XC MTB target race focus

I’m wondering what I should put as my target focus for an event next month (it’s actually the second of 2 A races, I just completed the first one today)? It’s a 90 min XC MTB event on a 3km circuit, only 55m of elevation in total in each lap but they’re all short punchy climbs and twisty technical downhills without much respite and lots of accelerating out of turns.

I’ve set my training over the winter to target GC specialist as I figured that was a good all round option for XC MTB. Previous races at the same location on similar terrain have given me a focus of mixed sprint time triallist, but I only have HR derived data so I’m wondering if I should shorten the focus for training for the next race, given that the climbs are short and punchy?

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Hi @Legolam , good question!

Both of these sound to me like you would be well-served by working on your HIE, since HIE is going to increase your short/punchy power and your ability to accelerate hard out of turns.

IMO, I’d consider selecting something with a lower focus duration, say Mixed Breakaway Specialist (5min power). Have you tried using Xert Forecast AI yet?

Hi Scott, thanks for your reply.

Yes, I’ve been using Xert since Jan 2023 and doing the AI training since Jan 2024, on a GC specialist focus. Since Jan 2024, I’ve had around a 20W rise in TP, which I was pretty happy with.

And I definitely felt like I had more in the tank to respond in the race yesterday compared to last year’s event. Last year, I was on my limit for the whole race and was pretty much dead at the end. This year, my lap times were more consistent and I even managed to catch and pass a rider on the final lap with a burst up the main climb.

However, I still feel like I’m lacking some resilience/repeatability and fading towards the end of the race and wondering if a shorter focus will help with that?

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I’m no expert, but I think that is simply a lack of endurance. I also mtb and one of my loops has three big hills and when my endurance is lowish I can get a breakthrough on the first climb but not the others, when it is good I can often get breakthroughs on the first two hills. But when I’m flying I can (not always) get breakthroughs on all three due to my durability/resilience being high and I can repeat the efforts. I generally need a TL of 95-110 for that. I’m currently at a TL of 87 so only breakthroughs on the first and sometimes second climb and occasionally don’t clear the last one (relentlessly steep and rocky).


I think @dreednya 's analysis is spot on here! :slight_smile:

The term ‘durability’ is becoming more &more common in the cycling world. I would argue that - at a very basic level - that your durability will increase directly with your training load. In other words, as an athlete progresses from 2-stars to 3- or 4-stars in Xert, not only do we expect their fitness signature to increase, but they’re also more able to handle the strain (e.g. XSS) of longer races/activities.

In fact, this idea is encapsulated in the ‘Event Readiness’ value for the new Forecast AI training programs. A better (lower) readiness score also indicates higher ‘durability’.

I’ve been Xert’ing for a couple of years and I always thought you to use “Power Sprinter” for mountain biking. Most xc/enduro/downhill type races are just 10-20 second sprints out of corners/over obstacles, etc… over and over and over (repeatability) - so I usually did tabata’s 20/10 on/off type workouts. Basically do tabata type workouts, focusing on max power you can repeat for as long as possible which I thought was the Power Sprinter setting. YMMV

Thanks all, lots of food for thought. I agree that my repeatability/durability is poor due to my low training load - my time to train is severely limited by my job and kids so, although I’m trying to improve this, there are only so many hours in the day!

I’ve belatedly realised that I can download Sauce For Strava and get a FIT file from a competitor’s race to see what kind of athlete type it was from her power data. For this race, it was a mixed puncheur (mixed pursuiter on the first lap!) so I think I’m going to aim for that type of preparation and see how I get on.

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Hi Lego, as a fellow mountain biker please update this post after your race and share your thoughts. I can confirm with you that my races fall into ‘pursuiter’ when I am looking at the post race numbers on xert. When I look at some of the race segments on course they all seem to fall into that 10-20 second power ‘on’ followed by 10 seconds ‘off’ coming into the next turn. It’s also course specific. I’m in North Texas and it’s all mostly flat super twisty constant in and out of corners whereas if I go to Arkansas the courses feel a lot more open and thresholdy (new word people) - almost like a group road ride. I’ve always kind of wonderer if doing a pursuiter block would be better. Same thing for cyclocross and enduro. It felt like the same training. Good luck!