sprint-triathlon, the phase which is considered to be the most important by many is the cycling. Often taking up the biggest percentage of the race, the cycling can take up around 50 percent of the total track and is where contestants can make up the most ground – or possibly lose the most ground. As the middle sector of the race, contestants must make sure that they capitalise on the cycling stage as well as ensure that they’ve got enough left in the tank for the final running stage. This all results in cycling training being crucial to a triathlon athlete, making the type of bike used to train on that much more integral to success.
Many triathlons stage their cycling phases on the road, which would logically suggest that road bikes would be the best way to practice for triathlons, but perhaps not. One of the fastest growing segments of racing, cyclocross, takes place off-road, where cyclists take on the raw elements and wild terrain in very entertaining races. While the bikes aren’t as suited to road races as your traditional on-road bike, training for a triathlon with the off-road on-road hybrids, as Live Strong describes them, is a great way to make yourself a better cyclist.
Cyclocross benefits demonstrated by the pros
When it comes to comparing road and cyclocross racing, road cycling is a comparatively easy-going form of the sport. Sure, you need to keep a high tempo, push up hills, keep your balance, and manage fatigue, but all of the obstacles and terrain changes that cyclocross races involve just make it that much trickier to succeed in. The added elements that come with cyclocross mean that the bikes need to be designed differently, mainly to be more resistant to pretty much everything, thus being heavier than the better makes of on-road bikes. Riding with these specialist bikes, especially in difficult conditions, can greatly enhance your cycling as a whole.
For a grand example of this, you needn’t look further than Dutch champion, number one ranked in the world, 22-year-old Mathieu van der Poel. On 16 October 2017, Cycling Weekly reported on a tremendous bit of skill shown by Van der Poel, as he managed to make an amazing save to stay upright going down a notoriously difficult, very steep sand hill. It’s presentations of great skill like that, as well as making up a 10 second deficit in that same race, that has Mathieu van der Poel on top of the cyclocross world, which includes him being the 1/2 favourite with betting sites like Betway over the 15/8 Wout van Aert at the 2018 Valkenburg Cyclocross World Championships, as of 22nd December. Van der Poel’s skill to stay upright and adjust to a sudden unsteady bit of ride perfectly shows the benefits of cyclocross. This ability to recover from what appeared to be a certain tumble is a skill that all cyclists can utilise in any form of racing, especially with fatiguing legs in a triathlon.
Off-road cyclocross benefits
Riding the bike off-road enables you to better train in keeping your balance and adjusting to unsteady ground, as well as teaching you not to panic when a fall feels as though it’s coming as, in cyclocross, you’ll likely fall off a lot. But, taking falls in cyclocross will help you better understand how to recover from slips as well as when to take a fall but quickly get back on the bike. Cyclocross will also encourage you to improve your strength and conditioning to improve your power on the bike and control over it. Going back to world number one Mathieu van der Poel, not only has he been named the National Cyclocross champion from 2014 to 2016, the World Cyclocross champion in 2014, and most recently the European Cyclocross champion in 2017, but he’s also considered to be a strong all-rounder when it comes to road racing, thanks to the skills attained from his off-road cyclocross racing. The very foundation of cyclocross means that you can train for your triathlon effectively all year round. Bike Radar cites that the sport originated in the 1900s so that road racers could stay fit through the winter months. They would race each other from one town to the next; taking whichever path through whatever terrain they wished.
Now the cyclocross bikes are specifically designed to bring you the best experience, and a much tougher form of cycling that your standard road racing. Training cyclocross rather than road bikes simply builds stronger cycling fundamentals that will transfer between the two forms of racing, which will be key in the precarious moments of a triathlon – the moments that separate the great riders from the good riders.