“I wanted to quit. Every part of me hurt, but I knew how hard I could go and that I didn’t have to quit. I could do it,” is how Chad Bakken, the full-time CFO and family man, described his final minutes of last year’s Leadville 100.

As Bakken crossed the finish line, tears streamed down his face. He finally achieved his goal. For any rider who has signed up to race Leadville, that’s the feeling you want as you finish. Yes, you may feel completely beaten up and exhausted, but the last thing you want to feel is disappointed. Leading up to his second Leadville race, Bakken trained harder and smarter to make sure of that.

Sub 9 was Bakken’s goal. His previous year’s time was 9:34. After training for five months with a properly structured TrainerRoad training plan, he more than accomplished his goal. His final time for his second Leadville attempt was 8:46. “People were commenting in the race, ‘holy cow, you’re really strong,’” Bakken recalled. This didn’t surprise him much.

“I’ve trained for 21 weeks with structure and I’ve suffered every single time. I can do this,” are the thoughts that kept his confidence high. Through every difficult climb and moment his mind wanted to quit but his body wouldn’t let him, Bakken reminded himself of his training.


If there’s one thing Bakken learned during his most recent preparation for Leadville, it’s that trusting and sticking to your training plan is key. In his lead up to his first Leadville race, he didn’t set aside the time he needed to train. What’s more, the expert he paid to help him train was inconsistent at delivering his workouts. It was not a surprise when disappointing race results followed.

For his second year training for Leadville, Bakken took a different approach. With his sub 9 goal in mind, he decided to take things into his own hands and use TrainerRoad. Here’s the exact training plan he followed to prepare for his Leadville PR.

Recommended Leadville 100 MTB Training Plan

Base Phase: Sweet Spot Base (12 weeks)

When preparing for ultra-endurance events like Leadville, establishing a solid base of fitness is paramount — that’s exactly what the Sweet Spot Base plan will help you do. Taking such a disciplined and long-term approach to your training can be tough to stick to, but taking the time to develop your aerobic fitness will pay dividends when it matters most, on race day.

Build Phase: Sustained Power Build (8 weeks)

Leadville is unique in the sense that it is completed on mountain bikes but it more closely resembles a road race in many ways. Unlike a traditional cross-country mountain bike race, the sustained flats and climbs of the course require you to put out high amounts of power for long durations.

Since this is a build phase, your training will focus specifically on raising your FTP. The intervals in this training phase will have you putting out efforts at or around threshold for extended periods of time, effectively raising your FTP and strength endurance.

Specialty Phase: Cross-Country Marathon (8 weeks)

While Leadville may be an unorthodox mountain bike race, it is still very much a mountain bike race. The Cross-Country Marathon specialty plan is a great choice for this event. It will give you the intensity you need for mountain bike racing without sacrificing the aerobic endurance required by such a long race.

When Should I Start Training for Leadville 100 MTB?


If you want to follow this recommended training plan to a tee, you should start your training for Leadville (this year’s event date is August 11th, 2018) on January 30th, 2018. However, if you want to build in a couple recovery or contingency weeks, which we recommend, you should start your training on January 16th.

Have more questions about training for Leadville? Feel free to leave them below.

* Editor’s note: This post was last edited on January 17th, 2018 to reflect Leadville’s 2018 race date. 

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Jonathan Lee

Jonathan Lee is a Level II USA certified cycling coach and the host of the Ask a Cycling Coach podcast. His background in the sport of motocross has translated into a passion for cycling, mountain biking and all things training. If you have a training question, submit your question for Jonathan to answer on the next episode of TrainerRoad’s podcast.