Is threshold race pace?

Hi all. I race mtbs and have noticed that my race pace is closely aligned with my threshold efforts. On the one hand, this has been good because I’ve gotten a lot stronger and I know I can hold this effort for the duration of the race. It’s mtbs, so there’s plenty that’s above threshold, but I’d say my climbing pace ends up being about there.

If I go above threshold for a short bit, no problem. But if I try to sustain it, I fall apart. My races are about an 1:15 mins. But when I’m done, I know I have more in the tank. That could be a function of short races, but could also mean I’m just not trying hard enough!


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Assuming you are relatively fit and accustomed to ‘threshold’ efforts, then 1:15 should be around threshold.

The tricky part here is what is threshold - I’m assuming you mean your average HR that you would normally see doing say 20-30 minute FTP intervals. With mtn biking, your HR will stay elevated even on the descents, so you likely will see an average HR around threshold if you are really pushing it for the duration of the race.

Edit: if you are referring to threshold average power, then you will likely not see a threshold average as there is a significant amount of non-pedaling. Your NP may approach threshold however.


Most of my XCO races are around 1.5 hrs. My NP is usually 50 watts below ftp, HR is usually right around 5 to 10 beats below “threshold” heart rate. Depending on the course there can be long sections where FTP power can push my pace much higher than I can handle a bike.

I am 80kgs with an ftp bang on 300 (from a legit 1 hour TT effort).

I haven’t recently managed my AI FTP threshold pace in a TT often its just more extreme than I want to go. So just now my race pace is below my threshold pace, perhaps that explains whilst I’m an OK tt’er I am not a winner :joy:

Thanks for the details!

I like “Intensity Factor” as a metric because it’s directly related to race type and duration, but doesn’t change based on FTP. It’s just NP / FTP.

So your intensity factor is .83, which seems about spot on for the recommendations for a race between 1 and 2 hours.

Power on a mountain bike is really tricky. Since there is a lot of coasting, I find average power and even normalized power is lower than the effort “feels.” That probably implies that you are above threshold a fair bit, but then coasting a lot, but not really getting the benefit of the coasting that the lower average power would suggest. It might be easier to use HR.

OP, you just need to pace your race better based on what you said.

You should hammer the first 10 minutes because mtb is a position race like CX (ie don’t get bottle necked behind the slow riders). Then you want to ride easy when you can and hard otherwise. For example, I’d tap out probably like 85% ftp as a cruising pace and go way above ftp to get over inclines, etc, and coast as much as possible (when maintaining speed). Then you empty the tank in the last 10-15min depending on if you attack or your position in the race.

I would not recommend trying to do a mtb race by trying to hold your ftp as if it’s a TT. You could win low level races that way but in higher level racing, it’s a super high power variability race. Most everyone would ‘feel like they fall apart’ doing that, as you described.


I know the threshold/tempo/aerobic threshold/anaerobic threshold are all different things to different people. But back in my college running days “threshold” was defined as the pace you could hold for one hour. Is that true for cycling as well?

And that’s an interesting point about MTB. When I first went from runner to MTBer the constant up, down, left, right reminded me more of interval training or weight room than going out for a run. I guess threshold training can work that speed endurance when it comes to racing but I’m guessing that needs to be done on the roads or trainer. No way can you get a smooth threshold on my local trails. As you said it’s either up or down.

Thanks for the ideas everyone! Yeah, I didn’t meant that I’d race like a TT, but I was more wondering how to the pace in between the punch sections should feel. I haven’t been feeling like I was working hard enough, but maybe I have been. Guess I’ll find out next race!