Friday, September 5, 2014

Triathlon Vs Cyclocross

I'm going to attempt to do what very few, if any, have ever attempted.

Now I know what you're thinking. Sorry to disappoint, but it's not going to be attempting to perform a 3 1/2 back flip into an ordinary eight ounce glass of water. That's too easy.

What I'm about to do to your bewilderment is to compare triathlons to cyclocross. Be forewarned, your smart phone/PC monitor could blow up in your face at any moment.

There are so many differences between these two sports, where do I begin? The only commonality between them is that a bicycle is involved in most of both races. Aside from that, there is nothing. The two sports couldn't be any more different.

That said, we'll stick with the bicycle comparison.

In triathlons, one gets on the bike after nearly drowning for 20+ minutes beforehand. It's a horrible way to start a bike ride. Sometimes I wonder if this is what the onslaught of death feels like. I'm not kidding. Especially those first few steps out of the water. Oyi.  Anyway, once you're on your bike, it usually takes a few minutes of ramping up to your functional threshold power (FTP) before your body has adapted to the demands of cycling. For those who don't have a power meter, FTP is the point at which your quadriceps begin to burn, and you have shortness of breath. Since everybody who's ever ridden a bicycle knows what that burning sensation and shortness of breath feels like, we have established a common reference point. Good. Now imagine that while pushing the crank for the next 5,400 revolutions. And as a bonus, run a 10K after that. Meanwhile, the course is so flat and straight, it's as if the scenery never changes. What that means is that it's boring. Really boring. Therefore, you must distract your mind with things like bunnies, or bow hunting carp, or my recent favorite -- pinkzilla cyclocross bikes --  to keep the agony from shutting you down. In conclusion, the overall feeling of triathlon goes like this: nearly drown, then suffer while cycling and running for the next 90+ minutes.

In cyclocross, there is zero ramp-up time on the bike. It's simply mad-as-hell, full-throttle burn right from the whistle to the first turn. Congratulations, if you're smart and disciplined, you've managed to prevent burning your entire book of matches on that first 200m sprint. That's important, because you still have about an hour to go, and you need as many matches as you can get your grubby mitts on for turns, barriers, fly-overs with stairs, hills, gravel, mud, heavy mulch, sand and snow. And whereas triathlon's cycling time trials require distracting one's mind from pain and boredom, cyclocross involves mentally picturing the challenging sections ahead. Now, you still suffer in cyclocross. But because the mind is engaged so much, there isn't enough brain power to account for misery. In conclusion, you just keep burning your matches until there's none left. It's at that point when your body says no more. If you've timed it right, the finish line is around the next corner. Otherwise, head for the beer and dollar hand-ups. Either way, you're good.

Both racing requires thinking and strategy. But while triathlons are more steady-state and proper, cyclocross is more beastly and chaotic.

After a summer of being conventional, I'm ready for some chaos.

Somebody ring a cowbell already.

Thanks for reading. Happy Friday


  1. My screen literally* exploded when it saw somebody trying to compare (not contrast) triathlon and cross. I mean in triathlon, I hear it's a 2 minute penalty if you leave a shower cap on the ground. In cross, you're routinely tossing spent beer cans anywhere you see fit.

  2. you forgot biggest difference CX requires turning

  3. also I never seen cx dude going for it for KOM on keystone ... just saying