Training priorities for junior mtb athletes?

Newbie here- thanks a lot for a very useful learning portal!
I’m involved in training and planning for junior mtb’ers (16-18 yrs olds) on a national level. Most do cross-country skiing half of the year (and gaining a lot of high intensity work) , and converting to cycling as the spring arrives and further towards the mtb racing season (late april to september).

I have taken great interest in the different pathways at the site, and understand the broad focus towards low intensity volume traning for long term best performance. But, given the fact that building the highest possible vo2max is something that is optimal before the early 20’ies- my question will be how to prioritize the available training time for junior athletes? One possible approach might be to crack on with lots of vo2max work (and appropriate rest) and reduce training volume, OR keep focussing on the low intensity volume work for building this strong fundament. Of course, both is desired, but with a limited time for training (school+++), is there any advice on this from any of you?

I’m training some some junior endurance athletes at that age and even younger and I side with more of the low intensity work at that stage. Yes do specific HIIT at the right time, but developing the aerobic engine at low stress feels more sustainable for most IMO. Foundation and fundamentals first. You can always add HIIT but its harder going the other way.

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@andreas.kruger I couldn’t agree with @PaulLaursen more!

I worked with many mountain bike athletes between the ages of 14 and 23 for around 15 years.

I am sure this might just be different wording, but I would work on;

  • Coordination on and off the bike, treat them like an athlete NOT just a cyclist (cadence work, agility, strength, technique, etc.)
  • Pacing - many of the races are short, yes, but pacing is still crucial when taught correctly; it can be a weapon (I think Paul has used that word before! )
  • When working hard try to use small groups of 2 or 3 similar athletes and think of some fun games … example … small lap, 1 rider leads the other follows the 3rd rests, keep rotating for a period of time to get the desired work to rest ratio you want.

Just a few things but too many people do too much high intensity with young athletes and they barely make it to U23 and many do quit.



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