Modern cyclocross courses usually range from between one and two miles, mixing pavement, grass and singletrack, with several forced running sections that can include natural and manmade obstacles such as sandpits and deliberately-placed wood planks. Because of the varied nature of cyclocross courses, some riders will excel in the technical, twisty sections, while others are stronger in the flat, straightaway sections, resulting in continuously shifting race dynamics even within a single lap.
How to Prepare: Practice your starts. Like the beginning of an open-water swim, the first five minutes of a cyclocross race are the most stressful, as a pack of 50 or more riders fight for position before it spreads out single-file. To prepare yourself for this, find an open field or stretch of road and practice starting from a dead stop. Build up from 30-second efforts to five-minute efforts. If you can withstand five minutes of anaerobic effort off the line, you’ll find yourself in a good spot after the first lap.