Post-Season Assessment


For most mountain bike racers across the UK, the racing season has finished, barring a few smaller regional races and we are going into a more chilled out period of riding for fun, doing other off-bike things and just not worrying about racing, training or performance.  Typically, after this down time, racers will start training again in late October or November with a new programme and full of motivation for another winter of hard work to prepare for the next season.  Whilst, on the whole I am talking about racers, many recreational riders may be going through a similar process and just thinking about riding further or harder next summer too.

In order to make the most of winter training when it starts, we really need to have an appreciation of how the most recent season went.  Which tracks suited you?  Did you feel strong on sprints?  Did you perform better on long or short courses? Wet or dry races? etc etc.  This is called a post-season assessment, although no doubt other people have different names for it too.

Without carrying out a post-season assessment of your performance and abilities it is hard to properly plan for the next season in order to maximise your training time and to get the best possible results.  The assessment of your previous performance allows you to build on strengths and target weaknesses to help you become an all round faster rider.  Faster riders win more races – simples!

First of all you need to look at the demands of your discipline, whether that is DH, XC, enduro or marathon and think about the qualities that matter.  For instance an XC racer will need to be able to make fast starts, race up long climbs at a relatively high power output and will need good race tactics, which are quite different to the demands placed on a DH racer.  You then need to measure or record how weak or strong you think you are at each factor, based on the last season of racing and training.  You can use a simple scale from 1 to 5, where 1 means you are one of the worst in your category at any particular factor, and 5 is where you are one of the best.

Taking an XC rider as an example, if he immediately overtakes the few riders in front when the race starts he could put down a score of 4 or 5 for ‘Race start.’  The same rider may struggle and lose places on long, climbs and only score a 2 for ‘Long climbs.’

The important thing to do is to use your actual race results and memory to aid you and not just make it up.  You can also use results from in-season testing, like power output, HR data or gym based tests like vertical jump.  When you look over your results, think about the characteristics of that course or race and how you approached it and how you faired.  This will all help you to fill in your post-season assessment.

The assessment does not have to be based purely on hard facts however, and the way you feel and perceive your racing is also important.  For instance the people you ride with may have opinions about the way you ride and race.  Similarly there may be photos and videos that will give you clues about your riding style.  Check out Roots and Rain for race photos and see how your body position and cornering technique measure up to the best riders.  If it is crap, then get some coaching!

Let’s look at an example for an XC racer:

Worst Below Ave Average Above Ave Best
1 2 3 4 5
Start X
Short Climbs X
Long Climbs X
Tech Sections X
Flat Course X
Mud X
Dry/Dusty X
Running with Bike X
Finish Sprints X
Short Races X
Long Races X

From this basic assessment we can see that the rider is probably a heavier, more powerful rider than many, who struggles with longer climbs and courses, but excels at short sprints and powerful moves, and with average bike handling skills.  To become a more rounded rider for the next season we could address a number of things or take a number of approaches based on the assessment results:

As the rider is already strong and powerful, less gym time may be needed to develop those qualities.

The rider may benefit from a reduction of bodyweight (without losing power).

The rider has average bike handling skills, so time should be dedicated to becoming above average for next season.

In the new year, more long duration intervals and hill repeats should be included to develop speed on longer climbs.

None of this is very complicated, and with some careful thought and analysis of your results you should be able to draw some conclusions to make sure you get your winter training right and don’t just go off in the wrong direction and waste your time.  I will be carrying this process out with my riders over the next couple of weeks and it will be instrumental when we are designing the programme for the winter months.

Stay Strong


MTB Strength Factory Athlete on the Podium

Joe Finney UKGE 3rd PlaceI am a little late writing this as things have been super hectic – Sorry!

At the last round of the UKGE at Grizedale in the beautiful Lakes, MTB Strength Factory trained athlete Joe Finney took an overall 3rd in Masters category for the series!  It was a huge achievement for him as Masters is sooooo competitive and quick at that end of the field, with ex World Cup DH legend Andrew Titley taking the overall win.

Joe has shown so much improvement over the season and has worked really hard on his riding and his physicality, growing stronger week in and week out, just using his bodyweight and kettlebells twice per week with me on his decking.  Simple but effective for sure. Next year he will move up a category to either Elite, or Expert if they decide to form it as a new category for 2015.  I am looking forward to training him for the winter now, and you can expect some fast racing from him next year.

This is what Joe had to say about our training:

“I need to say a big thank you to Ben Plenge of MTB Strength Factory for the fitness training over the last few months, the proof it is working can be seen in my results. I never did any structured training prior to meeting Ben and I have to say it has been a revelation! I wish I had put in this effort when I was racing Downhill… If you are looking for a coach in the Bristol area I can highly recommend Ben, and if you just want some guidance or a basic training plan Ben offers a basic strength training programme for just £18, a bargain of you ask me, available online through his website.”

If you are a MTB racer and want some training and programming to prepare you for 2015, then I will be taking on new athletes in mid-October.  Exact prices and packages are TBC, and if all goes to plan I will be operating out of my own gym in Bristol shortly, so watch this space!

Stay Strong