Cyclo-cross courses vary dramatically but there will always be mud, and sometimes sand, too. You have to see those sections as hills and attack them as hard as possible to carry speed into them. When you actually get into the sand or deep mud, accept that the bike is going to move around underneath you. Go with it, relax and keep on the power. All the time that power is going through the rear wheel, you’re going to have more traction than if you were freewheeling, so keep pedaling and stay relaxed.
Cyclo-cross courses often feature off-camber corners. They’re tricky as there are a number of things that can go wrong but the main thing is, like any corner really, to get all the braking done in the straight, so when you turn across the camber you’re only ever lightly feathering the brakes, rather the fully braking on the camber.
If you’re having to pedal on the camber to get going again, just make sure you’re really smooth on the pedals. If you stamp on the pedals then the back wheel can skip out. Just stay smooth and remember to do all your braking before you turn.
If you need to, you can unclip a foot to help you get round a corner. It transfers a lot of weight to the inside of the bike. If it’s really extreme then you can always get off the bike and run around the corner. You have to make the decision as to what you think is quicker.
One of the main things that you have to learn when you’re new to the sport is when to get off the bike, rather than trying to ride everything and be a hero. Cyclo-cross is all about carrying speed. If you’re riding up a hill and you’re just wheel spinning and not really going anywhere, then you’d have been better off getting off your bike before that.