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Preparing for Pro Cyclocross Racing as a Privateer

Supported by Ritchey, Gosse van der Meer is a privateer professional cyclocross racer at the elite level around the world. Here's his story and video about how he's trained for the upcoming season during the pandemic.

Words and video by Gosse van der Meer. Photo by Matty Waudby.

That the world is experiencing something very strange doesn’t need an introduction.

We see that bike racing is slowly starting up again - with the main race of the year, the Tour de France, now being ridden! Something I have never made public is that I would normally also be spending a lot of time in France this year, as I got a spot in a French road team to prepare for the upcoming cyclocross season.

Being a privateer bike racer gives me a lot of freedom, but it also means I must overcome many difficulties. Of course, you can make all your plans, but you have to organize everything yourself - from the logistics to the sponsors and from the race registrations to all of the necessary travel documents.

When you’re the only rider in a "team," you are not permitted to register for big road (stage) races, so I had to come up with a solution for that. Therefore, I signed with a French team to do a few road races around France. We made a program of races, and they organized for me a place to stay during the weeks I was racing in there. Being able to do stage races and get some good hard days on the bike and "in the legs" is really important. Due to all races being cancelled, this plan wasn't going to work out as we had hoped.

Instead of racing in a peloton for almost 200km per day during a stage race, I thought, "Why not ride 200km behind the scooter?" So, I called my dad and my mechanic, Jelle, to see if they wanted to ride on the scooter for me for around five hours each day. Neither of them wanted to do it four days in a row, so they each did two.

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Together with my trainer, I made a plan to try and imitate a stage-race. Countless intervals, sprints and long blocks of full-gas riding were planned, and we had to write out the training schedule each day and tape it on the scooter. We equipped the scooter with an extra bike computer loaded with the day's route, as well as my speed and watts along the way. The entire plan of the ride was being written on the dashboard of the scooter so that my dad or Jelle knew exactly how fast and for how long they had to ride.

We left early in the morning every day to avoid most trafic, and the routes we took were specially made on quite but open roads. The North of the Netherlands is a very open area with a lot of these quiet roads - perfect for such training.

Day one included 125km behind the scooter, a 75km race and a 25km ride home. The second day was 201km, the third was 203 and the fourth was 202km.

My exercises included attacking from behind the scooter for 45 seconds, with the scooter then speeding past me, which I then had to keep behind for another 3:15. These efforts were the most difficult, but I would do them ten times in a row. Also extremely difficult were the 10-20 minute efforts in which the scooter didn’t ride below 55km/h average.

After this hard, long block of training, it was time to switch things up to focus towards more cyclocross-specific training. The season is coming closer and for now I have my first race scheduled on the 13th of September in the EKZ CrossTour in Baden, Switzerland.

The main focus this year will be on the Cyclocross World Cup races. In the weeks before the first World Cup (1st of November), I will try to race as much as possible to get into racing shape. Over the years I have realized that I always need a few races to get my body used to such heavy efforts again.

Being a privateer bike racer comes with a lot more responsibilities and the need to be creative at moments to be able to organize everything you need to perform on the highest level.

Let’s make the best out of this season. Assuming we start racing, I will be ready!

Here's a video of my efforts from the past few weeks.

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