The XC MTB specific training thread

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by campbellrae

devinci wrote:Very good idea

friday I did something cool. A few anaerobic efforts with long recovery. Efforts were 1min long, on the last 2 efforts, I was heading to a technical section right after finishing my 1min interval. VERY good simulation for bike handling under massive fatigue!

Sounds like a really good idea! How many intervals did you do and were they flat out for that minute or more at VO2 max level?


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Something I like to do around this time are race simulations for xcm off the start line, I usually start with a standard 30-40min warm up on the road, then stop and do some stretching, have a gel & drink and cool down slightly for 5-10mins.

I set off at a fairly fast pace for about 5 mins, marathon events usually have a neutral start on the road for a few miles behind a lead vehicle but can sometimes be fairly fast paced.

Then I hammer it for a few mins to really spike my HR above threshold, I try to plan a route so this is on a shallow climb either on the road or xc on a fire road.

Then it's 15-20mins xc at around 93-100% of my LTHR after which I drop it slightly for 10-15mins and settle into my own race pace depending on the length of the race which could be anywhere from 5-9hrs.

You could argue that this isn't necessary for marathon races and it's more prevalent to xco where you go hard straight from the go and due to the neutral start which people tend to use as a built in warm up anyway. However every marathon type race I've been in has started like this and it has been important for me at least to be able to go hard at the beginning to ensure a good spot close to the front especially if the route turns to single track and passing is limited or narrows on a climb (most routes tend to start with a climb of some sort with the idea that it will thin out the field quickly), at least I know then that the only riders in front are faster than me and deserve to be there or they have gone off way too fast and I'll catch them later :wink:
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by Weenie

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by devinci

campbellrae wrote:
devinci wrote:Very good idea

friday I did something cool. A few anaerobic efforts with long recovery. Efforts were 1min long, on the last 2 efforts, I was heading to a technical section right after finishing my 1min interval. VERY good simulation for bike handling under massive fatigue!

Sounds like a really good idea! How many intervals did you do and were they flat out for that minute or more at VO2 max level?


I did not have a PM but im pretty sure I was over 125% of FTP. Major burning sensation, arms were fatigued, etc. It was super hard.

Did another workout last week. A simple 2 x 20min with 10sec anaerobic efforts every 2min, pretty hard too.

FWIW, today I went for a long ride with mixed terrain. Too bad we dont have big climbs so I can log some decent accumulated ascention, climbs are either power climbs in the range of 10-30sec or "longer" climbs from 2min to 5min.

I went off with the idea of doing 5 hours and doing the climbs at a good pace. Did 1 hour at the local ski station, climbing it 3 times (4-5min) and descending in the DH trails some DH biker have made, pretty cool.

Then went to a local park wich is a small mountain, did 1h30 of single track, power climbing and technical descents.

Finished my ride on dirt roads with major winds and a bit of climbing. Overall, 5h, 80km, 1700m of climbing (1500m corrected by the garmin website). Very good workout!

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by devinci

For those of you guys who use testing protocols to determine your form, what test are you using? I am using the 20min test to estimate FTP but I am quite pissed of them, they are hard psychologically and I am thinking about a MAP test on the trainer instead.

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by devinci

wanted to add another workout, a very hard one.

Did 3 x 3min hill repeats, pretty hard pace, actually, very hard pace. Once on top, I was heading straight into a DH track, handling the bike under fatigue, very good XCO racing simulation.

I was marking my laps every time I was going uphill and downhill.

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by Sandal

1-For the MTB racers among us: what % of training time do you spend on the road bike and MTB?

95% on MTB. 5% on the road - which is on the trainer or when the riding buddies are on road bikes. :) I definitly prefer MTB bike position, much stronger breaks + sleek tyres even when i'm on the asphalt.

2-Do you guys do intervals on the MTB on technical terrain to remains as specific as possible?
i prefer training on the road, so that your training is only stipulated by the training plans, and not by the terrain, etc. because it's really hard to find long steady incline smooth surface off the road, unlike the pavement.

3-I dont have any power meter on my MTB, but I feel I go quite often over 120% FTP. I fear it could bring accumulated fatigue or have other consequences.
ha-ha, the worst consequence of 125% FTP is that it will inevitably make you stronger. 8) Just listen to your body (and the coach) how much training over the limits you are capable to take. MTB (esp. XC rather than marathons) is all about over FTP efforts.

4-Your perception of road racing vs XC MTB racing.
in road races you rather defend, in XC you rather attack ;) In MTB you need to work all out entire race, unlike the road race, and also you'll need lots of racing experience before you learn to pace yourself just right for an MTB event with its numerous "matches"

5-any racing tips would be great too.

(a) improve your technical skills! IMO, up to certain limit it's easier and more fun than improving your power, and once you get technical skills, it's almost impossible to lose those (unlike the power),
(b) work on AWC, it's no less improtant than FTP,
(c) race XC events as the means of preparations to other important XC events. You can't get it from the solo trainings to an extent like in the event when you're in competition. There you'll also learn from the other racers the tricks and best practices of overcomming the technical sections.
(d) build an 8kg HT bike! :wink: :mrgreen: :thumbup:
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by KWalker

I do a 20min. test once a month and its not that draining. If you rest and program correctly it should be a hard effort, but not gut busting. All that matters is that its relatively the same protocol. If its within the margin of a few watts, chalk it up to conditions and move on with life. So many people I know fixate on power tests like they're an A race, but depending on the time of year all they are are a periodic check in to make sure that you're either de-training, or raising that given energy system.

I do a 5m test every 2-3 months. Anaerobic fatigue profile roughly 2-3x/year. MAP test, for me, was too hard to correlate to the road and given that I have a very strong aerobic system, was too hard to derive what percentage of MAP my FTP was.
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by xcforme

Just found this study that clearly shows a tight correlation between anaerobic capacity and xco racing performance.
Not that it's surprising news, but other studies have found that aerobic capacity (VO2max) can only explain 40% of the variance in performance of elite athletes.

Together, this is evidence that anaerobic capacity is a very important parameter = if you want to race faster, you need to train at intensities above VO2max!

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by devinci

yeah repeating high intensity efforts is clearly and important part of XCO racing (did my first few races lately).

Though having a high FTP will determine if you go anaerobic or not and will allow you to go anaerobic at a high wattage.

I really think FTP training AND vo2max and above training is required to do well in XCO races

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by Ypsylon

KWalker wrote:I'm a great example of this case. Early in the season I tested with a 320 FTP, a 406 5 min, and a 430 2m. My fatigue profile tested 'average' and 'below average' for values from 5s out to 2min.

3 months later after loads of FTP work, my FTP moved up to 360. After 2 blocks of vo2 max my 5 min max increased to 420 and my 2m to 445. If you take that by percentages, my percent of FTP for 5m and 2m actually went down despite my FTP going up significantly. Performance wise I could drop many people on longer training rides or steady state climbs, but I wasn't finishing any better in races. Even with specific training, I still lacked the ability to recover from surges until I specifically trained my AWC and did stochastic vo2 max work. My 5s-1min. values stayed almost static. After 3 full blocks of AWC work, my repeatable 2min. bumped up to close to 500w and my 5min. up to 432.

I'm sorry, but I don't really get what percentages went down, and I'd really like to understand.

How do we know you could have achieved the same AWC bump without bumping your FTP from 320 to 360 before? And btw, more than 10% gains in 3 months, how'd you do that?
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Here's my current training regime for XCM (60-100mile), since Sep 2011 I have been lucky to be able to train 15hrs a week through till May this year, I under took a fairly standard linear training program that I have been using for the past few years although I had a longer base this year and focused mainly on tempo, SST & a few 4-6hr LSD rides before a 10 week build with a planned peak period for the month of May.

However circumstances have changed and I now have around 6-9hrs a week to train, limited to weekday evenings (turbo)and early morning during the weekends with maybe 1 long ride a week. I have tried training before work for a week but it meant getting up very early 0430 and limited me to sessions on the turbo of an hour max, by the end of the week I was dead on my feet, also due to upcoming earlier starts I would have to get up even earlier so I have gone back to evening sessions. As I have no more races planned yet for this year I am a bit unsure how to approach my training, I would like to race in Sep (100mile/13000ft of climbing XC) but as yet am not 100% sure this will be possible so I intend to train for a short planned peak in Sep untill I can confirm it.

I would like to try a new approach and have started following a simple non-linear program through till Sep which I hope will enable me to make the most use of my time, it goes like this with LTHR testing every 4 weeks:

Tue:Turbo, 90mins with 2x20min @ 93-100% LTHR
Wed:Rest or easy spin (stretching & core work AM)
Thur:Turbo, 90min with 3x12min under & over intervals (2mins just below LTHR, 2mins over, repeat for 12 mins) 8min recovery
or (alternate weekly)
Thur:Turbo, 90min with 4x2min(1min rest) @ 100-105% LTHR, 10min recovery then 3x4min(3min rest) under & over intervals
Fri:Rest (stretching & core work AM)
Sat/Sun:2hrs with 3x20min SST
Sat/Sun:4-6hrs either road(on the mtb)with some steady tempo efforts or 4-6hrs XC depending on trail conditions & weather

It's pretty flat going around here, mainly lots of short(but steep)climbs, during a typical 70-80mile xc ride I usually can get in about 4000ft of climbing.

I have a good understanding of sports nutrition and eat healthy and to support my current training load, during planned diet periods ready for a peak I usually drop my weight to about 148lbs/7-9% body fat. Any ideas comments welcome :D

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by kingshorthair

If it makes u feel any better I've been reverted to 430 am workouts as well, but on the road bike (>100 degrees during the day & busy schedule). I'm lucky I've got a good lighted bike path & a few short, steep hills to throwdown some watts so I'm actually outside.

I've been doing 95% road riding this year, doing my 2nd mtb race tomorrow, so I think the technical stuff is going to be a challenge for me. I think I'll be moving towards a more even split of mtb and road for the rest of the summer.

Good ideas about ending intervals into technical sections!

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by Snabb

Ok I have a couple of workouts to share that has been really good for me in preparation for xc and marathon races.

I have 2 local xc courses that I made myself. The terrain is a little bit different, one is in a deep pine and spruce forest with many roots and rocks and the other one is more of a sand and gravel forest with leaf trees and pinetrees. I have made so I have like 3-4 climbs per lap that is 45sec-1 min and a couple of technical upphills and really technical decents. One course is 2,6 km and the other one is 3 km. Laptimes are between 8 and 10 minutes depending on weather and time of year.

On of my key workouts is to do one lap at a time at racepace or above...
I do the lap and really try to attack everywhere, uphill, all corners, downhill. This is a good and alternative way to train vo2 max/AWC. I do this sometimes instead of an ordinary Vo2max session like 4x4, 5x5 etc. Because I know the course really well I learn and dare to really push myself on all aspects of xc racing. I usually do like 5 laps maybe and then complete with 3x30 seconds upphill bursts or just wind down and go home. This is to train at speed that are higher than you normally compete at and really boosts your top speed in racing.

Sometimes before the season I also try to replica a xc race with a couple of training buddies. But thats hard psycologically and not recommended to do that often.

once a couple of times before my first race in the spring I go really hard for 60-90 seconds and then go straight on to the course and do a lap in racepace.

I mix this up with ordinary vo2max workouts on the mtb with intervals between 3-5 min uphill on a skistation nearby. Steadystate Ftp intervals on the roadbike like 2-3x 20 min at 95% ftp. 45-90 min SST included on long roadrides. Once in a while I`ll change my sweetspot training on the road and do some mtb marathon speficity training. Often like a 3 hour ride which goes through some terrain with some trails, singletrack and a couple of gravelroads sections. I do this without any breaks and really hammer it on the trails and singletracks and then just ride tempo on the gravel sections. Eat and drink what I would eat on raceday. An alternative to this is just to race more but that`s not possible in my part of the world anyway. So Ftp and vo2 is really important in mtbing but I think that you also need to learn to go really hard in technical terrain while youre fatigued. This is what I have found works for me as in keeping my technical abilities sharp and also training intensity and having fun at the same time.
Ride lots!

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by qwop

Strava is helpful for MTB efforts. The added incentive of getting a 'KOM' on a climb or descent makes it more race-like. The ability to see improvements on segments is also a great gauge of skill progression and pushing yourself.

by Weenie

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by devinci


I really like your idea. Its kind of unstructured cause you get some coasting time/descending but you get lots of quality and specific work. That kind of workout is super XCO specific and you get lots of L5-L6 work in.

I tried it last week, only did 1 x 30min at race pace, but it was super hard and a good practice since the course included technical sections, fast descents, tech climbs, etc.

keep the ideas coming.

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