Sunday, July 27, 2008


One of the few universal truths among cyclists is the importance of hydration before, during, and after rides and races. Although we may disagree on the best type of frame material, training methods, or the on the definition of a "sandbagger" in races, most everyone agrees (expert and non-expert alike) that your ability to ride well is directly related to your hydration level. In fact, one of the best ways to let someone else know that you are superior to them in cycling knowledge and training is to tell them, while on a ride, to remember to drink before they get thirsty. That usually does the trick.

All of this knowledge about hydration, however, is completely thrown out of the window when cyclocross season rolls around. For some reason, racers miraculously do not need water for the 60+ minutes of all out riding we do in cyclocross races, despite the fact that we usually finish the race in a pile of sweat, regardless of the weather conditions (with some exceptions).

To place a water bottle cage on a cyclocross bike is akin to wearing a pocket protector to a high school dance. Not cool. Most cyclocross racers say that bottle cages interfere with their ability to shoulder the bike when running up hills. That makes perfect sense...compromise your hydration and performance for the entire race over a few seconds to be gained when running up the hill that half of the races around here do not even have.

Others keep a bottle in their back jersey pocket. This is a fine idea in theory, but even a smaller sized water bottle in your back jersey pocket feels annoying in a race. Plus, it is rather inconvenient to access the bottle from the jersey pocket, at least compared to grabbing a bottle from the way uncool traditional bottle cage.

Actually, it seems as if the only acceptable way of keeping hydrated at a cyclocross race is to rope your family member/spouse/significant other/friend into giving you a bottle handoff about halfway through the race. By giving them a job to do (that is relatively stressful for someone not familiar with racing), you will ensure that they will mysteriously always have some other "plans" on the dates and times of all future cyclocross races.

As for me, I've found my solution. I am a simple man with a giant cheapbone, so simple things for free cause me great excitement. At the Danville road race this weekend, racers were treated to free miniature water bottles:


These are the smallest bottles I've ever seen. As soon as I laid eyes on them, I thought, "The perfect cyclocross bottle!!" So I took three. Small enough to fit in the jersey pocket without being terribly annoying, but large enough to carry enough liquid for a 60 minute race in the fall. Nice.

Hopefully this season's cross results fare a bit better than the results of Saturday's road race.


Greg said...

That indeed does look like the perfect 'cross bottle. But the reality is UCI races do not allow the ingestion of liquids of any kind for the duration of the race. There have been exceptions mind you...early season when the heat is out of hand, but the rules forbid this. I've never had a cramping episode but mainly due to my pre-cross hydration routine: one to two bottles on the way to the race (if you have a drive mind you, else do this when you wake up if you have an early race), then a bottle sports drink while warming up. You want to have a clear pee about 15 minutes before the race if you can time that. Then you are set. Any more than the above mentioned., and you run the risk of depleting your body of the materials it needs...e.g. 'over' hydration. An hour's effort truly does not need the hydration a longer endurance ride needs (again, factoring in temperatures that are not boiling). Further, 'real' racers (e.g. non pro/A cats) should dial in their plan with a wife/significant other/team mate for bottle hand ups which ALL races here in the states allow for. It shoudl be part of your race routine to plan for this as well and attempt to NEVER have to carry that bottle with you.

'Cross on.

ds said...


I'm confused, largely because the races around here in Cleveland are not UCI races. Do the UCI races in the U.S. allow "ingestion of liquids" or not?

What is the purpose of that rule, anyway?


thump said...

I hydrate with beer before, during, and after cross races. Unless, of course, it's cold out. Then I put a little Booker's in my coffee to fend off the cold.

ds said...

Ok, check out these photos:

They are from the Arnold Cycling Challenge held in Columbus, OH on 3-2-08. Most of the photos are from the pro 1/2/3 race. I was at this race, and it was cold. In the 30's actually, yet every single rider that I see in these photos had a water bottle for a 60 minute crit.

I'm sorry, but I still think that the UCI rule to which Greg refers, and the rules of cx fashion to which I referred, are both dumb and silly.

But, as Greg stated, in the end, just remember to 'cross on.