About 50 percent of the athletes I coach at any one time are mountain bike racers. Over the years, rider event goals range from the prestigious Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike race or the Pro XCT series to local cross-country events.
When any mountain bike rider wants to improve performance, there are several key areas I look at when designing a plan. In this column are five of those key considerations.
Training Days are Based on Estimated Race Time
It seems like common sense to design training based on race distance. However, it is all too common for riders to train too long or too short for goal events. Riders aiming for events that take five hours or more need several single-day long rides or a series of moderately long ride days placed back-to-back.
If your race is less than two hours long, your longest ride should be in the two- to three-hour range to build overall race endurance. Shorter rides are where you need to keep intensity levels high. If your legs are always wrecked from big training volume and little recovery, you will never develop the power levels necessary to do well at traditional cross-country type events.
Use the Road Bike to Train Steady Endurance
Riders that do nearly all training on a mountain bike and on technical courses often have limited ability to ride steady at tempo or threshold pace. This is most obvious when mountain bike riders show up to a group road ride (on a road bike) and they have a hard time keeping up with the group.
The difficulty comes from the fact that these riders are accustomed to big effort, recover, big effort, recover, repeat. In many cases these riders stop at the top of each technical section when riding the mountain bike. They may be fantastic technical riders; but if all their rides include putting in big efforts less than two minutes long and recovering after every effort, they will not have strong endurance or the ability to hold high, steady intensity for low, aerobic metabolic cost.
Any mountain bike race demands the ability to hold a steady, relatively high pace for the entire event. Of course that pace is different for each individual and each race distance.