Racing Roundup

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I am back from sunny Scotland (really – it was actually sunny!) and I am glad to say I survived the Enduro World Series, with its long climbs and super-tech stages, it was a real challenge for me.  Below I will talk you through some of my thoughts on how I could better train and prep my body for an event like this.  If you have not read it already, then check out my report from the UKGE race the weekend before where I talk about my preparations for the EWS and how I felt coming into it: http://mtbstrengthfactory.com/racing-riding-racing/

Starting  on the Saturday morning I felt fresh and strong on the bike and I was certainly glad that I took the Friday off as a total recovery day.  The sun was out and the first long transition from Peebles all the way to Innerleithen was actually pretty relaxed, with 90 minutes allocated for the ride out.  I had about 15 minutes to spare to compose myself and sort myself out before the first stage.  I don’t know what was up but I had a shocker on the first stage and really struggled to find any rhythm and flow on the trail, having a couple of crashes and plenty of nearly moments.  Half way through the stage was a sickening 600m fire-road climb that was a total killer, especially in the sun with my full face on, and the best way to attack this was to get the Reverb up and spin up as quick as you could.  Even Jared Graves didn’t just sprint this!  I would have liked to put in a bit more gas into this climb feature, but held back a little partly due to the seriously steep drop in off the road at the end of it and partly because it was stage 1 of a 50km day.

Stage 2 was pretty similar for me with a comfortable transition followed by a really tricky stage where I had a big over the bars into a rock garden which was not cool.  I was just riding like a total loser and getting a bit frustrated to be honest.  Luckily, there was a long ride out to stage 3 and I took a little time to ride on my own and have a chat with myself about how my day was going.  I knew I was a better rider and that if I just chilled out I could get down the hill smoother and of course quicker.  Stage 3 is where things started to look up for me and despite it being the steepest and most tech of the whole event, I stayed on the bike and got a pretty clean and controlled run in that I actually enjoyed.  Knowing that I had that behind me and with only 1 climb to go and the last stage which I loved, I was starting to feel a lot happier and was actually pretty phsyched about hitting the last stage and getting a bit more flow and speed going.

Climbing up to stage 4 I realised that I was actually feeling pretty fresh as I spun up, and certainly felt better then I had at the UKGE event the previous Sunday.  I was well up for the last stage and rode it really well, getting my best result of the weekend of 168th in the male category, including all of the pro’s and 1 min 20 behind Nico Lau which was pretty good in my book!  As I spun back to Peebles and the end of the day I was thinking about how I felt on the bike and realised that the previous week of racing and practice had acted like a sort of training camp and I had gone into day 1 of the EWS feeling fitter and stronger on the bike then I had felt just 1 week before.  If you remember my write up about UKGE at Inners, I decided that more long distance rides were needed in my programme.  Well it seemed like the combination of a whole week of long, hilly Scottish riding and some proper rest and food had really paid off and I was feeling good.

Innerleithen Gravity Enduro

After eating as much as I could on the Sat night, I woke up on Sunday feeling a little stiff, but generally pretty good.  A lot of people were worried about the first transition to the top of Glentress, but me and the lads around me knocked it out without any real dramas and with time to spare, including the legendary ‘Spooky Wood’ climb.  I was surprised how good I felt and knew that the Sunday stages were more flowing and fun and I was really looking forward to the ‘shorter’ 38km day and hoping to get some better times in and stay on my bike.

The Sunday went really well and I rode the stages as fast as I could.  I felt smooth on the bike and strong on the pedals, and did not fall off all day which was a result!  These stages were so much fun and the crowds were amazing, cheering you on, and shouting ‘Get off the brakes!’  I finished the day buzzing, and feeling like I could have pedalled up for another go on stage 8.

I finished in 188th out of 223 in the Men’s 18-39 category, including all of the pro’s and EWS team riders.  In the end I was pretty happy with this result, and looking back critically I have the following thoughts on my training and preparation and what I can do to become a better rider and racer:

1. The bottom line is that I need to be a better rider and bike handler!  It is hard to admit to, but most of the guys around me on the race were just better riders.  I have come back from Scotland a better rider, but there is always room for improvement, so I will be getting some coaching to try and improve myself further.

2. I have grown stronger on the bike over the 9 days in Scotland, however I do need to put in a few more regular over-distance rides so that my all day endurance is better.

3. I need to do some more work on my anaerobic endurance, working on intervals from 2 to 5 minutes to improve my stage fitness and ability to really push myself on the inevitable fire-road climbs that seem to crop up at these events.

4. My upper body, back and posture always felt strong and able to cope with the stages, so I will work on maintaining that.  Interestingly over the course of the 9 days I did lose some muscle mass from my chest, shoulders and arms despite eating loads and all the technical riding.

5. My mental preparation could have been better.  I really think that the first 2 stages on the Saturday could have gone better if I was more relaxed and had gotten myself in a better mental and emotional state to race stages that I knew were super hard and at my technical limits.  Generally this is not much of a problem for me as I am a confident and positive person, but maybe the difficulty and the fact it was a ‘World Series’ event got to me a bit.

6.  I was happy with my nutrition, kit and bike prep and feel that none of these held me back.  As I said before, the Torq products were very good and kept me going all week.

Looking back it has been an amazing experience and I will certainly enter next year if it comes back to the UK.  I have learnt a lot and developed as a rider and head towards the UKGE at Afan in a couple of weeks feeling fit, fast and confident.

Stay Strong

Ben

Big thanks to Doc Ward for the photographs!

Jerome Clementz Interview

Yes, you did read that correctly!  On Friday, before the Enduro World Series racing kicked off at the Tweedlove Bike Festival in Peebles, Scotland, I managed to grab JC for a couple of minutes to ask him a little about his training.  I think it says a lot about Jerome, and our sport in general that I was able to do this and that I just spent the weekend racing with the best riders in the world on some of the gnarliest terrain and tracks going!

Massive thanks to Jerome for his time, although I was a little sad to hear he hates the gym!

Check out the video and then read my thoughts below……

As a mountain biker in Britain we can often bemoan the lack of real mountains and lift accessed alpine tracks that our European cousins enjoy, however what we lose out on in sheer altitude, we gain in all year round ride-ability.  Living in the mountains, JC has to cross train through the long and snowy winter, primarily using cross country skiing for his off season training, with relatively little time on the bike.  Whilst keeping training specific to the sport is very important, especially as you near the race season, using skiing as winter training can actually be very effective for bikers as he has shown himself.

The movement pattern of cross country skiing and ski touring is actually very similar to riding a bike, especially when we look at climbing on the skis.  Both sports rely on a lifting of the bent leg in front of the body, followed by a powerful triple extension of the hip, knee and ankle to propel the athlete forwards.  Regular and steep climbs on the skis can really develop the strength in the legs, especially as you have no gears to help you.  If it gets steep, you just have to work harder, and this is exaggerated further if you are carrying a pack with warm clothes and equipment.  You are also able to conduct very similar training sessions as part of a structured programme, including long, steady flatter efforts, intervals, hill reps, power work and other workouts that a bike programme would cover through the winter months.

Whilst obviously not at the same level as JC, I actually have some fairly similar first hand experience of this from this winter.  I was lucky enough to spend the winter running a ski chalet in the French Pyrenees with Altitude Adventure meaning that I did not ride my bike at all this year until I got back to England at the end of March.  Knowing that I would be racing my bike in April I prepared by doing a lot of snow shoeing with my snowboard on my back to access backcountry and off-piste locations.  This was really demanding, both on the lungs due to the altitude, and also on the legs and back, carrying my kit, the board, and me up some pretty steep, sometimes powdery mountain sides!  On my return I felt pretty well prepared physically, and the bike speed came over a few weeks of steady riding, with some intervals as well.

Whilst I was disappointed to hear that JC gets bored of the gym (come and train with me?!?!), it was good to hear that he uses a trainer and also educates himself in order to best prepare himself physically.  We can all learn from a trainer, a more experienced rider or from reading, and if JC can find time to do it, so can you!  We did not go into much detail as you heard, however he must work hard to keep his core strong, enabling him to put the power down and to move freely on the bike to make it change direction in such crazy ways as only the top riders can do.  Personally, my approach to training this area is to use the big lifts and whole body moves primarily, however if you are not doing that sort of training, then some floor work or work with a swiss ball can certainly be beneficial when performed with intensity and a within a proper programme.

So, that was my short training interview with current Enduro World Series Champion, Jerome Clementz.  I wish him a speedy recover and all the best.

Stay Strong

Ben