Coaching with MTB Strength Factory for 2017

MTB Strength Factory trained racer, Charlie Hatton on the top spot of the podium.

MTB Strength Factory trained racer, Charlie Hatton on the top spot of the podium.

It is fair to say that 2016 was a breakthrough year for MTB Strength Factory and my riders with podiums and victories at home and across the world.  Working with and getting to know such talented riders has been amazing. It gives me a massive buzz to see them grow stronger in the gym and on their bikes, and when they turn the hard work into podiums and medals it makes it all worth while.

Here are just a few highlights from 2016: (If I listed all the good results we would be here all day!)

Charlie Hatton, Junior DH, Wideopenmag:  6th at World Champs, 1st overall in BDS, 6th in Vallnord World Cup.

Chris Hutchens, Elite Enduro, Wideopenmag: 1st overall Scottish Enduro Series, 3rd overall British Enduro Series, 37th at Irish EWS.

Veronique Sandler, Elite DH, Loose Riders: Leogang DH World Cup 16th and 2 other top 20 WC.

Joe Finney, Elite Enduro, NS Bikes: 14th overall British Enduro Series.

Oliver Parton, Youth Enduro, Pedalabikeaway: 1st overall British Enduro Series.

Duncan Ferris, Elite 4X, DMR Bikes: 1st overall British 4X series.

Kev Baines, Grand Vets Enduro, Hope Factory Racing: 2nd overall British Enduro Series.

Monet Adams, Elite Enduro, Wideopenmag: 17th Ireland EWS, Crankworx Les Gets DH 10th, 4X Pro Tour Fort William 2nd.

Maddy Brown, Women Enduro/DH, Pedalabikeaway: 3rd DH National Champs, 1st Eastridge BES.

I also coached riders who completed the Trans Provence, Trans Savoie, Ard Rock Enduro, MTB Marathons, and many more!

Now is the time to start getting your winter training going to prepare yourself for the 2017 race season and I am currently looking for riders and teams to work with.  I have already signed up a number of well known riders and a new team for this winter and all will be announced soon, so I only have limited spaces available for coaching, but if you want to work with MTB Strength Factory, then get in touch.  For an outline of what I offer, please check out my Coaching Page which explains what is available.  Other options are also available, including consulting services for teams and clubs as well as one off coaching days to suit your needs.  If you are serious about your racing or just love riding, and are willing to put in the work then drop me a line…. ben@mtbstrengthfactory.com.  I would love to hear from you.

Stay Strong

Ben

Enduro Training Camp – French Pyrenees

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The first ever Enduro Training Camp run jointly by MTB Strength Factory and Altitude Adventure took place over the course of a warm and sunny week in April in the French Pyrenees.  Whilst we called it a training camp, it was not about early morning suffer-fests, interval training and early nights, and instead it was more of a riding holiday with an enduro training twist…..

Altitude Adventure, run by Ian and Ange Pendry, is a well established company providing fully guided riding holidays and trips throughout the summer and snow sports holidays in the winter.  The sheer size and quality of their trail network is amazing, with rocky wild mountainside single track, forest paths, and switchbacks galore as the group would find out on their first day of riding.  Each day had a different theme in order to give everybody a really diverse riding experience.  The first day was all about big mountain riding like you might find at an alpine enduro race, with the second day using one of the French national enduro series race tracks to test our skills against.  Some of the time we rode in a ‘train’ with smaller gaps between riders as you tend to on a normal riding holiday, but on other runs we were riding with 30 second gaps, encouraging us to look ahead, read the trail and to flow like you would in a race situation.  Riding like this really exposed areas for some of us to work on and when combined with some excellent coaching from Ian, meant that we all made improvements to our riding over the course of the week.

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The week was not just about amazing trails though.

Each day I would take the group of riders through a morning warm up before they rode and each evening we ran through some stretching and mobility drills back at the chalet.  After dinner each night I went through an informal talk about different subjects related to training for enduro racing.  I talked about general approaches and then more specifically about sprint training, nutrition and recovery as well as spending a lot of time chatting with the guys and answering their questions.

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The amazing setting and trails, combined with warm sunny weather and a great group of people meant that we had a really fun week of riding together.  Everybody got on well and encouraged each other to ride hard and we shared plenty of laughs over the week.  Most days finished with a cool beer (sometimes in the hot tub) and a chat about bikes and tyres and other rubbish that we can’t help talking about.  Plans are already afoot for a similar week or two next spring and I can’t wait!

Stay Strong

Ben

P.S. If you missed the camp but still want some help preparing for enduro, a riding holiday, or other race disciplines then drop me a line: ben@mtbstrengthfactory.com

Learning The Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing is the defining kettlebell exercise.  When you learn to do it correctly, it will help you to develop a strong and powerful back, core and legs as well as offering a great conditioning session if you do higher reps.  There are loads of different videos out there in the internet showing you how to swing the kettlebell, some are very good, and sadly a lot are very poor.

Below here you can find my kettlebell instructional videos (Part 1 and Part 2) taken directly from my Kettlebell Strength Programme.  In the videos you will learn that the swing is all about generating power from your hips.  It is not a squatting motion and you should not be lifting the kettlebell with your arms!  Hip power is the key to becoming a better athlete in pretty much any sport and it directly relates to mountain biking by helping to create a strong ‘Attack Position’ on the bike as well as helping to develop your leg power for out of the saddle efforts out on the trail.

In Part 1 you will learn the basics and develop a rhythm with the swing:

In Part 2 you will take the basics and build on them to create a full swing up to shoulder height.  You also get to see me looking ridiculous doing my ‘spaghetti arms’ coaching drill!

Remember that the swing is all about technique.  You must invest some time and effort into learning the swing with good form!

If you want to use kettlebells to get faster on your mountain bike, then the MTB Strength Factory Kettlebell Strength Programme is for you.  It is a comprehensive training programme that will offer many months of training gains.  All of the exercises have professionally produced video tutorials so you can be reassured that you are doing the right exercises in the right way.  To download your copy today, just hit the link…  Kettlebell Strength

Stay Strong

Ben

Enduro Training Camp: 9th-16th April, French Pyrenees

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I am really excited to announce the first ever MTB Strength Factory and Altitude Adventure, Enduro Training Camp this spring.

Set in the stunning Pyrenees Orientales about 40 minutes East of Andorra, Altitude Adventure have been serving up amazing riding to mountain bikers from the UK for many years.  They have been featured in numerous articles in Singletrack, MBR and MBUK amongst others and people keep on coming back for the epic, natural riding on offer.

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The week is designed for anybody who wants to improve their fitness and skills for enduro racing this season.  It will be a mixture of uplift and pedalling to get you to the best trails in the area, with each day’s activity carefully chosen to offer you different challenges and to develop you as a rider.  This area is a hotbed of French MTB talent with riders like Damien Oton hailing from the region and training on the same tracks that you will be riding.

To compliment the riding you will be doing, I will be doing daily flexibility and mobility work with you all, helping you to recover and educating you on how you can improve this often neglected aspect of MTB training.  Without turning it into a school trip, there will be talks and presentations from me and Ian and Ange (Altitude Adventure and both ex WC level riders!) in the evenings to inform and educate you so that you can race at your best this summer and beyond.  We will cover topics such as nutrition, training, race prep and tactics, as well as offering you almost unlimited opportunity to pick my brains on all things training related!

Whilst we are calling this a training camp, it is not a fitness based camp with endless interval training and sprints!  Whilst you should come back feeling fitter and stronger on the bike after so much riding, including time at altitude, it is just as much about sharpening your skills and getting lots of demanding technical trail riding done, and even riding under race conditions using our timing kit.

If you are planning on racing enduro this summer and you want to go into the season better prepared than ever, then this is the trip for you.  The cost is £695 including:

7 nights ensuite accommodation with jacuzzi on site!

6 evening meals, all breakfasts and packed lunch on all riding days.

All your drinks – although you probably won’t be hitting the beers too hard on training camp!

Guiding, coaching, and uplifts.

Education and practical sessions with Ben from MTB Strength Factory.

You will have to arrange and pay for return flights to Barcelona as well as paying for transfer.  You will also need to pay for one evening meal out during your stay.

If you have any questions relating to the MTB Strength Factory side of the trip, including training, content and so on then please feel free to email me direct on ben@mtbstrengthfactory.com.  If you have questions about the area, accommodation, what bike to bring, flights etc, then it is best to visit the Altitude Adventure website or drop them a line on info@altitudeadventure.com being sure to mention MTB Strength Factory when you email them!

This trip is going to be so much fun as well as taking your riding and racing to the next level!

 

Distance Coaching – How it works.

At this time of year plenty of people are thinking about their winter training plans, and how they will go about hitting next summer fitter and faster than ever.  Some of you may even be thinking about training with me at MTB Strength Factory, but are put off by the fact that I am in Bristol and you live elsewhere.   Below, I want to outline how I go about coaching riders all over the UK, so you understand the process and how the Programming Package works.

The first thing that will happen after your initial enquiry is I will send you a copy of my New Rider Questionnaire – NRQ.  This is an in depth look at your current ability, health and training regime (if you have one).  It also give me a valuable insight into your lifestyle, when you work, when you can train and so on which will help me to write you a programme that will be realistic and achievable for you in the long term.  It is really easy to write a programme for a full time athlete, but it is very hard to write a useful programme for a full time employee with 2 kids and all the commitments that come with them!  Your MTBSF programme will be written for you as an individual and should fit in with your lifestyle.

Once I have gathered the info from your NRQ I usually follow up with a phone chat to run through a few things and to ask you any questions that may have arisen from your NRQ.  The next step is for me to create an online training programme and diary for you.  I use a simple and intuitive system to provide you with your training programme online, meaning that you can access it anywhere as long as you have an internet connection.  This programme also doubles up as your training diary, an essential tool for me as your coach, to monitor your training and progress.  By filling out the diary regularly and in detail, you enable me to continually improve and evolve your programme as I learn which types of training work for you as an individual.

Online training programme and diary.

Online training programme and diary.

I usually write programmes in 4-week blocks of training encompassing 3 weeks of training followed by a recovery week.  Each week your training sessions will be clearly defined so you will know exactly what you have to achieve.  Having said that, I do not tend to specify which day to do each session on, as this is unrealistic when real life takes over.  I give you a list of sessions and you fit them into your week as you see fit, and with my guidance.

When you first start working with MTB Strength Factory on the Programming Package you will have the opportunity to chat and email as much as you need to answer any questions you may have.  Once you are up and running with your programme, you will have the opportunity for email contact every 2 weeks to discuss your training and ask questions, and at the end of every 4-week training cycle you can have a phone or Skype consultation to discuss your progress and future programming.  This is all included in the £52 per calendar month (pcm) Programming Package, however for the most committed athletes with higher training loads you can have unlimited email and phone contact with me for £72 pcm.  This allows your programme to constantly change and adapt to your situation.  Both packages are subject to a £30 initial consultation fee for me to set up your programme and do all of the preparation work required to programme effectively for you.

To help you reach your goals you will also receive a copy of the Bodyweight Strength Programme (BSP) and a copy of the Nutrition Guide.  Both of these have been written specifically for mountain bikers and are normally for sale through the website as downloads.  As part of your programme I will likely ask you to do strength training sessions to improve your full body strength as well as conditioning.  By giving you the BSP I am ensuring that you have a proper programme with proper instructions on how to complete it, making sure that you are not wasting your time with bodybuilding style sessions in the gym!

The Programming Package from MTB Strength Factory is all about providing you with a personalised service, not just a one-size fits all approach like I have seen from some other coaching providers on the internet.  It is not built on fads or crazy gimmicky workouts.  Instead it is about long-term, consistent progress towards your racing or riding goals written in plain English and always taking into account your lifestyle and needs.

To see all of the coaching options available from MTBSF, click here.

Stay Strong

Ben

 

2015 Racing Roundup

The view at the top of Stage 5 was epic.

The view at the top of Stage 5 was epic.

On 19-20th September the last ever UK Gravity Enduro took place in deepest Wales at an awesome spot, called Dyfi.  As always the UKGE crew put on an awesome event with a good variety of demanding tracks all spread across some of the most picturesque scenery that I have seen all year.

This season has gone really well for me, steadily getting better results and reaching my goal of getting a top 25 finish in masters.  At Dyfi I felt like I was riding really well.  I was relaxed and confident on the bike and just focussed on enjoying myself on all of the stages resulting in me finishing with a personal best 21st place in a very competitive field of riders.

Below are a list of considerations, thoughts and lessons from my 2015 season.  They are in no particular order, but many of you may benefit from my experiences this year.

1.  Invest in yourself before your bike.  The main reason that I am getting better results this year is not a fancy set of wheels or the latest carbon bling.  It is because I invested time, effort and money in my self improvement as a rider.  I obviously trained (I train people for a living!) but I also had skills coaching all winter from my mate Sam at Pedal Progression in Bristol.  This is the one thing that made the biggest difference to my riding.  If you think you are too good or too fast for coaching then you are wrong. Got a few grand to splash on a new bike so you can ride faster and harder?  Cool!  Just buy the model down from the one you planned to get and spend the difference on skills coaching and/or strength coaching.

2.  Food preparation.  Every race I went to, I prepared most of my meals before I left.  This meant that I had control over what I ate and I was never reliant on pub grub or the contents of the local Tesco Express.  I felt properly fed at all races at all times with steady energy throughout the day, and no bonking incidents! My prep went something like this…..

Pre boil loads of new potatoes that I can fry up with my eggs and bacon for brekky.

Cook a load of sweet potato wedges to have with dinner on Sat night and sometimes Sat lunch too.

Plenty of bananas, berries, flapjack and Nakd bars for snacking in general.

Take a chilli, bolognese or stew in tupperware and reheat it on the Friday night with some rice.  This is super important as on the Fri you are usually knackered from traveling and practice and can’t be arsed to cook.

Cold meat, cheese and sometimes soup for Sat lunch.

Meat for BBQ on Sat night.

Torq energy bars, powder and Recovery.

3.  Stage conditioning. There are two parts to preparing for the demands of enduro race stages.  The first is preparing your whole body and its energy systems to cope with the pumping, stabilising, twisting and general body language needed to navigate technical and often steep trails.  This comes from riding those sorts of trails at a race pace in your training before an event.  It can also be developed through a proper strength and conditioning programme combined with a flexibility and mobility programme.

The second aspect is to prepare for the hard pedalling efforts required on longer stages, both seated and standing.  These tend to be in the region of 30-90 seconds in the UK.  You must replicate this in training.  It is as much about the physical conditioning as the mental conditioning to push your boundaries and suffer.

4.  Look after your goggles!  If you can’t see because they are dirty and steamed up with scratched lenses then you can’t ride fast.  The same goes for glasses.  It is the small details that make the difference.  A ziplock bag with some tissues in your pocket is usually a good bet.

5.  Real food is ok too.  The enduro format means that between stages you are usually riding at a lower intensity meaning that you can eat real food and don’t have to rely purely on sports nutrition products.  I personally like a mixture of Torq Mango energy bars and a couple of flapjacks throughout the day.  Sometimes I will also have a choccy bar.  Do not underestimate the importance of good morale when racing – a nice treat when it is pissing down can really pick you up!

6.  Get weight off your back when you can.  If you have space for a bottle cage then use one.  It you can get your spare tube and tools on your frame then do it.

7. Prepare for 2-3 consecutive days in the saddle.  There is no escaping the fact that riding 2-3 days of 40km and 1500m of climbing is going to be hard work, especially when you consider that you may be pushing up and sectioning parts of the track in practice.  There is no substitute for time in the saddle in your training plan.  Getting to the top of the stages feeling fresh is a massive advantage.

8.  Take care of your body.  I get to meet loads of people at these races and so many are carrying little injuries or niggles.  Sometimes this can’t be helped, it is just part of racing, but sometimes it is because they ignore pain or discomfort.  You need to pay attention to your body and when it isn’t quite working correctly you need to find out what is going on and why.  You then need to fix it.  For many people a flexibility and mobility regime would make a massive difference, but physio or massage may also be a worthwhile investment.

9.  Stage 1 preparation.  For many people, myself included, stage one of the event on the Sunday morning is really hard to ride well.  Many riders let their overall position drop due to a lacklustre performance on the first stage because they are still half asleep and not in race mode.  Develop a warm up for your body and brain that will let you perform at your best.

10.  Don’t force it.  If you aren’t riding your best or don’t feel 100% then pushing harder and getting agro usually leads to more mistakes and crashes.  Nobody can feel totally pinned every time they ride or race.  When it happens, just relax, think about having fun on your bike rather than racing and it will usually start to fall into place.

Finally I just wanted to say a massive ‘Thanks’ to Steve Parr and the whole UKGE team.  Over the last 2 years I have loved all of the races that they put on.  Steve let me be a small sponsor in 2014 for FREE as I was a new business and he wanted to help.  As he put it, ‘I’m in it for the riding, not the money!’  That sums it all up nicely I think.  To all the keyboard warriors on late night forums who gave him such a hard time, sometimes getting very personal, criticising every thing that he did, I hope that you get a lifetime of punctures and horrible chaffing on your arse every time that you ride.  You ran him into the ground and are the reason that he has packed it all in.  Rant over!

What have you learnt about yourself and about racing this season?  It can be any type of racing from marathons to DH and 4X.  Do you agree with my points, or do you have something to add?  I would love to hear your thoughts over on the MTB Strength Factory Facebook page.

Stay Strong

Ben

Building Endurance

MTB Endurance

Endurance is the ability to keep on going and ride all day; up hill, down single-track and everything in between.  It is an important physical attribute whether you just want to ride laps of a trail centre with your mates or race an XC or enduro event.  At the extreme end of MTB endurance are 24 hour and marathon races, as well as multi-day stage races requiring consecutive long days in the saddle at high levels of effort.

Endurance can mean a few different things, depending on your goals and your ability as an athlete.  For a beginner, new to exercise and MTB, increased endurance could mean being able to ride for over 2 hours with minimal stops.  A more experienced rider may work up to their first 60km off-road ride, including 2000m of climbing and plenty of descending.  An XC racer may only race up to 2 hours at a time, but needs ‘speed endurance,’ which is the ability to maintain a high pace for a long period of time.  The marathon rider needs to be able to ride almost non-stop for 8-24 hours at a time.  For the purposes of this article, endurance will mean the ability to ride further or for longer periods.  Speed and power endurance will be covered in future articles.

Here are a number of factors that affect a rider’s endurance and some tips to help you improve them……

1. Genetics:  Some of us are built for explosive, powerful movements, and others for long, endurance type events.  Usain Bolt will never make a good endurance athlete!  You can work to reach your genetic potential for endurance, but you can’t beat nature.  If you are naturally a more explosive rider you can still make good progress with a proper training plan though, so don’t be dis-heartened.

2. Bodyweight:  Power to weight ratio plays a part in how far you can ride, especially in hilly or mountainous areas.  Quite simply, if you are carrying excess body fat (or too much muscle bulk from the gym) then you are using loads of extra energy, meaning you can’t ride as far or as fast as you would if you were leaner.  The best way to improve your body composition is to cut down body fat levels through good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle.  There are lots of ways to do this, but on the whole you should keep your diet as natural as possible, drink lots of water, eat loads of veggies, and cut out sugar and processed foods.  In the MTB Strength Factory Nutrition Guide I take you through a 4-week experiment where you learn about which foods work with your body and which don’t, allowing you to make a personalised nutrition plan to improve performance on the bike and help you loose excess body fat.

3.  Fuel:  Chances are that if you can’t ride longer than 2 hours, then you are not fuelling your body properly.  You will need to have a meal that is high in carbs, with some protein and a little fat before you ride in order to fuel your efforts.  You may also want to use energy products or just carry some water and a bar or two to keep you going.  Either way, you will need to plan and prepare your food for long rides.  A great way to improve your endurance is to become more efficient at using stored carbohydrate from your body and to use more fat as fuel instead.  One of the best ways to do this is doing ‘energy work’ where you ride at low intensities for increasing durations whilst in a fasted state.  A great way to incorporate this is on a morning commute.  Ride in at a steady pace and have brekky when you arrive instead of before you leave.  Just be careful not to, ‘Bonk’ and build up the distance gradually.

4. Programming:  How do you expect to go out and ride for 6 hours if the longest you have ever ridden is 3?  This is the harsh reality that a lot of people find when they go to the Alps for the first time and they get knackered on the first long day of riding and end up having a silly crash!  You need to build up your distances gradually.  Write a basic programme where you build for 3 weeks and then have an easy week.  Do a short ride after work one day where you do some intervals and some skills work and then a long ride on the weekend……. Week one: 25km, Week two: 30km, Week three: 35km, Week four: 20km.  You then repeat the 4 week cycle with longer distances, so Week five would be 30km and so on until you reach the desired distance or time that you need to ride for.

5.  Efficiency:  We can become more efficient on the bike by improving pedalling technique, body position and even bike setup.  When we are more efficient we can ride further or faster for the same amount of effort.   You can get professional help for your bike setup at your LBS who should help you out unless you are a bit of a dick.

6.  Flexibility:  If you are really tight with poor flexibility and mobility then you will be restricted on the bike, affecting your efficiency, speed and endurance.  You may also pick up injuries or suffer from lower back pain, meaning you can’t ride as far as you would like.  My approach to flexibility is ‘little and often.’  Do some stretching most days, and always do some basic mobility before a ride, especially if you are straight out of the car or straight from your desk.  The best athletes are supple, and can move freely.

7.  Weakness:  The further you ride the more likely it is to expose your weaknesses.  If you always get the same pain on a  long ride then that is a clue that you should listen to.  Maybe the muscle in that area is weak or not working properly?  You can use your bodyweight or go to a gym to get stronger, just make sure that you work with good form and that you integrate it into your broader training plan.  Also check out my MTB specific Bodyweight Strength Programme to put you on the right track!

8.  Mental:  Don’t be intimidated by a long day riding.  Just ride at your own pace and take sensible precautions like having enough food and water.  Ride with more experienced and fitter people to give you confidence.  Finally, remember that endurance is very trainable, even in older riders , so get out and ride!

Stay Strong

Ben

Scotland – Enduro World Series and World Cup

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I have just spent the last 2 weeks up in Scotland, racing the Enduro World Series and then going to watch the World Cup in Fort William.  Despite the fact that it rained EVERY DAY, it was a great trip with awesome riding and racing and lots of fun times with my riding buddies and my wife.  Here is what I got up to and my training-related thoughts about the 2 events and some other random stuff too…….

Home for the EWS!

Home for the EWS!

The EWS at Peebles in the Scottish Borders is known for being one of the most technical, steep and slippery tracks on the EWS circuit and this year was no change.  The constant rain meant that the steep and root infested stages around Innerleithen were super slippy and getting a clean run would be very difficult.  Practicing all day Wed and Thurs and resting on Friday, I felt fit and strong on the bike although not quite at race pace as I had only had the bike for a couple of weeks.  I found my riding to be quite inconsistent and found it hard to get a rhythm in practice.  Some parts went really well and I rode right at my limit and at other times I was making silly mistakes, including a pretty big crash at the bottom of stage 7 at Glentress that left me with a pretty multicoloured thigh for the next 10 days!  I think that the main issue for me was getting in the right frame of mind.  Maybe the scale of the event and the quality of competition got to me a bit, but I found it hard to relax and ride my best.  I need to have a think about this and work on improving it in the future.

The inconsistent theme continued on the Saturday with some sections going really well, even catching the rider in front and other sections of the course feeling like I was a toddler without stabilisers for the first time!  By the end of day 1 of racing at Innerleithen I was feeling very second hand, having had quite a big run in with a tree, leaving my shoulder very stiff and sore, and with a stiff wrist and finger from punching a tree in the tight sections.  I was sitting about 200th out of 269 in E1 category and that would have put me in 12th in E2 category out of about 100 riders riding the same course.  I was hoping for better results from day 1 and felt a bit frustrated.  The main thing that I took away from day 1 is that I am just not used to riding and racing such long downhills of 5 minutes or more.  I need to improve my race conditioning by doing two things:  1- Increase the length of my conditioning sessions in the gym ton reflect longer stage times.  2- Actually ride some bigger hills and tracks and do them in one go rather than in sections with a chat to my mates half way down.

Waking up on Sunday morning I knew that I would not be able to race properly.  I could not lift my right arm past shoulder height and my wrist felt pretty weak too so I decided to withdraw which is a bit of a bummer.  For me, as an amateur racing for fun, it is just not worth it, especially being mid-30’s and self employed!  The silver lining was that I got to watch the pro’s come down the final stage into Peebles and that was awesome!  They are at another level and it was inspiring to see them riding so fast on such tricky tracks.  Maybe I will do another EWS next year?!

The week leading up to the World Cup, my wife and I had planned to ride loads, but it did not stop raining the whole time so we only got out once.  Fortunately it was an awesome ride at a little trail centre called Laggan Wolftrax.  This place is really unique in that it is mostly on really grippy (even when wet) rock.  I have never ridden anywhere like it and even if you don’t normally ride trail centres, I would urge you to check it out.  It has some cool features including a massive North Shore style rock roll which was loads of fun and is something I have never seen in this country before.  The cafe is also pretty decent!

You probably don’t really need me to talk much about the World Cup as the MTB social media and web world has been flooded with content, so here are some thoughts about seeing it first hand and the physical considerations for racing DH at a high level.

Every rider who did well was f**ked at the bottom.  No matter how fit they were, they all gave 100% to the final sprint and motorway section.  The lesson here is about mental toughness and determination.  If you want to do well you need to give it all, and push through when the legs and lungs are screaming for you to stop.  This can and should be developed in training, both on the bike and in the gym.

The best riders raced smart and conserved energy on the windy top sections of the moor so that they would have more power available to sprint hard and clear the massive jumps on the motorway section.

The top section is rougher than it looks on TV!  You need to be smooth, relaxed and on the right lines with good upper body strength to move the bike around and pump for speed.

For such a long, sustained track where you may only sit for a few seconds during the whole 5 minutes, core strength and endurance is critical to enable you to maintain a good riding position, absorb hits and put down power when you need to.

Manon’s crash was pretty huge and could have been a lot worse.  As well as her helmet and body armour protecting her from injury, the fact that she is a high level athlete certainly helped too.  Muscle is like armour, protecting the skeleton and organs from injury and impact.  I would also bet that she does regular neck training as part of her strength programme and this will help her to bounce back from big crashes as well as protecting her at the time of the crash.

DH MTB World Cup

DH MTB World Cup

The atmosphere in the finishing arena at For Bill is amazing!  Get it on your MTB bucket list if you have not been already.

I am now back to the gym and back to work.  3 Weeks until UKGE round 2 in Grizedale and the trails back home are dry and dusty.  Happy Days…

Stay Strong

Ben

 

Mini Enduro – Forest of Dean

Landing the drop on Stage 1

Landing the drop on Stage 1

Hot, dry, loose, dusty, rooty and loads of fun, nicely summarises the Mini Enduro this weekend at The Forest of Dean.  It was a sell out event as usual for these relaxed and friendly events with un marshalled practice on the Saturday and then racing on the Sunday.  The 4 stages provided a number of different challenges that would test the riders’ skills, fitness and line choice with wide-open taping and some pretty cheeky lines appearing over the weekend!

For me, this race was my first of the season and I wanted to treat it as a warm up for the UK Gravity Enduro season, starting in May, so although I wanted to do well, it was mostly about confirming where I am at and getting my setup dialled in.  When I was planning my season, this was a lower priority race, meaning that I trained all week as normal and was prepared to sacrifice aspects of this race in order to prepare for UKGE.  For instance, although not mandatory, I chose to wear my Bell Super 2R full face helmet this weekend as that is what I will be required to wear at the UKGE races all summer.  It was hot, sweaty and I would have preferred to wear a trail lid, but I wanted to get a feel for the best way to race with this helmet and practice detaching the chin guard etc.

Spicy on test for Wideopenmag

My race-ready Lapierre Spicy on test for Wideopenmag.

Early season races can be valuable tools for reviewing your current level of fitness and conditioning, so I have spent some time this morning reviewing my performance and seeing if there is anything that I can address in my training programme over the coming weeks.  I purposely did a lot of riding on the Friday (at my local trails) and on the Saturday, practicing at FOD in order to simulate the sort of mileage I may be covering at the UKGE races.  I found that my all-day endurance and ability to ride hard on consecutive days was absolutely fine and I went into the final stage feeling pretty fresh.  A big part of this was down to getting my nutrition right before during and after riding each day.

I felt strong on the bike all day and my conditioning over 2-3 minutes for the stages was pretty good.  I think I could still do more work on my anaerobic engine for hard and prolonged sprints between sections or up short climbs.  Having said that, you can always be a bit fitter in that respect and improving your anaerobic endurance is an almost constant aspect of MTB race training across many disciplines. Either way, I will be getting on the pain-train over the coming weeks in order to improve this aspect of my racing.

Overall I had a great weekend with my best result ever, 16th out of about 120 in Masters.  I missed a couple of my lines and made some small mistakes, so plenty to work on skills and concentration wise, but I am really happy with my performance and can’t wait for Triscombe in a couple of weeks!

Stay Strong

Ben