Coach Al's Tips for Racing in the Heat

Above: Anthony Clark (Squid Bikes) douses himself with water after the race. Photo by Meg McMahon.

The race action was hot and so were temperatures at the UCI cyclocross season opener at Genesee Valley Park in Rochester, New York. As the mercury soared into the triple digits on Saturday, a few pro riders suffered heat stroke and at least one ended up in the hospital. Sunday was a bit cooler. JAM Fund Co-founder and Coach Alec Donahue finished on the podium both days, getting 2nd on Saturday and 3rd on Sunday in the Men's Open Open. How did he do it?

"A rider needs less time warming up in general in the heat," Donahue said. "Still, you need to get in course inspection and have the technical aspects under control."

Donahue says as temperatures rise, you need to cut back on the warmup intensity and duration.

"Since there is no ideal warmup for everyone, I can't make a blanket statement on exactly how much that should change," he said.

During the race, Donahue suggests taking water and possibly tucking ice in the jersey.

"Put a bottle and cage on your bike if there isn't shouldering on that course," he said. "Ice socks are okay, but they move a lot, so you have to be careful and make sure they don't slide down your back. Wear as little clothing as possible. No base layers, no caps. I still hear some people saying that they keep them cooler. There is no way that is possible in a hot cross race. If you have long sleeve heavy skinsuits, ditch that for bibs and a jersey. If you can get away with no gloves that is also helpful. Balance the need for grip on the bars and keeping your mitts in the open air."

Are those freewheels or cicadas we hear? Either way, when the dust blows off the grass, you know it's hot and dry during the elite men's race at Rochester Cyclocross.

The heat hit JAM Fund Grant Recipient Chris Norvold at Silk City Cyclocross on Saturday, and he was not able to finish the race. But the next day Norvold changed his tactics at Quad Cross.

"When you don't drink enough water before a 95-degree cross race, it won't end well," Norvold said. "I learned a lesson and managed 13th in the Cat 3 at Quad."

After Saturday's race, Norvold got a hot tip on how to race in the dust from JAM Fund Devo Rider Chris Niesen, who affectionately goes by the name of a famous export from his home state Wisconsin.

"Cheddar is a genius for using gum in a dusty race," Norvold said.

Hydration is important on those hot race days, but you can't always reach for a bottle. Niesen chews a stick of gum while he's out on the course.

"It keeps my mouth from getting all dried out and gross," Niesen said.

We can expect more heat and dust next week at Cross Vegas, where the average temperature in September is 94 degrees. 


  • pre-ride the course, but shorten your warm up
  • take a water bottle if there are no shouldering sections on the course
  • wear as little clothing as possible
  • use ice socks with caution
  • avoid using gloves if possible