5 Training Secrets for Mountain Bike Racers

Design Training Based on Course Profile

Events held in ski areas or high mountains often have long climbs that take 20 to 60 minutes, or more, to complete. These events require strong muscular endurance or time-trial-type efforts. If you plan to race an event that has this kind of profile, but your local mountain biking venue lacks long climbs, you need to do muscular endurance training on the road bike.

If your goal race has short, steep climbs followed by technical downhill sections, doing well at this type of event typically requires the ability to put out a strong, effort that is above lactate threshold. That high effort is followed by the ability to descend while keeping intensity levels high. In other words, the downhill sections are not used for recovery.

These strong efforts that range from one to three minutes long can be trained on the road or on the mountain bike—at least initially. As race day gets closer, this kind of training needs to be done on a mountain bike and should include clearing obstacles that are similar to the race course technical sections if possible.

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Evaluate Obstacle Cost Versus Return or Potential Return

If your goal is to reach the finish line in the least amount of time, you need to evaluate obstacles based on cost. What that means is you may be a fantastic technical rider; but if you expend large amounts of energy riding every technical section in a race that takes over six hours to complete, you might be better off walking a few of those sections. A short hike up an extremely gnarly section can save your legs for a strong race finish.

Some people live for the technical sections on a descent. It is impressive to see these riders dance through a section of rocks, roots and drops and make it look easy. Those people still risk a potential end-o, but due to skills the risk rate may be very low. Other riders that are not as skilled are better off walking these sections, saving equipment and body from a high risk of potential damage. It takes much more time to recover and begin rolling again after a crash than it does to hike-a-bike and keep rolling.

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Train to Go All-Out

Riders that have a mass start in an open area that narrows to single track need the ability to ride all-out for 30 to 90 seconds. If your race has this kind of World Cup start, you must include these efforts in training.

As you head into the race season, make sure your training is designed to meet the demands of your key races. Be aware of areas where your current skills or preferences limit your race day performance and intentionally put workouts into your training that address these issues. When possible, pre-ride the course several weeks in advance of the race so you can address any training issues in the weeks between pre-ride and race day.

With thoughtful planning and training, you can have a new level of self-confidence on race day that translates into results.

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