Run-ups, Barriers, Beer and Bacon.
A Look at Cyclocross with Rob Langone
By Joe Pugliese
While most racers were wrapping up a long season of doing battle on the smooth concrete of Southern California road and crit circuits, La Granger Rob Langone was just setting out to attack the loose dirt, deep gravel, wet grass, and wooden barriers that make up a typical lap in the sport of cyclocross. His work has paid off. Langone and fellow La Grange racers Amy Hutner, Wade Hewitt, and Josh Kepler, to name a few, have found their way to a bevy of top ten finishes, podiums and wins. And in what other cycling discipline will you get beer for a win? We caught up with Rob to find out more about the sport, his season so far, and what bacon has to do with racing.
Q. How many seasons have you raced cyclocross?
A. This is my second full season. I did one race three seasons ago and DNF’d after wrapping my rear derailleur in my wheel remounting after a giant puddle.
Q. What made you get into it?
A. After (fellow La Granger) Matt Davis posted some pictures of a race in Palos Verdes, I immediately wanted in. I mainly mountain biked prior to moving to LA seven years ago and since I had gotten into road so heavily I thought this might be a nice mix. The veteran guys like Matt, Matias Mendigochea, and Bruce Weyman had been a huge resource for guys like Wade Hewitt and me when we were getting into it, and even now as we try to improve our skills.
Q. Tell us about your training for cyclocross. How many days a week and what type of rides are you doing? What about running?
A. Running? Ha, yeah that’s funny. I hate running actually. The running aspect of ‘cross is so short the most I do are specific run-ups. My weekly training consists of a Tuesday morning skills ride where we head down to Rustic Canyon park and do a variety of ‘cross specific drills like run-ups, standing starts, barrier work, and hot laps around a mock course. I will do one more day of short intervals and the rest of the days are fairly easy. My training hours have gone way down but my intensity has been very high. I wouldn’t last very long in a road race right now but my short power should be pretty good.
Q. What are the main differences between a typical cyclocross race and a crit?
A. There is a lot less testosterone in a ‘cross race. I find the vibe at races to be mellower, with more camaraderie than your typical crit. There is definitely competition, and the higher cats may have more jostling for position, but for the most part everyone is having fun out there. Also, the speed is a bit slower and since we are mostly on grass or dirt, you can fall or crash many times a race and usually come out unscathed. It’s more interactive for spectators, too. For instance, you will sometimes come across an empty can with a dollar bill sticking out of it for the racers to grab. The last race I did, someone had a piece of bacon hanging from a fishing line. A bacon hand-up! Very creative, I must say.
Q. Are team tactics at play in a cyclocross race? It always seems like a solitary sport, even at the pro level. What gives?
A. Yeah, for the most part team tactics are somewhat rare and you mostly see that at the World Championships where there will be four to six guys per team. If you have a few strong guys you might be able to do something. Ultimately though, the stronger guy usually will win.
Q. How much do your own mountain bike and technical handling skills play a part in your cyclocross success?
A. Personally, I feel it is a strength of mine. You can make up a lot of time in the technical sections if you are smoother. I know it has won me a race because of the eventual second place guy bad skills in the soft dirt turns.
Q. This is the off-season for most of us. Do you take time off after the ‘cross season or will you just go right back into road racing?
A. After ‘cross ends in late January I may decide to carry my fitness into the early crits, or take a short break and then do three to six weeks of base training. It will depend on my motivation. After an intense cross season, I may need a mental break more than anything, although my season has been going better than expected so I may be stoked to just keep things going. At some point I will need to get some endurance back.
Q. What type of riders should give ‘cross a shot?
A. If you like riding a bike, you should try ‘cross. If you mountain bike, want to improve your bike handling skills, or just want to experience something different, you should try it. Most races have demo bikes available or if you have a mountain bike, you can race on that. I found a complete cyclocross bike on Ebay a few years ago for $650, so the investment can be rather light. Anyone who is interested should join our Tuesday ride, which meets at San Vicente and 26th at 6:30AM. It’s a great place to learn the skills and get an idea of what happens in a race.
Q. Are you bummed when you wake up on race day and the sun is shining?
A. Haha. Yes and no. I grew up in the Boston area so I appreciate the nice weather, but it might be nice to get all muddy at least once! Is there a Mud Replacement Program on the La Grange kits?