8 Weeks Out: How to Prepare Before Your Big MTB Race

by | May 8, 2024 | Training

The last 8 weeks or two months before a big mountain bike race are when you can take your base fitness and make it more specific to the demands of your race. You start to make the training look more like the race!

Hard efforts in the Final Preparation for a Mountain Bike Race

For Mountain Bikers the last 8 weeks before your  big race should have lots of mountain biking and lots of fast efforts that mimic the ‘critical moments’ of the race. This means doing things like offroad hill sprints, offroad time-trials and hill repetitions.

3 of our favorite workouts are:

  1. 5 x 3 min fast efforts on an offroad climb that lets you work hard but also pushes your technical ability. Aim to get up the same hill faster after 3-4 weeks of doing the interval set. These are made even better if your recoveries include a technical descent for some of the 2-4 minutes you will recover.
  2. 4 x 8-12 min offroad time trials – make a safe route that makes you work hard but also challenges you to stay smooth technically. It should include some descending and lots of climbing and hard pedaling. Recovery can be 2-5+ minutes depending on your goals with these and we like to do them from a standing race start each time to work on the first lap power and mindset. A shorter loop can help make for harder efforts and make for safer sightlines (e.g. do 2 laps of a 4min course for each of the 8 minute intervals)
  3. Technical Endurance Ride – For many of the racers we work with we include a longer mtb ride on the weekend that is steady, sometimes finishing moderate or climbing moderate during the workout but mostly focused on accumulating a TON of repetitions and variations on technical terrain.

Remember the ‘Basics’

While the intensity is sexy, fun and will help make race day go really well it is important to remember the importance of low-intensity training and maintaining your strength or off-bike movement during the specific training phases. You should still get about 80% of your training done at low intensity with your road bike or gravel bike, focused on pedaling steady and minimizing surges or coasting.

Core, strength, plyometrics and yoga are all great options to maintain during this period but generally you would not add these things as new interventions during your final build weeks unless you are very familiar with the movements and there is a reason for their inclusion.

Bike Skills should be practiced in both focused ‘skills sessions’ and also by embedding skills into your intervals and rides (technical trails, technical recoveries, group rides etc).

Need a Training Plan to Lay it all out?

We have a popular plan in the Training Peaks Store that has prepared many athletes, just like you, for the demands of Cross-Country Mountain Bike Racing. Here are some details about this training plan (available here) 

  • WHO: Any athlete can use this plan to focus specifically better mountain biking for a race, big ride or to better perform in group rides.
  • Length: 8 Weeks – This plan is best applied 6-8 weeks out from your competition season
  • Strength/Off-bike Movement: Core is included as a 10 min routine with a lot of flexibility based on what you need (examples/downloads included)
  • Structured Workout Downloads: are included for some workouts but many are very flexible workouts that encourage you to focus on race like scenarios on your mountain bike. (e.g. indoor workouts are not ideal)
  • Devices & Tech: You can use this plan by HR, Power or RPE (no device)
  • Weekly Hours: The plan is 8-12 hours a week with options noted to extend or reduce as your schedule dictates

Get the 8 week MTB Build Training Plan Plan


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