Race season is upon us! For those of us who like to race, regardless of if we do it for fun or if we do it competitively, one thing we all generally want to do is be a little bit better and get a little bit faster. Mountain bike racing can be a lot of fun so let’s explore a few ways to help you get faster now and in the future.
Ok, so off-season training… This one seems obvious, yet it is amazing how many people choose to ignore it. I know that for many of you, winter means snow-sports, but winter should also mean gym training. Get on a program, lift weights, and generally make your body stronger to deal with next summer’s adventures. Being that we’ve missed the boat on the off-season training, we’ll leave this topic where it is and talk about it in a few months’ time. I’m marking October 1st in my calendar to start my winter training program and you should, too, to remember this key part to being a faster racer next year.
I know what you’re thinking when I say on-the-bike training. You’ll dust off your road bike and start riding hundreds of kilometres, giving up days that you’d prefer to be out mountain biking. But let’s evaluate the type of race you plan on entering. Is it a road race? Then yes, you do need to ride lots on your road bike. Is it a mountain bike race? Since you’re reading this article, I’m assuming it probably is. How would you feel if I said that for the general population (i.e., the weekend warrior) who has to maximize their training efforts, spending hours on a road bike might not be the best of your time!
Sweet! So what should you do instead? Intervals! Yeah, I know, I’ve talked about those before, but seriously, if you are strapped for time, throw in a couple of interval workouts either on a trainer or on your bike outside. Great, right? Now, what else? Look at the distance and elevation profile of your race. Here in the Pacific Northwest, most courses have a fair elevation gain: everything here tends to go straight up, then straight back down. This is why I tend to move away from a lot of road bike training. Switch it out and pedal your mountain bike up some fire roads! Or trails, if you are racing singletrack XC, then go climb singletrack as often as you can.
In a nutshell, train on your bike for the specific sort of racing you plan on doing. If you are doing long distance-low elevation races, then gear your general riding towards that. If you are doing hellish climbs to steep descents, then go out and ride like that!
I was reminded of how important pre-riding a course was this past weekend. Even if you know the trails fairly well (and may have even ridden them recently), nothing is as effective for cutting precious race time as knowing your lines. If you have the ability and the time, then do the pre-ride! There are always a couple of moves that you may have forgotten, or lines that may have changed since you last rode the course. It will also cement the lines in your brain so on race day; you already know where you are going.
A step often forgotten when wanting to get better is taking the time after the race to review how you did. Ask yourself if there was anything you could have done to have a better run. If you really are just out there for fun, you may not feel the need to do this step. But for everyone else, whether racing for yourself or to snatch the top podium spot, run through the race in your head. Think about where you lost time and what you need to do to make it up at the next race. Adjust your plan accordingly.
Your racing performance can be greatly improved by off-season training, on-the-bike training, pre-riding the course, and reviewing your efforts post-race. But don’t forget the most important part of racing: have fun out there and be safe!
Jaclyn Delacroix is a Professional Mountain Bike Coach, Internationally Certified Personal Trainer, and owner of Ozmosis Training where she is passionate about helping other people realise and achieve their goals. Jaclyn is actively involved in promoting women within the mountain biking community. She holds clinics for all level of riders, teaches bike maintenance, and has been energetically involved in trail building and maintenance within the Lower Mainland of British Columbia..