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  1. #1
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    curious about training mix

    I've never really trained much for XC, mostly have just road raced and jumped in mtb events. Now I'm curious about life after road racing. I have decent trails close by, although not the extended climbing of the west, mostly the twisty rooty kind of stuff. I don't find it's the greatest exercise riding in the woods, seems more endurance pace and skill building.

    So, anyway, seems like most decent XC racers who want to maximize training time just do the same kind of crap on the road bike I have been doing for years, unless I'm missing something?? The energy demands seem similar, except for the ballistic start.

    Is there something off road and structured that people do, or is the trail time pretty much just riding around? Seems like the endurance guys do a lot of long rides, which I tend not to prefer just due to time constraints, my desire is to train for 2 hour events at this point.

    Any tips would be appreciated, thanks. I guess if I had to comer up with a number I'd say I train about 12 hrs a week and will be racing cat 1-2.

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    need a combo of skills and fitness

    Quote Originally Posted by jroden View Post
    I've never really trained much for XC, mostly have just road raced and jumped in mtb events. Now I'm curious about life after road racing. I have decent trails close by, although not the extended climbing of the west, mostly the twisty rooty kind of stuff. I don't find it's the greatest exercise riding in the woods, seems more endurance pace and skill building.

    So, anyway, seems like most decent XC racers who want to maximize training time just do the same kind of crap on the road bike I have been doing for years, unless I'm missing something?? The energy demands seem similar, except for the ballistic start.

    Is there something off road and structured that people do, or is the trail time pretty much just riding around? Seems like the endurance guys do a lot of long rides, which I tend not to prefer just due to time constraints, my desire is to train for 2 hour events at this point.

    Any tips would be appreciated, thanks. I guess if I had to comer up with a number I'd say I train about 12 hrs a week and will be racing cat 1-2.
    I do time trials on trails to try and make myself go fast on technical single track. This is one way to develop the combo of skills and fitness required to race on technical trails. This does not come easy to me. Group rides on trails with fast people will also show what insane pace is possible, has to be seen to be believed. Otherwise, i split my time between trail and road/two track. The road rides are for sub-LT/LT work.that i find difficult to do in a controlled fashion on the trail systems around here.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by jroden View Post
    So, anyway, seems like most decent XC racers who want to maximize training time just do the same kind of crap on the road bike I have been doing for years, unless I'm missing something?? The energy demands seem similar, except for the ballistic start.
    Yep, you're missing something.

    Road racing and MTB are quite different for the duration of the event - Road racing has constant surges - attacking, responding to attacks, sprinting, etc - all interspersed with lulls and easier periods where the bunch eases off. MTB is much more like an ITT for ~2 hours. In that sense, it's not only very different physically, but also mentally (well, once you get to a certain level anyway).

    As far as off-road training goes, I don't know any competitive MTB riders who "just ride around" much. There is just as much specific, targeted stuff you can do off road as you can on the road.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by monolith View Post
    Yep, you're missing something.

    Road racing and MTB are quite different for the duration of the event - Road racing has constant surges - attacking, responding to attacks, sprinting, etc - all interspersed with lulls and easier periods where the bunch eases off. MTB is much more like an ITT for ~2 hours. In that sense, it's not only very different physically, but also mentally (well, once you get to a certain level anyway).

    As far as off-road training goes, I don't know any competitive MTB riders who "just ride around" much. There is just as much specific, targeted stuff you can do off road as you can on the road.
    So what does that off road training look like, i.e. Where does it fit? I used a powermeter in a cross race and it did not apear like an itt at all, 15 secs at 800 w followed by 5 secs at zero, lots of torque hard then coast, which i imagine is the case in a mtb race on trails

  5. #5
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    I dont do much coasting while racing mtb. A cross race is a cross race. Sounds like you need to do a mtb race to find out what its like.

  6. #6
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    go do your intervals in the dirt and then post up. I am curious to see what you notice different. Sounding a bit arrogant poo pooing the dirt training! try it and then run your head.
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    This season I've concentrated more on MTB. Last season I concentrated more on the road to get my Cat 3 upgrade.

    It seems that both trainings are very similar, just by comparing coach delivered plans to myself and other Cat 2 roadies and local pro level mtbers that I'm friends with.

    Work is still concentrated on weaknesses, per specific intervals (AC, threshold, etc.) but some work is done specifically on the dirt, but to a minimal level. Maybe one other day out of the week beside the weekend race. But if weakness is MTB handling skills, then the plan should be modified for more off road time.

    But IMO, the best weekly training for MTB racing is a mid-week MTB race. Wednesday night, 1-hour, balls-to-the-wall, full speed downhilling and uphilling; Very specific, very effective. (you even train your pre-race warmup, race prep, and such). I use it to replace a threshold training session. Other nights I'll do AC intervals, or recovery type stuff (fast spins, 10s sprints) just to get ready for the weekend race.
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    Quote Originally Posted by butryon View Post
    go do your intervals in the dirt and then post up. I am curious to see what you notice different. Sounding a bit arrogant poo pooing the dirt training! try it and then run your head.
    I'll see what I can figure out, i'm not sure if I can get the steady load I need for something like a 5 minute v0 max interval. Last season I used a powerta on my cross bike and was able to find some gradual uphills on the grass that worked out well for these.

    I did some climbing intervals this morning, those make sense. I'll mess around with intervals on the rolling terrain, I need to do it based on heartrate and when the trail goes downhill, i'm not really doing a great deal of conditioning

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by jroden View Post
    I've never really trained much for XC, mostly have just road raced and jumped in mtb events. Now I'm curious about life after road racing. I have decent trails close by, although not the extended climbing of the west, mostly the twisty rooty kind of stuff. I don't find it's the greatest exercise riding in the woods, seems more endurance pace and skill building.

    So, anyway, seems like most decent XC racers who want to maximize training time just do the same kind of crap on the road bike I have been doing for years, unless I'm missing something?? The energy demands seem similar, except for the ballistic start.

    Is there something off road and structured that people do, or is the trail time pretty much just riding around? Seems like the endurance guys do a lot of long rides, which I tend not to prefer just due to time constraints, my desire is to train for 2 hour events at this point.

    Any tips would be appreciated, thanks. I guess if I had to comer up with a number I'd say I train about 12 hrs a week and will be racing cat 1-2.
    I do most of my training on the road to build fitness, and enough time on the trails to keep my handling skills up. Fitness is necessary but not sufficient to doing well in XC races. There's a lot to maintaining speed on MTB courses, and that comes from riding fast on trails.

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    [QUOTE=Poncharelli;8389825

    But IMO, the best weekly training for MTB racing is a mid-week MTB race. Wednesday night, 1-hour, balls-to-the-wall, full speed downhilling and uphilling; Very specific, very effective. (you even train your pre-race warmup, race prep, and such). I use it to replace a threshold training session. Other nights I'll do AC intervals, or recovery type stuff (fast spins, 10s sprints) just to get ready for the weekend race.[/QUOTE]

    Funny you mention this, I was out this morning measuring off some options at our local park for a summer series next year. We have a couple of series but both are an hour or so away, I'd like to promote one next year with races of 60 minutes or less, seems like it would help revitalize XC in this area, plus provide a good training opportunity.

    My main concern is finding a loop where the cyclists won't antagonize other users

  11. #11
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    I pick out my trail rides based on what I want to train:

    * There are a few Super-D style runs in my area with 20-30 minute paved/gravel climbs up with a technical downhill. I'll either ride endurance or threshold pace up to the top, then rail the downhill to work on skills. If I really want to work decending skills I'll ride slower up so I can pin it on the way down.

    * There are a few trails with extended singletrack climbing, literally climb a mountain and descend a mountain. I'll usually ride these at threshold.

    * I have a few local loops with lots of 1-10 minute climbs. I'll hit this up for supra threshold/VO2max/anaerobic training. I also have a local lake loop which is mostly flat with some punchy 30 second+ rollers that I can sprint up.

    Granted, you can't do any of the above workouts if you follow a super OCD TrainingPeaks.com canned program where you have to be a slave to your power meter. I'm not convinced it makes a difference in the end, and the numbers in those plans seem pretty arbitrary to me. Besides, I find I can push myself way harder if I'm grinding up a 20%+ grade or chasing my mtb buddies. I hit my max heartrate way more often on the mtb than I ever do on the road bike.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by jroden View Post
    it would help revitalize XC in this area,
    It definitely has in our town. I think the best thing about it is that it really develops the youth riders. We have about 10 teenagers showing up every week and some of them are riding phenomenal. Two 14 year olds moved up to the A group (frequented by Pros and fast Experts). Man, those kids can climb.
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poncharelli View Post
    It definitely has in our town. I think the best thing about it is that it really develops the youth riders. We have about 10 teenagers showing up every week and some of them are riding phenomenal. Two 14 year olds moved up to the A group (frequented by Pros and fast Experts). Man, those kids can climb.
    I'm promoting a kids series this year, it's been a blast. I'm doing 5 races, all off roads and for kids only. It has been very popular and hopefully as they start to outgrow my 25 minute events there will be more racing opportunities.

    The sport has kind of died over the years in this area, so there are a lot of parts like venues, sanctioning, volunteers, etc. that need to come together just to get enough riders to make it worthwhile for promoters.

    Kids are really fun to work with I'm finding. I have been told "thank you" be more children this summer than all the adults I have encountered in 10 years of promoting races.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by jroden View Post
    Funny you mention this, I was out this morning measuring off some options at our local park for a summer series next year. We have a couple of series but both are an hour or so away, I'd like to promote one next year with races of 60 minutes or less, seems like it would help revitalize XC in this area, plus provide a good training opportunity.

    My main concern is finding a loop where the cyclists won't antagonize other users
    this is what we have in austin, texas in the fall. it's the dirt derby series and is held at a motocross track outside of the city. the course is set up for cross and and mtb, and you can race a, b, or c classes in mtb.

    Dirt Derby - Halloween 2007 - YouTube

    we also have the dirt remedy series in the early summer. it's on a trail, but the organizers do a great job marking the trail, and we typically don't have problems with other riders.

    Dirt Remedy - YouTube

    both are loads of fun.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by TJRosson View Post
    this is what we have in austin, texas in the fall. it's the dirt derby series and is held at a motocross track outside of the city. the course is set up for cross and and mtb, and you can race a, b, or c classes in mtb.

    Dirt Derby - Halloween 2007 - YouTube

    we also have the dirt remedy series in the early summer. it's on a trail, but the organizers do a great job marking the trail, and we typically don't have problems with other riders.

    Dirt Remedy - YouTube

    both are loads of fun.
    That's really cool, I got our county to allow us to use the big lights on the ski hill for cross practice, but it's way smaller than that track. I would love to have something like that around here. A lot of crashing going on, I suspect the lighting makes it tricky

  16. #16
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    This thread makes me laugh. Jroden is a local legend and a freak on the bike. That said...

    I think that how you train for your MTB races depends on where you're racing. At sprague brook, it probably makes sense to ride on the singletrack as much as possible, because it's exactly like the race...

    For WV racing, riding on the rocks and roots is important, as well as being able to climb hard for 10 minutes. One local fast guy told me that if he was only going to do one workout, it would be 10 minute intervals.

    For WNY, I'd probably focus on 10 minute and 1 minute power.

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    Quote Originally Posted by playpunk View Post
    This thread makes me laugh. Jroden is a local legend and a freak on the bike. That said...

    I think that how you train for your MTB races depends on where you're racing. At sprague brook, it probably makes sense to ride on the singletrack as much as possible, because it's exactly like the race...

    For WV racing, riding on the rocks and roots is important, as well as being able to climb hard for 10 minutes. One local fast guy told me that if he was only going to do one workout, it would be 10 minute intervals.

    For WNY, I'd probably focus on 10 minute and 1 minute power.
    well, i'm going to try this then. I did a workout last week to get ready for cross that was alternating 5 and 2 mins intervals with short recovery, I used a long hill (center st) that allowed me to be generally climbing for 40 mins. So, I'll take the same workout and run it on the trails monday and see what mt HR looks like. I sold my powermeter, so it's all just guesswork, but close enough.

    For me, I think the real key is 5 minute power and 60-90 secs. 90 secs is a lot longer than 60, sometimes I do reps up the little ski hill at emery and that's about 90 and it's really nasty. We try to hit wattage numbers equal to a big block v8, last week I felt like a little slant 6. Don't get older if you can avoid it...

    I am excited about focusing more on MTB though.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by jroden View Post
    So what does that off road training look like, i.e. Where does it fit? I used a powermeter in a cross race and it did not apear like an itt at all, 15 secs at 800 w followed by 5 secs at zero, lots of torque hard then coast, which i imagine is the case in a mtb race on trails
    Don't worry about it - sounds like you already have all the answers.

    Good luck with the training.

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    Quote Originally Posted by monolith View Post
    Don't worry about it - sounds like you already have all the answers.

    Good luck with the training.
    My apologies for upsetting the great "monolith" by asking for a clarification of your idiotic assertion that the power profile of an MTB race is like "an ITT for 2 hours".

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by jroden View Post
    My apologies for upsetting the great "monolith" by asking for a clarification of your idiotic assertion that the power profile of an MTB race is like "an ITT for 2 hours".
    jroden - You might have misinterpreted what was said. As evidenced by the smiley, I thought he was paying you a compliment.

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    Quote Originally Posted by monolith View Post
    Yep, you're missing something.

    Road racing and MTB are quite different for the duration of the event - Road racing has constant surges - attacking, responding to attacks, sprinting, etc - all interspersed with lulls and easier periods where the bunch eases off. MTB is much more like an ITT for ~2 hours. In that sense, it's not only very different physically, but also mentally (well, once you get to a certain level anyway).

    As far as off-road training goes, I don't know any competitive MTB riders who "just ride around" much. There is just as much specific, targeted stuff you can do off road as you can on the road.
    perhaps you can elaborate on your statement that mtb is much more like an itt for 2 hours. it is true that after the start of a mtb race, the group often breaks up and you ride by yourself. so there's a mental difference. i see that. but in most mtb races there are plenty of sections that require hard bursts of power and plenty of sections that involve "lulls and easier periods." jason hilimire has posted this power profile several times on this forum.

    Mountain Bike Power | FasCat Coaching :: Cycling Coach for all Cyclists

    in any case, your statement obviously depends on the course itself. but i'd wager that in the majority of mtb races, a mtb power profile would be very different from that of an itt.

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    that's funny, i was just going to post the same article. As others have noted, it's always a surprise how much time is spent coasting even in a really hard road or cross event, I'd have to assume a MTB race is even more pronounced, though I have no means of measuring it.

    A TT by comparison is a pretty blunt force kind of affair, maintaining something at or above FTP for a set period of time with zero coasting.

    You can see it pretty clearly in that article, where the rider is turning the pedals real hard for less than 30 secs alternating with coasting and easier riding.

    Jason Hillimire is a real solid racer with a strong and growing understanding of physiology and power training, I trust his analysis on this one.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lgh View Post
    jroden - You might have misinterpreted what was said. As evidenced by the smiley, I thought he was paying you a compliment.

    Larry
    sorry to be an ass, I assumed I was being mocked

  24. #24
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    CX racing is quite a bit different than MTB from my experience.

    CX has higher wattage short "sprints" with steady power almost all of the rest of the time. the short periods of coasting always have a sprint out with big wattage. if you tried this same power profile in MTB it is likely that you would be traction limited on most courses. of course the duration is shorter for CX and this also tends to make the race harder, it isn't long enough for the melt down that our bodies seem to do after the 1 hr mark as we can no longer sustain the over LT power.

    MTB is different in that the power is usually applied for a predictable duration in the climb, then the descent utilizes a bunch of other muscular skills and energy. "recovery" is possible especially when the descent is more than a couple of minutes. races are usually longer than 1.5hrs which means pacing is more important.

    i think the hilliest CX race I have done had a 15 second descent which is lots shorter than a "flat" MTB race, CX races with some climbing usually have lots of complaints about "MTB bias". it seems to me that CX is closer to crit racing than MTB, but i have never actually done a crit (participated in local practice sessions) so that is mostly just conjecture.

    as for training, i think that if you have a good variety of trails close by you could train 100% off road. for most of us training on the road bike for the majority of the time makes sense as time lost getting to trails is time not training. if you ride your MTB to trails that is cool, but if 1/2 - 1/3 of the ride is pavement then you aren't really training that much time in the dirt AND gear limitations and tire wear start playing a factor. as for MTB specific road training, i think a nice steep hill that you can do stomps - 10 minute intervals on is all that is really needed (we have a 600ft climb that is about 1.6miles long close to us that we use for most of our interval/hill repeat work).

    since getting a CX bike i feel this is probably my best option and am going to sell my Sworks Tarmac. CX bikes offer greater versatility and since dirt roads and trails can be used to connect several of my traditional road training routes it makes for a new/interesting experience.

    racing cat1 i get about 12+ hrs of training per week average (trying to jump that up to 14+, but not sure how sustainable that will be). i certainly would need a fairly large gain in speed to claim a top amateur time as the fastest guys often beat me by 4 or more minutes at the big races. i am stoked if i get two rides on the MTB per week. the CX bike made for an interesting training ride this past weekend though...

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  25. #25
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    Jro, appreciate the kind words and glad that the mtb article is helping fellow racers out and understanding of the demands of the dirt.

    Racing Dirt in WNY > all about Vo2 max, pretty much no climbs over 5 minutes (except maybe Eville's opening climb), but everything else is going to be short burst power, lots of on/off work like you saw in the article. The WNY trails are also fairly technical and tight with lots of corners. Mt. Bike work/training typically can run some slightly unstructured training on the trails: Utilizing the terrain to induce the efforts, break it down a bit into smaller chunks and just run it full gas for 5-10 minutes. Work on those 30-90 second really hard accelerations out of the corners and up the short climbs. Really bursting and accelerating from low cadence up to the high cadence work. You should actually be riding a bit uncomfortably faster than you would in a race (getting used to the speed and riding technique) If broken down into the smaller chunks you'll get the higher power outputs.

    Another great workout for dirt (& especially cx) are Tabata intervals: 3 sets of 7 x 15 sec on 10 sec off Full Gas!! 5 min rest b/w sets: or 3 sets of 5 x 40 sec on 20 sec off Full Gas!! 5 min rest b/w sets. You can mix and match those with different time frames and lengths, but essentially Super Hard, very little recovery (look at your cx power files and I think you'll find where these intervals come from).

    I also really like to do low key zone 2 rides on the mountain bike on the trails. Instead of focusing on effort, put your time into working on flowing through the trails, riding different and new lines and really working on cornering and using your brakes. Re-ride sections again and again and each time experiment with braking at different points and counter-steering to see how speed affects you in the corners.

    PS: Don't forget to work on your race starts I heard through the grape vine that a few euro-crossers were utilizing this to get them ready for the upcoming season...

    Hope this helps.
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