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

 

The Power Files: Getting Started

Over the coming months I am going to be writing regular articles about my experiences of training with power.  As you may be aware, power based training is the best way to train for bike sports, as it offers you so much data for analysis, as well as real time information about your training so that you can train at correct intensities to illicit the training effect you require for your chosen event or discipline.

The guys over at Saddleback have been kind enough to lend me a Stages Power meter for my road bike, and I will be using it with my own Garmin 520 cycle computer.  The power meter is a left crank arm that has a stain gauge attached to it, and you simply replace the existing crank.  Amusingly the power meter is actually worth more than my actual bike!  It doesn’t actually matter to me though as the road bike is just a tool for training in order to improve my MTB performance, so I just need it to work.  The other piece of kit I will be using is a heart rate strap that works with the Garmin computer.  Finally, all of this data and information is fed into a training website, called Training Peaks (TP).  The TP online training app is a bit like Strava on steroids, without the competition element and corner-cutting.  It gathers all of your info from a training ride or race and presents it in a variety of ways, enabling you to analyse your strengths, weaknesses, progress and fitness.  The possibilities are pretty staggering and also somewhat intimidating at first!

Set Up

Initial setup of the Garmin and the Stages PM were really simple……  Remove the old crank, fit the new one, fit the computer on the bars, pair them together and off you go.  Although I have a lot of experience training with power with my Wattbike, I felt that the best way to get started was with some baseline settings and head off for a spin.  On my return I could upload the data to my TP account and start to look into my ride in more detail.

Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 12.03.19

The screenshot above is the actual data from my first ride out with the Stages PM fitted.  At first it seems crazy, but with some reading, some patience and lots of experimentation, it soon starts to become more clear.  The main graph shows the whole ride with the different lines showing different metrics; cadence in yellow, elevation shown by the grey shading, heart rate in red, power in pink, speed in green and temperature in blue.  You can also see some summary info about the ride in the right hand column, and if you scroll down it gives you further insight into your ride and how hard it was.  To get to the info that you actually want, you can clean up the graph, removing things like temperature and speed which are unimportant to me.  I can also zoom-in to various sections of the ride to analyse my efforts more closely:

Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 12.11.57

As you can see, this screenshot is of the main climb from the original ride, including the flat sections immediately before and after.  From this I can see how long this part of the ride took, my power, heart rate and so on.  Although this was just a spin to figure out the new equipment, if it was a training ride with a specific goal related to climbing, I would be able to determine whether this aspect of my ride was successful or not.  Had I ridden within the correct training zone for the climb?

Hopefully you can see appreciate how this sort of information can benefit you in your training.  It is especially valuable for the time-pressed rider who wants to make the best use of their limited training hours, as well as for top level athletes looking for an edge.  Training with power is not cheap, with a Stages crank costing from about £500 and the cost of a GPS being a couple of hundred pounds, but when you weigh up the performance benefits that is can bring, it is actually pretty good value.  That £500 may get you some lighter wheels that may speed you up a bit, but if your fitness sucks then even the lightest carbon hoops won’t save you!

In the next instalment of The Power Files, I will go into the terminology of power based training.  Normalised power, average power, training zones and so on and what they mean to you as a mountain biker.

Stay Strong

Ben

2016 Goals: Coaching and Racing

Heading into November and the winter training season, it is important to look ahead to next season and set some goals for training and racing.  For me, as a professional coach it is also an opportunity to set some professional goals, for my personal development and education in particular.  Below I will share with you my thought process and my own personal and professional goals.  I am going through this process with all of my riders at the moment, and you should too.

Coaching Goals

I have learnt a lot over the last couple of years coaching mountain bikers, and an important part of my self development has been constant evaluation of my methods and coaching approach.  I regularly ask myself if a programme was effective.  How could it have been improved?  Does a certain exercise or training method work for that particular rider?  By doing this I have learnt a lot.  It also exposes areas that I need to work on as a coach.

In 2015 I spent a lot of time, money and effort on my self development, in particular interning with top strength and conditioning coach, Darren Roberts who looks after extreme sports athletes from Red Bull amongst others.  This taught me a lot about my coaching style and helped me to shape and develop my general, over arching approach to training my riders.  He also made me keep a coaching diary which has been a useful tool for my personal development and self awareness.

For this winter my education focus is on developing my bike programming further, particularly using power meters, and using the excellent coaching interface on the Training Peaks software and website.  Whilst I am familiar with training with power, through use of my Wattbike and have programmed successfully for many riders, I need to build a more in depth knowledge of the intricacies of training with a power meter.  To do this I am riding with a Stages Power meter on my roadie and getting properly into the weeds of what it is capable of, especially when paired with my Garmin Edge 520.  I also have a very experienced and knowledgeable rider who is going to help me and speed up the learning process.  Similarly, I have a guinea pig lined up who will be coached with his power meter over the coming months, allowing us to learn and make mistakes together.  The specific goal is to have the knowledge, experience and confidence to offer power-based coaching to riders across the UK from early 2016.

Training data!

Training data!

My other main coaching goal is to go to more events and races with my riders and really improve the support that I am able to offer on a race weekend.   The long-term coaching goal is to coach somebody who wins a World Cup or World Champs, and to get to that level I need to refine exactly what I can provide at a race to give the rider the maximum chance of success.  This is about keeping track of recovery and nutrition, developing a good pre-race routine that works for the individual rider, and generally supporting them so they can perform.  I will be attending one or two BDS rounds and probably the Fort William World Cup where I should (fingers crossed) have more than one rider competing in 2016.

In the gym, my focus for my education is going to be on human movement, bodyweight training and mobility.  This is partly down to personal interest, and partly down to the realisation that most of my riders who work a 9-5 get the most benefit from learning to move better and increasing their mobility.  Whilst I have always worked on these qualities, I am going to prioritise them more before moving onto lifting weights.  I will be attending a couple of courses and seminars in 2016 as well as using books and online resources to deepen my knowledge on these subjects.

 Racing Goals

2015 was a great season for me, reaching my personal goals of finishing consistently in the top 30 of my age group at the UK Gravity Enduro (RIP) series.  I felt that my riding came along a lot, partly due to riding with faster people and partly down to some excellent skills coaching with Pedal Progression in Bristol.  For 2016, and the newly formed British Enduro Series, my goal is to consistently finish in the top 20.  I would also like to get a top 10 at a regional race such as the Mini Enduro.  To achieve that, I have identified a number of training goals to work towards:

Jumping.  It has got a lot better in the last year, but I still need to work on it, especially when things get fast or when the landings get a bit sketchy!

Airtime with Ride Ibiza

Airtime with Ride Ibiza

Cornering. It sounds simple, but I need to continue to improve my basic technique, especially when the corner is flat and slippy.  I will be getting more coaching and spending some time practicing in my own time.  I am currently a bit one sided and turn left a lot better than I turn right.  I want to bridge that gap.

Repeat Sprint.  I am naturally a pretty powerful rider.  I can put out about 2000W on the Wattbike, but my ability to perform repeated maximal sprints was not as good as it should have been for the 2015 season.  Going into the new year and early spring, my programme will make this a priority.

Mobility.  I am fairly flexible and mobile, but feel like I can achieve more to make me more relaxed and fluid on the bike.  I will be doing more bodyweight work this year, with a focus on the mobility and movement that I mentioned earlier.  In particular I am prone to stiffness in my lower back over the course of a riding weekend and if I can move better and be more balanced then I should be able to prevent this.

Pistols.  I can already do pistols on both legs, but my right is a lot stronger.  I would like to be able to do 20 on each leg, developing left/right symmetry as well as strength endurance critical for long, demanding stages.

Riding Goals

These goals are less important to my racing, but are still aspirations I have for the year ahead.  They will help to motivate me to work hard and to ride my bike lots.

Ride 100 miles on the road.  Basically I have never done this and I think it would be a good challenge, so this winter I am going to build up to it.  I am mostly worried about my gusset!

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Race the ‘Ard Rock Enduro with a load of my riding buddies and have an awesome weekend.

Get to the mountains – Alps, Pyrenees, Whistler, I am not picky.  Just get me on a chair lift!

Ride down Mt Snowdon.  It just looks like so much fun, except the push to the top.

Maybe you have some goals for the winter or for the summer ahead?  It is really handy to write them down and make yourself accountable for your actions and your performance.  On a cold, wet evening when you just can’t be arsed, thinking about your goals may just get you out the door to go riding.  Setting goals does not mean you take all the fun out of riding.  It does not have to be deadly serious, but it is just about making the most of your time on the bike and adding some structure to your training if you need it.

If you are serious about your training goals, then maybe consider checking out my Coaching Packages for this winter.  With different options suitable for riders across the UK as well as in the Bristol area, I am sure that we can find a way to work together and smash your goals.

For more info about Coaching with MTB Strength Factory, please follow this link: http://mtbstrengthfactory.com/coaching-mtb/

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

We are moving gyms!

As of yesterday (1st July) I have moved into a new gym to train all of my riders.  It is a lot bigger with plenty of kit and heavy stuff to pick up and throw around. It also has loads of space to move around which is really important to me and the way I train people.

The other benefit of moving gyms is that I can now take on a few more riders for coaching and may even run a class or two over the winter to compliment my MTB training workshops that will also run over the winter.

If you want to come and visit me for a chat about MTB training and check out the gym then get in touch by emailing ben@mtbstrengthfactory.com.  For now though, check out this little video tour I did!

Address: 13 Brookgate
South Liberty Lane
Ashton, Bristol, BS3 2UN

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

 

Single Leg Box Squat – Bike Radar

Back in February I spent a really cold day filming for Bike Radar.  The result is 5 videos, each showing a different bodyweight exercise that will help you to get stronger and faster on your mountain bike.

Check out one of the more advanced exercises – The Single Leg Box Squat.  It is great for improving L/R leg symmetry and control as well as standing pedalling strength.

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