Cyclocross seems to start earlier every season, especially for those of us who aren’t getting called up to Elite Superprestige series starts. Personally, I still don’t feel so great about that. Count me in the camp that prefers cross with mud (at least) and snow and ice (sometimes). That doesn’t mean that I haven’t toed a start line in August, but it feels weird to be racing CX and worrying about water bottles and heat stroke.
Fortunately, the professional season is still situated mostly between Oct and Feb. And even for the rest of us, we can get some proper conditions well before anyone dares speculate about Kerstperiode favorites. These are the days that I dream of most, when it comes to cyclocross, whether for training or for racing. Seeing who’s the fastest in the dry, dusty, fast conditions of summer is one thing. Seeing who’s best at putting power to the ground while sliding sideways in the mud, or navigating hub-deep ruts that have hardened with an overnight freeze, that’s where cross is at its most distinct from the other cycling disciplines. Maybe that’s why the winter conditions capture my imagination so much.
Whether you treat August racing like it’s the world championships, or whether you’re just using the early season events to ensure good form once autumn rolls around, good on you. With this blog, I mostly wanted to offer a bit of service and suggestion around kit for colder conditions, though. I’m far less a traditionalist when it comes to kit for cyclocross. Whether you choose to race in a skinsuit, or to use bibs and a jersey, the notion of suffering near-hypothermia in the cold/wet weather in some contrived nod to toughness and history just seems silly to me. Racing is about doing what you can to deliver your best possible performance, and temperature regulation is a key part of that.
As with any high-aerobic activity, kitting up for cross is about managing body temperature through insulation and wind barrier, and moisture management (whether that moisture is sweat, rain, or spray from the bike or ground).
Within GORE® wear’s product line, the key items to focus on are the WINDSTOPPER® products and accessories.
WINDSTOPPER® Baselayers are one of the biggest difference makers for cold days. These enable full windproof protection and good moisture management,
and can be worn under your skinsuit or jersey, ensuring optimal aerodynamics, no flapping fabrics, and that you can still display your sponsors’ logos, if that’s the type of kit you’re obligated to wear.
A WINDSTOPPER® Helmet Cap (goes under your helmet, 5°C down to –15°C) or ear band (say, 0°-7°C) can make a big difference in comfort. As can a Neck and Face Warmer (Gaiter) when it’s even colder.
Can we talk about socks? The big advantage of Universal GWS Partial Socks is that they keep your feet warm, are water resistant, and manage moisture well, and they enable you to comfortably race in your summer shoes, which is a big performance advantage over bulkier winter shoes, or shoe covers which really just don’t work for CX.
Gloves, from the Power Trail WINDSTOPPER® Light Gloves (4-18°F) to the Power GWS Gloves (down to 0°C for training, well below 0°C for racing), you want something that isn’t too bulky, but that delivers good warmth and water resistance, and feeling at the handlebar.
WINDSTOPPER® knee and leg warmers are obvious additions on colder days.
And for those of you that don’t bother with a skinsuit, check out the Oxygen Classics WINDSTOPPER® bibshorts and jersey. These are fantastic for CX and combine very well with the other items I’ve just mentioned, albeit with standard, rather than WINDSTOPPER® baselayers, since the wind barrier is a part of the bibs and jersey with the Oxygen Classics products.
I hope that helps as the temperatures drop, and that your tubular tire gluing is progressing efficiently and cleanly. I mean, #CrossIsComing. You better get ready.