Getting your nutrition dialed for cross race can be trickier than you might think. Races are relatively short, but they are also incredibly intense. The only thing I've encountered that comes close to their physical intensity are short-track mountain bike races, but even they are not quite as vomit inducing. Sprinting over barriers and up steep hills by foot as commonly encountered during cross races pushes the intensity level through the roof. Glycogen stores to be at maximum to fuel these and other anaerobic efforts, but you also don't want much, if any, food in your stomach come race time. That is, unless you want to be distracted from going your fastest by burping up breakfast. It's not a pleasant feeling.
Knowing this, I checked-in with 2014 Cyclocross Single Speed National Champion, Tim Allen, to find out how he incorporates Beta Red and Enduro Bites to ride his best.
"Nutrition is essential to racing cyclocross; you must have proper fuel in order to go fast. That said, I just try to eat real food that tastes good and makes me perform well on the bike. For years I have tinkered with pre-race meals, drink mixes and the timing of my consumption. Cyclocross in particular is such a short and hard effort that it’s easy to eat/drink too much prior to the start. The way I look at it is; I want to have enough fuel to get me through the last lap, but nothing left in the tank!
I've come up with the following protocol after a lot of trial and error with various products. I usually eat one Enduro Bite piece (100 calories) with a cup of coffee about 2 hours before a race. My 'go-to' flavor is Dark Chocolate Espresso. Then, 1 hour before the start, I'll start drinking a bottle of Beta Red (1.5 scoops with 16 ounces cold water) and eat the other piece. I make sure to finish my Beta Red 30 minutes before race start.
I used to fade super hard toward the end of a 60-minute cross effort. With this protocol, I've been able to launch attacks in my final laps and even sprint to the finish. Before I found Enduro Bites and Beta Red I would literally be in survival mode by the end of my race. I won’t start another cyclocross race unless I have my Dark Chocolate Espresso Enduro Bites and Beta Red!"
You may not win a national championship like Tim, but as long as you have the basics covered I am willing to guarantee that you will ride faster with this protocol. And, while cross may be unique in its intensity, the same strategy can be applied to any short 'endurance' event whether it's a short-track mountain bike race, sprint triathlon, or something else.
What nutritional 'tricks' have you found to help get you through lung-searing cyclocross 'cross races? I'd like to hear them. Please post in the comments section below.
If you see this guy behind you in the closing laps, you better hang on!
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