How To Train For XC Mountain Bike Racing : Pro Training Tips

Cross-country mountain biking is a fun sport, but sometimes you want to test your skills in race against others. How should you train for the race?

Like any other sport getting ready for a contest, you’ll want to train for the big race.  But how?

Most races are 1.5 – 2.0 hours long of constant racing.  That doesn’t sound too long, but consider that you’re pushing it the whole time.  Most riders run out of steam while on the race, with more than 50% of riders not even finishing the race.

That’s why building up your endurance and skill are the keys to winning or placing well.

So what are the best ways to build up endurance for the cross country mountain bike race?

Train at the Same Duration as the XC Race

It makes sense to train at a pace and skill-level that is the same as the actual race when possible.

If it’s a 2-hour race, you’ll want to train for 2 hours that day and if possible with the same climbs and terrain as the actual race.  You’re trying to train your body to handle the rigors and energy it takes for the climbs and overcoming the technical terrain.

If the race is short like only an hour, you can likely fit in 2 one-hour training sessions separated by plenty of recovery time.

Mountain biking works quite a few of your muscles and what you are doing is conditioning your muscles to handle work for longer periods of time.

Finish Daily Training Hard

When you finish your training goal, push things even harder.  After your run, don’t just stop and call it a day.  This is the best time to practice some of your trailing-riding skills.  Things like wheelies and bunny hops are necessary skills for any trail and training your skills is an important part of the race.

Train on Back-to-back Days

In training for endurance, it would make sense to have a riding day followed by a non-riding day.  Rest in between right?

As it turns out, training on back-to-back days (either 2 or 3) trains your body not only on endurance for that one hour, but also over the course of multiple days which raises your endurance even more.  Don’t go more than 3 days and give it a good couple of days in between these endurance sessions.

Train Your Skills

If you have three days between sessions, on the middle day take an hour or two and just take trails to practice on your technical skills.  When you’re in a race and get tired, the lack of energy to do a bunny hop correctly can make the difference between you clearing and obstacle and crashing.

The more you practice your skills, the more it becomes muscle memory and you can do them in races without even actively thinking about it.

One good skill to practice for a race is a fast start.  Being able to get going in a hurry is an advantage and a good skill to practice in addition to endurance.

Eat and Drink Right

Your body is a machine and it needs nutrition and hydration to continue at the race pace.

Generally speaking, plan on drinking a bottle of water and having a snack every hour such as an energy bar.  Of course you don’t want to wait an hour for hydration so drink as necessary, at least some water every 15 minutes if not earlier.

Get Good Sleep

Every good workout needs a rest period.  Your body repairs and recovers during sleep.  Be sure to get a good night’s rest every night in order to be ready for the race.

Last Minute Notes For the XC Mountain Bike Race

If you’re new to XC bike races, I would suggest starting with a 1 hour race and work towards the 2 hour races.  Enduro races take a bit to work up to but you can modify this training outline to work towards new and longer goals.

Just remember to check over all your gear before the big race to be sure your bike can mechanically hold up to the rigors of an XC mountain bike race.

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