Train for an MTB Cross Country (XCO) race

There are a lot of discussions about how to train for a long-distance race, and very little about MTB XCO racing. Is it possible to have an episode based on this topic to answer some of these questions? What are the best periodization models for this type of training? What type of strength or metabolic training is needed to generate power surges that are needed to go over obstacles and short steep climbs without getting burned out in the first lap? How to do lower zone rides only on the mountain bike and in areas where flat roads are not available? And about all other great points you guys are always come up with. Thanks

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Hey @nbcald !

I’m glad you asked this question and I think it would make for a great episode (or series!)
We do have less content on Mountain Bike specifically and it can be a challenge to apply some of the information to the mountain bike / terrain directly.

Here are some specific pieces of content that address some of that to get you started.
The "Mountain Bike Episode of Fast Talk with Payson, Kabush, etc.
“How to do base rides on a mountain bike” Video with Ryan and Trevor
“5 x 5 minute mountain bike intervals” video with me (Rob Pickels)

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A specific epdiode on this discipline would be cool for sure. I am lucky enough to work with several distance MTB athletes whose main events are 50+ miles events even 12-24hrs. If you look at the main demnads of ultra distance MTB it is the same as with road ultra in the fact that you need a HUGE aerobic engine and then fine tune some race specific demands. For MTB that is short anerobic efforts over those rock gardens, tree roots and punch switch backs. I focus on sustained power right below threshold and even threshold work to build that big aerobic engine, this is waht helps you jut get to the finish line. Outside of pure anaerobic power in the 20sec-1M range I love using under over intervals where you spend time at about 88-94% FTP then go into 110% of FTP and toggle back and forth with a given duration. These intervals can be 9-25 min in length. Play around with the intensities, do under portion at 85% FTP then the over at 105%, you can alos reverse the toggle and go hard over and then under like doing 30sec at 120% FTP, then 2M at 85-90% FTP and back and forth. The most important thing I think to your post is how to do an easy MTB ride, and because of the nature of being “off road” and on the trails there is no such thing and I have found athletes do themselves better if they use an extra rest day off the bike vs trying to execute a “recovery” ride on the trails, espcially if no flat routes are available. Strength training is a must for all cyclists but escpially for MTB as it not only builds fatigue resistance which is yoru ability to ride hard for longer durations but it helps be a more durabable athletes as MTB can physically beat you up so much and the more stability you have on the bike the more durable you are and reduce chance of injury. Hope this helps or sheds some light for you.