First year racing XCM - what can I aspire next?

Hi everyone,
It’s my first year racing XC, mainly marathon (I did 8 races this season around 60k, 2000+ m). I’m training up to 15 hours a week followed by a coach, getting closer to 5w/kg (never achieved a PR during a race) but also improving other aspects of the performance.
Where I race, pros and ex pros compete with all kind of amateur. This makes really hard to achieve a good result. The time differential compared to the first is usually 50min-1h+ and I usually place in the low mid competing with all kind of people. I’m 29 with some good physical characteristic but I often see people almost twice my age and fittest than ever.

What can I realistically achieve next year?
What can I really do to improve taking into account that I’m already dedicated to training?
Anyone has any similar experiece? I’m struggling to find a silver lining


I just finished the Mohican 100k this past weekend. Which was 62 miles with 8,795 feet of climbing. Look at the age of the top 20.

Other than the the 17yo, the average age for the top 20 was 41yo.

Racing XCM fitness is only part of the equation. It also encompasses pacing, conserving energy, nutrition, hydration and bike handling. These are skills that generally take many years of trial and error. This is why I believe you tend to see older athletes doing well.

It appears you have the fitness and dedication to do well. Just keep consistent and dial in those other aspects of XCM. Year over year you should expect improvements relative to yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others.


[quote=“MI-XC, post:2, topic:72849”]
pacing, conserving energy, nutrition, hydration and bike handling

Since I’m working on fitness like everyone else, where do I start for the other skills?

I mean:

  • pacing , I’ve no idea how to plan a race. I try to spend most of my time at threshold while ascending. On easy downhills I’m recovery at the highest speed possible. On trails, I usually push if I am the first of the group otherwise, I maintain a “safety distance”. Any suggestion on how to plan race based on the gpx track?

  • conserving energy , this is the hardest. These races start hard (very high NP for the first hour). After one hour the race divides in smaller groups. Here, I try to keep up. I know, it’s a poor strategy. Any suggestion?

  • nutrition , I’ve an easy scheme for this, one bar and one gel each hour until the last hour where I have only gels. I do not cover the entire work with the kcal from gels and bars. Usually, I cannot even follow my plan;

  • hydration , before 750ml, during 750 ml trying to refill whenever possible. I’m always struggle with water. I should drink 750ml per hour during races from my calculation. I end up drinking too much at refill stop (there are two of them usually) because my bottle is always empty;

  • bike handling , working on it. Not bad on trails, slow on very fast gravel descends where is harder to find the grip

Honestly, nobody can tell you. 5-10% gain would be my guess as it sounds like you already have things pretty dialed in and have a coach.

I raced for 6 or 7 years when I was in my twenties. I finally threw in the towel because I was spending 20-25 hours per week (on top of working full time) to race and train and travel around. I had no other life.

Do it because you love the process and are making good friends.

That said, I did improve year over year for 5 years straight. You will get better and better.

I am going through a very similar situation to you

I started mountainbiking in Jan 2022 and am doing XCO and Short track style races on very very technical ‘natural trail’ courses here in Ireland. I am 4.5 wkg and am finishing middle of the pack.

I suppose the silver lining is that I am having a lot of fun! And I am progressing my skills relatively quickly so its exciting to see quick change. I have stopped training since the race season started, my FTP has dropped a little but my focus is on-the-bike skills and having fun so that I can remain consistent after the season is over in July.