Cyclocross, essentially an obstacle-course race on two wheels, is booming. American participation in the sport, in which competitors careen down grassy slopes, carry their bikes over railroad ties and sand pits, and endure heckling from well-lubricated spectators, has grown by 250 percent since 2005. That’s an additional 12,000 racers annually. None are better than Jeremy Powers, the two-time national champion. After ten years as a competitive road cyclist, he turned his attention exclusively to dirt tracks. Next month he begins his assault on the World Cup overall cyclocross title, a seven-event series that kicks off in Valkenburg, in the Netherlands.
THE POWER OF SHUTEYE: Just about every afternoon, I take at least a 30-minute nap. When you sleep, you produce healthy hormones that aid in recovery.
PREPARE FOR ANYTHING: Cyclocross is punchy and makes your heart rate go up and down. To train for that, I’ll go out and run with the bike on my shoulders, or I’ll run with weights on my feet to simulate muddy shoes. Sometimes I’ll do intervals where I hop off the bike and run with it for 30 seconds, then bike hard for five minutes, then repeat to exhaustion.
STRONG AND STEADY: In the past, core work wasn’t a big part of my training. Now I’ll do planks, crunches, pull-ups, push-ups, and medicine-ball tosses. The upper-body strength makes a huge difference.
PERFECT BLEND: After I get off the bike, I drink a whey-protein shake. I’ll mix frozen strawberries, blueberries, or mangoes with a cup of almond milk, two scoops of whey protein isolate, and a scoop of flaxseeds. The fruit helps replenish carbs, the protein helps muscles rejuvenate, and flaxseeds provide healthy fat.
CHILL OUT: After training or racing, I hop into an ice bath for five minutes, hop out for five minutes, then hop back in for five minutes. It helps me recover by shutting down the catabolic state, where muscles are still being damaged and breaking down.
POWER BEATS: At races, I try to focus on something else to calm my nerves. I’m a DJ—I played at the Foam Party at the World Championships in 2013—and I sometimes travel with turntables and scratch records to keep my mind off the race.
GOOD EATS: If you fuel with shit, you feel like shit. I try to buy organic foods whenever possible.
THE RUBDOWN: I get a 90 minute massage each week. It breaks up any little bits of scar tissue and moves out any lactic acid that may be in my legs.
NOT POPPIN': I’m a bit of a chicken when it comes to drugs. I won’t even touch Ibuprofen even if I have an injury. Instead I’ll do a lot of stretching and take an extra day off the bike to recover rather than take something.
BREAK FROM BIKES: My wife isn’t a cyclist and it’s the greatest thing. All cyclists ever talk about is cycling and I love talking about other things—things that are on NPR, electric cars, nerdy stuff. Not how many carbohydrates I ate in the last hour.
CHIN UP: I have little notes hanging around the house with positive things scribbled on them—stuff I’ve accomplished in the past. If I have a bad race, I learn from my mistakes, then forget about it and focus on the bigger picture: I’m alive, and I don’t have a broken collarbone. Time to look forward.