Short Power vs General Build for XCO

Hi there. I’m nearing the completion of SSB 1 & 2 HV and I’m not sure which of the Build plans to move to . I focus exclusively on MTB XCO races, first time using TR or any structured training, hoping to move up to the top local category this season. So far the results during Base have been great!

There seems to be conflicting information about Short Power and General Build in regards to XCO:

This blog post suggest General Build for XCO:

…While the App and a few other spots in the TR ecosystem suggest Short Power Build??

I get that the “surginess” of XCO is unique, but I can’t help think the General Build will help me keep that power down for longer durations.

Any tips or insights would be appreciated!

General Build is more applicable to XCO. I used it for 2018 XC race season and have it lined up for 2019 as well. Follow that with the Specialty Cross County Olympic to end mid to late race season, assuming you don’t have an “A” race, but rather each race has equal importance. Then mix in Specialty weeks to extend your peak fitness.

If you have an “A” race you want to peak for, adjust your training calendar to have your Specialty to end on your “A” race week.


Yep, MI-XC is spot on :+1:

General Build will be the best choice for most XCO racers. May I ask where in the app you felt that Short Power build was suggested?

Edit: See my post below

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From the description of Short Power Build training plan:

“…nearly all forms of mountain bike and track riders will be well served by the Short Power Build.”

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Thanks all. General Build it is!

@Bryce: The post above mentions what I was referring to. It might have come up a few time in my search through the old blog posts as well?

I am training for XCO and CX, both 1 hour races - on the basis of info provided here under short power I was aiming for that.

Have not looked into the specific workouts in each but should I be going General Build?

For what it’s worth I’ve always interpreted too based on the plan descriptions that short power build was for XCO. Might be worth considering if others have as well to see if it’s worth revising and making more clear.

I’ve always gone with General Build though because there’s only two XC races locally that would truly fit that short power and everything else is a good mix.

General Build is on point, but keep in mind XCO means different things in different places depending on terrain. So pick based on that versus just that it’s XCO.

XCO for me would be everything from an actual Olympic course with mixed length climbs to some mostly flat courses with very short bursts.

The CX stuff isn’t hugely different.

I never appreciated short track XC was 20 mind races and everything I would do is 60. That alone steering me to general now.

Where do you live? That will better define your plan.

I was discussing this with a pretty high level cyclist recently, who basically said that a few years ago he was very “trainer” fit, meaning he had very good steady state power, high FTP, etc… But that it didn’t really prepare him for offroad riding, which is not steady in the slightest. Only when you are doing fireroad climbs as a regular part of your courses will you be putting out steady power. I don’t have any MTB power files where there is any sort of consistent high measurement above 3-4 minutes, mostly a lot of 30 seconds spikes in the anaerobic range.

If doing a true UCI style XCO event, short power is probably better, since the climbs are all less than 5 minutes, and closer to 2-3 minutes. I feel that the Pierce, whiteface, mitchell workouts in short power are more appropriate than fang mountain, carpathian peak, avalanche spire over unders. In off road riding, the overs are way over FTP, at least on single/double track

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I’d have to disagree, I think O/U are the entirety of a XCO race. Basically the entire race is at just below threshold (SS) with spikes (starts/climbs/attacks) above threshold and then less often into VO2 max. Rinse and repeat. The short “rests” are the intermixed downhills followed by more O/U efforts. That is the case for racing in Michigan’s rolling hills where a long climb (far and few between) is 3-4 mins.

I guess here is where location matters, or you’re 100x smoother than me. From one of my favorite XCO races last year:

and a zoomed portion of one of the climbs:

Do you have power numbers to confirm?

Here’s an example of an 11 minute “climb” on a local racecourse… that isn’t even single track, but double track albeit the kind with babyheads and some chunky parts.

The plan descriptions absolutely describe Short Power as best for Mountain Bike / XCO (quoted above), Bryce’s comment surprised me a bit… almost as if it wasn’t suggested anywhere that Short Power is good for MTB?

Jonathan discusses short power often on the podcast related to his MTB endeavors, but I think he usually does a good job about reminding listeners to choose the plan that closely matches the courses you race on, or at least your A-race assuming you have one.

Last year I did general build, the year before I did short power, and likely this year I’ll also be doing short power in prep for XCO. I certainly have some room to be “better” with being consistent on holding down steady power, but in the rocky/rooty new england courses I’m on, it’s always a lot of repeated anaerobic efforts for me.

No unfortunately I don’t, but this race season I will so I guess I’ll be in a better position to make that judgment.

Huh, I’ve read all the TR descriptions and I’ve listened to all the podcasts and I’ve always got the impression that General Build was a better way to go for MTB XCO. That being said, maybe looking as “fresh eyes” and a new user it looks different.

First thing I noticed when analyzing my off road files was that the averages will be low, and NP still low compared to HR. As I posted above, there are no PB’s in power compared to just about anything on the road or gravel for me, but percentage of time above a certain threshold is almost always higher offroad. In another race file, I had to hold above 350 (anaerobic for my FTP at the time) for 15 seconds or more 20 times in a 56 minute segment (xterra bike segments will be a little shorter than XC race).

When I first started trainerroad, the descriptions I read seemed to suggest that short power build was ideal for most off-road events, except for XC marathon.

Hey All,

Let me see if I can clear this up. Sorry for the confusion, it seems that for whatever reason this topic was a bit of a blind spot for me, so I’ve dug a deeper to come up with a conclusive answer for you guys.

Cases where Short Power Build is a Better Choice:

  • If you are racing something like a UCI-style XC Olympic Race
  • If you plan to race aggressively and dynamically with short punches. You consider yourself an “animator”.
  • You know your body responds well to this type of training

Cases where General Build is a Better Choice:

  • If you are racing something with more sustained features (long climbs or very flat)
  • If you plan to race in a very sustained manner. This type of racer tends to be less active and more reactive
  • You know your body responds well to a sustained approach to training

Again, I’m sorry for any confusion I’ve caused here, let me know if you have any further questions :slight_smile:


Thanks @Bryce, that clears it up perfectly.


Yeah that is great actually. Short power all the way. Key thing for me there is that is what I used to do a couple of years back pre-TR and my body did respond very well.

Thanks @Bryce for the clarification :ok_hand:

Hey mountain bike focused people:

Assuming y’all ride outside on Sat/Sun and hit the trails, and if following TR plans where the weekends typically have the longer more SST/Threshold rides and shorter stuff Tues/Thurs, are y’all getting enough time at SST/FTP to generate long ride durability?

I’ve been noodling on how to plan the next 12 weeks and was building out the standard VO2-Tuesdays and over/under Thursdays which is my habit. But since I typically ride trails sat and sunday, and those rides have a bunch of short term efforts, was re-thinking about using my weekday trainer rides to focus more on durability and hope to get enough 1-3 min work during the trail rides to keep those systems topped up.

Reacting to a review of last season where I did a Short Power Build and had nice results, moving my 1-5 min power numbers close to historic highs. But I felt less durable on long rides. Was cleaning harder and steeper terrain but then needing to recover more than in past years.

Looking to strike a balance and curious what has worked for others.



p.s. I’m defining long as 3 hours +/- on trails. Not 100 miler stuff.