How To Warm Up For Your Next Cyclocross Race

Our tips for making sure you start your next cyclocross race warm and ready to ride hard

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I suppose “warming up” for a cyclocross race is an oxymoron huh? Oxymoron it may be, but it is important if you want to get the most out of your racing ability. Now, I’m not going to throw a bunch of statistics and research at you. I am of the firm belief that warming up is personal, and that each of us has to figure out what works the best.

how to warm up for cyclocross races


Now, I’ve seen guys jump out of their car, unload their bike, pin up and then lap the field. I’ve also seen guys drag their trainer to a local race and have me beat them. And I’ve seen everything in between.


Many of you probably think of warm up as the time right before your race. Think a little harder because a good warm up starts with your week leading up to the race. For me, I always have to consider how hard I’m going to train during the week leading up to the weekend race. Planning out your training is of ultimate importance so your legs are fresh for the race.

If you have hammered it all week long, take the day before the race and rest. Nothing worse than feeling fresh from a good training week and your legs not cooperating when the whistle blows for the start. If it has been a light or medium week of training then  just spin a bit the day before the race so your legs can stay loose.

A program that several of our SLO Cyclist writers use, The Sufferfest, which includes a boatload of training videos and training plans in a $9.99 per month subscription. They’ve designed a 7-Day Peak workout plan that allows you to get your legs ready for a big race on the weekend. We don’t get a kickback on recommending it or anything–we just use it and like it.


Living in Missouri, we can have all four seasons in one day let alone over the course of a CX season, and this can definitely impact how and how long I warm up for any given race. I know some of you reading this won’t have the same range of climate to consider, which makes your job easier.

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I know as the temps start to drop many of you probably think less and less about hydration. Hydration is still key even when its cold enough to freeze your bottle, and toes, on a long ride. Just because you aren’t sweating as much doesn’t mean you aren’t using up those lovely electrolytes.

Keep yourself hydrated through the week while training, waiting until race day is far too late to do you any good. Remember, hydration for an event becomes very important up to 48 hours previous to the event. Again, you have to know you and learn what to drink, how to drink it and when to drink it.

I know for me, since I have sensitive intestines, I have had to go old school and drink honey water with a pinch of salt added to it or, like I wrote about last year, Pickle Juice Sport works awesome for me.


Now that we have covered the week leading up to the event lets talk about race day warm up. I was a sprinter on my high school track team. That experience is good for cyclocross because let’s face it, CX is the sprints of the racing world away from the track.

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I usually get to an event roughly an hour before my race time, some days I get there earlier depending on how I am feeling. You’ll have to play with how much time you need to invest in actually warming up at the race. After getting my number and having my wife pin it to me, err pin it to my jersey, it is time to get ready. I like to get loose and spin around a bit after arriving to the race site. If I’m in the first race of the day, I’ll take a slow lap around, take notice of some possible lines, see if I need to adjust the pressure in my tires etc.

If everything is good I’ll ramp up the second lap to about 80% or so primarily to make sure I’ve chosen good lines and again seeing how the tire pressure reacts closer to race speed. After this lap I’ll stretch a bit, talk to the wife and then go do some start sprints so that my legs really open up.

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Now, the timing of all this is important. You don’t want to be done warming up and then have to wait for a long time and have all of that effort go to waste. I like to finish my warm up and get my last drink before the race at just about 5-8 minutes before the start.


If my race isn’t the first of the day, then my slow spin will be around the perimeter of the race course so that I can still get my recon of the course in. Even when not on the course you can get a good idea of tire pressure by doing this so don’t fret about that.

After spinning around a bit, I’ll do my start sprints if there is still a race on the course. I try to time it out so that when the race before finishes I can then take that 80% lap right before my race starts.


Keep in mind, this routine is what seems to work for me. Yours may need to be a bit different so that it is the most effective for you. The key is, don’t be afraid to try something different and know how your body reacts to warming up in different temps.

I don’t use the same routine in December that I used in September. My body doesn’t like the cold as much as it used to so I have to take a longer warm up later in the season.


So, to review, be mindful of how hard you have hammered through the week, stay hydrated, learn how your body reacts to different temps and develop your routine so that you can get that podium spot you, and I, have been dreaming about.

About Curt Denham 6 Articles
Curt Denham is one of SLO Cyclist's contributing writers, a dad, cyclist, Raiders fan, therapist and all around good guy ;)

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