Always In Motion

OC Blog | Can Track and Cyclocross Make a Rider Great?

April 3, 2022

by molly hurford

Absolutely: Meet Ruby West

If you’ve long considered yourself a road cyclist, a mountain biker, a cyclocross racer, a track rider, or a BMXer, it might be time to challenge yourself to try a new form of cycling this year. After all, some of the greatest riders in the world regularly switch up disciplines: Look at Britain’s Tom Pidcock, who went from Olympic gold medalist on the mountain bike to World Champion in cyclocross, with some high-level road racing sprinkled in. 

And here in Ontario, most of our young, high-level athletes balance at least two disciplines. Track World Champion Carson Mattern is in Europe right now racing on the road, while Ruby West just came home from a base camp after cyclocross Worlds to hit the track. Here, we’re chatting with Ruby about why two sports (even three!) are way better than one: 

After racing at cyclocross world championships, you just finished a base-building phase in spain. what's coming up for you?

I’m back in Ontario now for track selection for the Milton World Cup. That’s what I’m doing right now; then I’ll have a few weeks of training at home, then another track camp to prep for the World Cup in mid-May. So the next few months are taken up with that, though I’ll also do Paris to Ancaster in April since it’s such a fun race near my house. 

After the track World Cup, I’ll shift to a bit of road over the summer before thinking about cyclocross and track again. This season, I’m planning on doing more crits in addition to Nationals, but I won’t do too much on the road. I’m happy to have a bit of a more flexible summer because it gives me some time to be home and train and do all the fun things.  

Do road and track go well together?

It’s kind of funny because if you’d asked me last year, I would have said there was no chance that I would do either of them, let alone both of them. But it works out surprisingly well! Obviously, there’s a lot of crossover with the energy systems you use. Last year, the training I did for the track was enough to help me do well at road Nationals. That fitness really translates.

It also helps that most of my road riding is solo or with my boyfriend, Derek Gee (who currently rides for UCI Continental team X-Speed United). Riding with him pretty much simulates road racing because it’s basically me motor-pacing for a long time and just suffering. That’s enough to prep me for road racing.  

How do you plan out the seasons when so much overlaps?

It’s definitely not easy, and there are always moving parts! Last year, for instance, I did all this preparation on the track for Worlds but then didn’t go to Worlds, so instead, I jumped right into cyclocross, had that season, got second at Pan-Ams, raced those Worlds, and then headed to Spain to get back to training. It just feels like seasons all blend into each other, where they used to be really separate. But honestly, I don’t mind that at all! It keeps me motivated—I need to make sure I make time for periodization with training and racing.  

it must be a bit stressful, knowing that you can race literally every month of the year-and in big races, not just smaller ones!

Yes, definitely. What drew me to the track when I started was that the track season had shifted. It used to be that track ran the exact same time as cyclocross did through the fall, and then Track Worlds would be at the start of March, a month after the cyclocross season ended. And so obviously, when that was the case, I couldn’t really do both. But then they changed track to be a summer sport—even though it’s a summer sport with three World Cups that are in April, May, June, then nothing all summer—with Worlds in October.

It’s still frustrating and hard to make the choice with which to focus on. Last year, I put all my eggs in the track basket and then didn’t make Worlds. In doing that, I missed the cyclocross World Cups in the States in early fall. It’s never going to work out perfectly. And it’s stressful because no matter when you decide to take an offseason, someone is out there racing, so you feel that FOMO and you worry you’re not racing enough. But if you keep racing, you end up injured.   

It's a delicate balance because racing multiple discipline does have a lot of great crossovers that can prevent injury and burnout, though!

Exactly. For me, the most important is having a coach that’s like, ‘Hey, chill for a bit. Please relax.’ I used to be pushed a little more challenging by previous coaches, and I didn’t really need that because I love to train and race. Now, we’re focusing on making sure that I’m actually rested and ready when I race. There are lots more mini-breaks in there, especially with these continuous seasons: a lot more active recovery and light weeks rather than full months off.  

what's the most fun thing about the track?

and cyclocross is probably fun for the same but opposite reason, right?

I would say the people, for sure. It’s a very professional and well-supported environment, and it really feels like you’re a professional athlete when you’re there. You have all the support and resources you need, and we have a world-class facility here in Milton. It really does feel like you’re the best athlete you can be. Training here feels like you’re on an NBA team or something! 

Exactly. It’s definitely also the people. And it’s definitely the fun that you have at the events. I thought that I would never want to do track because of the person I am and how much track feels like the exact opposite of things that I love about cyclocross, but both are so rewarding. 

About the Writer

Molly Hurford is a journalist in love with all things cycling, running, nutrition and movement-related. When not outside, she’s writing about being outside and healthy habits of athletes and interviewing world-class athletes and scientists for The Consummate Athlete podcast and website, and most recently launched the book ‘Becoming A Consummate Athlete.‘ She’s the author of multiple books including the Shred Girls, a young adult fiction series and online community focused on getting girls excited about bikes.

Molly is a little obsessed with getting people psyched on adventure and being outside, and she regularly hosts talks and runs clinics for cyclists and teaches yoga online and IRL… And in her spare time, the former Ironman triathlete now spends time tackling long runs and rides on trails or can be found out hiking with her mini-dachshund DW and husband, cycling coach and kinesiologist Peter Glassford.