Free Nutrition Guide with any Strength Programme

I want to make sure you start 2017 heading in the right direction……. heading into the Spring feeling fit, strong and healthy.  That is why I am offering you a free copy (worth £9) of my newly updated Nutrition Guide with any strength programme purchased before the end of January!

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It could not be simpler:  Just head over to either the Bodyweight Strength Programme page or the Kettlebell Strength Programme page.  You simply place your order for your new strength programme and the Nutrition Guide will automatically be sent to you as well!

The Nutrition Guide has just been updated for 2017 to include loads of extra info, all laid out in plain English, free of jargon and developed for you – a mountain bike rider or racer.  Have a read below to see what is included:

Meal planners to help you figure out what to eat and when.

Learn which foods work for you as an individual by following the ‘3-Week Experiment.’

What to eat before, during and after training.

A guide to supplements and how to use them.

Remember that all MTB Strength factory Products are covered by my guarantee:

“Ride faster or your money back.”

Not only are you getting a free Nutrition Guide with your Strength Programme but it is all totally risk free as well.  When you look at it, it represents great value too.

For only £16 you get a copy of the Bodyweight Strength Programme with the free Nutrition Guide.  That is less than a pair of grips these days!  I know which one is going to help you ride further and faster over the coming weeks and months.

Or, for only £24 you can get the Kettlebell Strength Programme with the free Nutrition Guide.  This is a really powerful programme for developing your strength and power on the bike.  If you are paying a gym membership already then this one off payment for the programme represents a great way to get even better value out of your gym.

Whichever programme you choose, I hope that you enjoy it.  Literally hundreds of riders just like you, across the UK and beyond have already used these programmes to help them ride further and faster.  Bring on 2017!

Stay Strong

Ben

 

 

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

Fort William World Cup 2016

Fort William 2016.  Photo: Ian Lean

Fort William 2016. Photo: Ian Lean

So, I am just back from an amazing 4 days in sunny (honestly!!) Fort William where I was working at the UCI Downhill World Cup.  I was really excited about the weekend as it was my first World Cup that I would be attending as a coach, rather than as a spectator.  On a personal and professional level this was a really big deal and marks a milestone for MTB Strength Factory.

My main focus for the weekend was Charlie Hatton riding for team Wideopenmag in the Junior category.  Charlie was coming into the race on a solid run of form, having just won the BDS at Bala and with a podium at Fort William BDS just a few weeks earlier.  We all know that Charlie is capable of winning a Junior World Cup and the team worked hard to put everything in place to help him do so.

Over the weekend I would also be working with Veronique Sandler (Vero), riding in the Women’s field, Duncan Ferriss racing 4X for DMR Bikes and randomly ended up helping out long term MTB Strength Factory rider Monet Adams as she also got roped into some last minute 4X action!

Saturday saw massive crowds, brutally hot weather and a dusty, wild mammoth of a track for qualification.  Both my DH riders put down storming runs with Charlie coming down in 2nd, less than a second behind Finn Illes and with plenty left in the tank.  Vero also put down a solid run to secure 15th in qualification, securing her place in the finals for Sunday.

After the DH had finished on Saturday, the 4X Pro Tour kicked off. The track was a true MTB track, rough and loose with some great features.  Dunc put in a smooth first moto, finishing second and progressing on to the quarter finals with being pushed too hard.  Unfortunately and despite a good gate he was then knocked out in the quarters, getting over taken on the inside of the last corner.  I know that Dunc was gutted, but that is racing!  He still rode well all week and was feeling strong despite a niggling shoulder injury sustained in a crash earlier this year.

Women’s 4X seems to be struggling a bit and with only 3 entrants it was going to be cancelled unless a few more ladies stepped to race.  Thankfully, 3 brave women ‘volunteered’ including Monet and the race was on!  There would only be 2 semis and then the final due to the small size of the field.  Monet easily won her semi, leading from the gate on a borrowed bike, wearing jeans and a borrowed lid too.  In the final she would be up against the world champ and a seriously good 4X rider from Germany called Steffi Marth.  Monet was stoked to take a comfortable second place overall and a big fat cheque that will help her go to Crankworx this summer.

Sunday saw even bigger crowds and an amazing atmosphere.  After warming up and doing some mental focussing drills together I took Charlie to the start hut for his finals run.  Dropping in, he was flying.  Fully committed and looking confident on his bike I though that this would be his day.  Sadly a puncture ruined it just as he entered the woods and he limped down the track to the roars of the crowd chanting his name and with sparks flying off his knackered rim!  The team are gutted, but still full of confidence for the next round in Leogang.

Finally, Vero would drop in for her run.  She looked committed and stylish in the top section until she made a mistake and ran off the track, costing her vital seconds.  In the end she finished in a very respectable 19th, her best result for some time and she is also on the road to Leogang feeling hungry for a better result.

Overall it was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to travel to more world cups with my athletes in the future.  We all learnt a lot, grew closer as a team and are walking away from the Fort with our heads held high.

Stay Strong

Ben

MTB Strength Factory Race News

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Let’s just keep this simple……  I know you are often only as good as your last race result, but this season has seen a steady stream of good results in races across the UK and Europe for MTB Strength Factory trained riders.

Every weekend my riders are smashing out solid race results and this weekend was no exception with plenty of podiums and a couple of wins to add to the trophy cabinet.

Glentress 7 endurance MTB event:  1st place for Joe Norledge.  I provide strength training for Joe who programmes his own riding and over arching training plan.

British Downhill Series, Bala:  Elite Men – Rich Thomas from Team Wideopenmag 17th in a stacked field and whilst holding down a full time job, beating a few full time pros with a rapid time.  Watch out top 10!

Elite Women – Veronique Sandler 4th in her first BDS of the year, riding for Loose Riders.

Expert Men – Kye Forte 5th riding for Team Wideopenmag.  Kyle is now the number 1 ranked Expert in only his first season up from Masters.

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Women – Lindsay Hanley in 2nd riding for NX2 and bouncing back after a massive crash at the Fort William BDS a couple of weeks before.

Junior Men – Charlie Hatton taking another win aboard his Nukeproof riding for Team Wideopenmag.  He put a good couple of seconds into the other juniors and leads the overall standings.  He is going into the World Cup at Fort William feeling fast, strong and confident.

Youth Men – Morgan Tyrrell in 7th although there is some controversy being resolved over some suspect timing issues so who know how well he actually did.  What I know is that he is working hard and riding really well and still managing to study for his GCSE exams.  Top work Morgs.

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I am just doing my last few gym sessions with my riders for the week before heading up to Fort William for the World Cup and the 4X Pro Tour.  I have Charlie Hatton racing in Juniors, Veronique Sandler in the Women and Duncan Ferriss racing the 4X and with a score to settle from last year!  Bring it on……..

Stay Strong

Ben

Coaching slots are still available either face to face in Bristol or via online coaching.  Drop me a line on ben@mtbstrengthfactory to find out more.

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

BDS #1 Ae Forest with Team Wideopenmag.

Morgan Tyrrell

Photos: Ian Lean Photography

It is that time of the year where the hard work over the winter starts to pay off, both for the riders, and for me as a coach.  I have been working with the lads on the Wideopenmag team since November when they all came in for the first time to undergo pre-season testing.  Since then I have been programming their strength and conditioning as well as on-bike training and generally providing the support that a good coach should.

The team consists of:  Elite – Rich Thomas (sadly Rich T did not race this weekend due to a concussion the weekend before). Expert (after winning Masters last year) – Kye Forte.  Junior – Charlie Hatton.  Youth – Morgan Tyrrell.

This weekend would be the first time going to a BDS with the team, and my role was simple.  Make sure that every rider was fully prepared for their practice, seeding and race runs, both physically and mentally.  As I won’t be attending all of the BDS rounds I was keen to get the season off to a positive start by getting the lads into good habits, eating and drinking at the right times, warming up and cooling down properly and creating a professional and fun atmosphere that would let them thrive. Ideally we would do this at a lower profile event earlier in the season, however this was not possible this spring and we had to crack on anyway.

Charlie Hatton

For a race run at the BDS, the warm up is effectively split into two halves.  At the bottom of the hill in the pits a rider needs to perform a more general warm up and possibly some mobility and activation work before heading over the the uplift to get to the top of the hill.  After sitting on the uplift bus for 20 minutes the second part of the warm up begins at the top of the hill, and this is more specific to the race run and to the needs of that rider.  For instance, this weekend all 3 riders did  different warm ups with me at the top of the hill.  The variation in specific warm up drills comes from my knowledge of each of them as individual riders, personalities and athletes.

Despite the crappy Scottish weather, the weekend was a massive success for the team and for me as their coach.  All of the riders went into their race runs well prepared and  this showed with some great results with all three of them on the podium at the end of the day!

Morgan – 3rd Youth

Ky – 5th Expert

Charlie – 1st Junior

The key now is to take away lessons from this weekend.  What could be done better?  Did the riders feel limited in any sense this weekend?  Has racing exposed any weaknesses in the riders or in my programming?  Can we further refine our race routine for each individual rider?

Massive thanks to the whole crew at Wideopenmag for helping to create a fun, friendly and winning atmosphere: Jamie and Dave running the team.  Drew and Ryan on the spanners.  Ian, Luke and Ryan on media duties.

Stay Strong

Ben

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

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

 

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