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

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

Scotland – Enduro World Series and World Cup

Untitled

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

 

Sponsoring UK Gravity Enduro in 2015

UKGE-FINAL-LOGO-MASTER-2014-1-1024x530

I am really pleased to announce that for the second year, the MTB Strength Factory will be a sponsor for UK Gravity Enduro, the number 1 Enduro race series in the UK.  I am looking forward to another summer of racing on awesome tracks surrounded by cool, likeminded people and being able to support the series as a sponsor means a lot.

Feel free to come and say hi at one of the races.  You can pick my brains about training or just come for a chat, but it would be great to meet you.  See you in May!

Stay Strong

Ben

 

Prioritising Your Races For Improved Results

_MG_8312

For those of you looking forward to a busy 2015 MTB race season, now is the time to start planning which races you will be doing and which ones are most important to you.  Some of you may have already done this, but as not all the race series have announced their firm 2015 dates yet, it is not always possible to do so early.  As a general rule though, you should have it all sorted by the new year as your training plan from January will be built around the summer’s racing and your priorities and goals.

The first thing to consider is how many races or events you can actually do over the season.  You should think about cost, travel, time off work and also your physical ability to perform week in and week out for a prolonged period of time.  You may find that you will get better results by entering less races, allowing you more time train.  Bear in mind that after a hard weekend of racing you may take a few days to totally recover and if you are racing consecutive weekends then this basically leaves you no time to train.  Also, do not underestimate the mental strain of racing, especially if you are a competitive person.  Racing too much over the summer can burn you out and leave you lacklustre and less focussed on training and racing.

Assuming that you have decided which races to do, you now need to have a think about which ones are most important to you and which ones less so.  The reason you should do this is that you will want to properly peak for the most important races to give you the best chance of a good result, however you can’t peak for lots of races as you will lose fitness over the season.  Generally races are divided into “A” “B” and “C” priority races with “A” being the most important and “C” being your least important races.

You should start by selecting 1 to 4 “A Priority” races that will be your biggest focus next season.  Picking these races can be tricky and it is important to think it through properly.  For instance you may immediately think the National Champs in your discipline will be an “A” race, however you know that this race will bring out all of the strongest and most competitive riders.  Can you actually compete against them?  If not then maybe you should prioritise another race that may have a slightly weaker field, for instance a national series race on the same weekend as a world cup.  It will still be a hard race with a strong field, but your chances of a good result will be greatly improved if the top riders are away on WC duties, meaning that if you peak properly and put in a good performance you could get a solid result!

Next you need to add the “B Priority” races to your calendar.  These will be fairly important races that often make up the bulk of the race season, especially as they tend to be made up of rounds from a race series.  Consistent attendance and performance ensures a good overall result with these races so they are worth being fresh for and whilst you won’t properly taper your training in the run up to the event you may reduce your training somewhat in the week before so that you are fresh.

Finally, the “C Priority” races are added to the race calendar.  These races are nice extras that you basically train straight through.  They basically become part of your training programme.  The results are not important and you may not even put in 100% effort for these races.  They can still be valuable in their own right though, for things like developing race craft and tactics and for trying out pre-race routines.  For instance you should not ever try a new warm up or pre-race energy drink before an important race.  You should experiment in training and then test it out on a “C” race to see if it works.  Keep a diary and use these races to make sure that you are best prepared for the bigger races throughout the season.  If you are feeling fatigued mid-season then you should look at skipping any “C” races that you may have planned.  Think of them as a nice-to-do part of the main season and a great way to get race sharp in the early season.

Based around the prioritised races you have in your diary now as well as your personal and work life you can construct your training plan to build up to an peak for the “A” races whilst training through the “C” races and something in the middle for the “B” races.  The exact way you will do this and how you programme it will depend on you, your discipline, experience and level of racing which is why I have not gone into it here.

Remember that if you have any questions about this article you can post them on my Facebook Page and I will do my best to answer them.

Have a Strong Christmas

Ben

The “Beast of Whistler”

 

 

Beast of Whistler

 

Ok….. I know you are thinking, ‘WTF does this have to do with getting quicker on my mountain bike?’

Well, it is actually the name I gave to the final training session before my athlete, Joe Finney jets off to race the EWS in Whistler on 10th August.  When I first started training Joe (riding for Bad Ass Bikes / Intense) he told me that as well as achieving podium results in the UKGE series, he also wanted to get a good result in his first EWS race at Whistler this summer.  Now, in case you didn’t watch the coverage from last year’s race, or don’t know much about Whistler, it was a super tough race with the longest stage of the whole season taking the fastest Elite rider 22:28 minutes, the fastest Masters racer 26:03 minutes and the 52nd placed rider in Masters (1/2 way down the field) a whopping 40 minutes!

Simply put – This stage was going to be a “Beast!”

As a general rule when training for an event in any discipline (bike or not) the closer to the event you get the more the training should resemble the actual event.  For that reason, when I sat down with Joe to draw up his training plan for the 3 months leading up to Whistler, I wanted something to work towards, and something to finish his training with a bang, sending him off to Canada fully prepared, both mentally and physically.  That is why I came up with The Beast of Whistler – a 25 minute challenge to roughly simulate the gruelling nature of this huge stage, pushing his body and mind to its limits.

The format was simple:  2 minutes work, 30 seconds recovery for 10 rounds.  The only rule was no sitting down in between work intervals.

The training session.I wanted this to be really tough for Joe, and it was as much about his mental strength and will to push on as much as his physical abilities.  In order to do well on a stage like the one in Whistler, he will need to push through the pain barrier, pedal when his lungs are gasping for oxygen and his hands are struggling to even hold the bars, all on technical terrain and at altitude.  Here is the programme:

  Exercise Notes
1      Burpee – Jumping Jack
2 Press Up / Pull Up Ladder, 1/1, 2/2, 3/3, 4/4…… If you fail on pull ups, then jump up and lower under control.
3 KB Swing @ 16kg
4 Walkouts
5 KB Lunges @ 16kg Hold as per goblet squat.
6 Mountain Climbers 1 min, Plank 1 min.
7 KB Goblet Squat @ 20kg
8 Press Up / TRX Row Ladder, 1/1, 2/2, 3/3……..
9 KB Thruster @ 8kg Change arms every 5. Single Arm
10 Burpees

This week, the time came to go head to head with The Beast, and just to make it more fun, it was about 28 C meaning Joe was going to end up a sweating wreck by the end.  Happy Days!  It was tough and Joe worked really well to get through the intervals without stopping once.  It certainly pushed his limits and I think it achieved what we wanted it to.  Having done this session, the culmination of his pre-EWS training and with a new PB on vertical jump the week before we both know that he is so much stronger now than at the start of the season.  A challenge like this can really fill an athlete with confidence and will help to build the character needed to win races and improve themselves.  It is not something I would do every week as it will take a lot out of a rider and he will be sore for days, however as a way to finish a period of training, I don’t think you can beat it.

You can easily put something like this together yourself, and you don’t even need any kit.  Just make sure it is specific to the event for which you are training.  For instance an XC rider may use a workout to simulate the brutal high speeds and intensity of the first 1/2 lap of a race where they are fighting for track position and battling their lactate levels and aerobic capacity.  A DH racer may want to do a 4 minute workout, based more around power and explosive movements with a barbell, like cleans, front squats and presses.  Head over to the Facebook page, give us a Like and let me know your thoughts, especially if you devise your own BEAST!

Good luck Joe!

Stay Strong

Ben

 

Racing Roundup

Untitled

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

Racing, Riding and More Racing

 
EWS Race Number

Last weekend saw round 2 of the UKGE at Innerleithen and some of the steepest, techest, gnarliest trails I have ever ridden, let alone raced.  Rather than giving you a run of the mill ‘race report’ I thought I would write about the physicality of the racing and my thoughts on how I might do my training a little differently, or how I could adapt my current training.

The 5 stages, spread over about 30km involved a shed load of climbing and a lot of steep hike-a-bike to get to the top of the hill.  The quickest racer on the day was Nico Lau who clocked up a total time of 17 minutes for 4 stages (1 was cancelled due to an injury) whilst I raced for about 22 minutes and got a respectable 52nd in Masters.  Whilst the transitions were not too tight, you had to keep moving and it was a very physical day, both going up and going down.  Those long, 1 hour climbs are hard to train replicate where I live near Bristol and I could have been fresher coming into the last stage.  With hindsight and having done the first 2 rounds, a bit more over-distance training would really help me to feel stronger for longer on race day.  Before Afan at the end of May I plan to get in 1 or preferably 2, 40km rides.  Ideally I would have done much of this work over the winter, however I was snowboarding in the Pyrenees instead!

The actual stages were so tough on the upper body and on the back leg and actually did not involve too much pedalling as they all pointed straight down the hill.  I found I felt strong and was able to manhandle the bike over the gnarly root sections and around the tight tree lined single track.  Without sounding arrogant, I felt well prepared and strong with my upper body preparations and would not really change anything except to do more long, non-stop stages to work on my finger strength and grip endurance.

This was a true test of bike and body and it was awesome, so thanks to Steve Parr and his team or merry helpers for a great weekend.    The story does not end there though as I stayed up in Scotland in order to race the Enduro World Series which starts tomorrow – 31st May.  I will write about the actual race next week when I have recovered, but for now I will talk about my race prep for one of the toughest challenges I will face since leaving the Army.

Basically I worked back from the race and planned my week.  The race is over 2 long days, with 50km and 1400m of vert climbing on the Saturday and 38km and 1500m of vert on the Sun.  I therefore came to the conclusion that resting on Friday would be the best bet and had a little lie in, lots of clean, natural and fresh food and water.  I also spent about 40 minutes stretching and had a very good sports massage to ease out the pain of the last week of riding.

I used the Wednesday and Thursday to practice the stages and try and learn some of the tricky bits.  They are seriously tough, and even steeper than at the UKGE round the week before.   Again, I found the same thing – I needed to do more long distance rides in my training.  I was able to do the practice days at a good pace, but it would have been better, and I would have enjoyed it more if my base fitness had been a little better as a result of more long distance training rides at steady intensities.  That increased fitness would also aid my recovery and ability to ride again at a good pace the following day.

Throughout the week it has been so important to keep eating enough and to refuel properly for repeated big efforts that have taxed every muscle and sinew of my body.  On the whole I like to keep things as natural as possible with my diet, however I have been using some excellent products from Torq that I really rate.  The energy drink tastes good, mixes well and keeps me topped up with energy throughout the day without upsetting my stomach at all.  After riding, the recovery drink is just as good and has really helped me to be fresh in the mornings.  After one very long day I had 2 full shakers within 20 minutes of finishing and it made such a difference. (I have not connection or affiliation with Torq, this is my honest opinion!)

On a non-training related note, I bumped into Steve Peat and made him a coffee in my camper van whilst his mechanic sorted his bike for him.  He is a top bloke, just like everybody says!

Steve Peat EWS

Overall the take home message for me is to do more over-distance training, so that when I encounter tough 30-50km events with lots of climbing that I can be really strong on them and not just survive them!

Wish me luck for the EWS.

Stay Strong

Ben