Speciality plan for long distance MTB

My primary “A” event for next year just happens to coincide with the end of the full Base, Build, Speciality cycle. It’s a multi-day MTB ITT, effectively a single stage as the clock doesn’t stop until you finish and involves 16-20hrs riding a day for four days or more. You are self-supported so it’s up to you how much you ride in any given day, where to resupply, eat, sleep, etc. Think along the lines of the Arizona Trail or Colorado Trail races.

The terrain varies from road (pavement) to dirt track, to technical singletrack to unrideable hike-a-bike. Climbs are typical MTB so can be anything from long steady drags that take 90 minutes to short steep inclines that require punch and everything inbetween. Obviously riding for that length of time the intensity is fairly low, probably in the 1-1.5W/kg range, but that’s interspersed with threshold levels of effort when faced with some of the climbs - crossing a stream (creek) then getting up a 30% grade on the far bank takes some doing.

One problem on these rides is that I tend to get cramps around ten hours in to the first day but then don’t get them again for the remaining days. No idea why, my pace on subsequent days is similar to the first day, it may be that the threshold efforts through the day are building up and setting things off.

I’m currently doing SSB LV, will be moving onto General Build low volume but I’m undecided as to which speciality plan to do. The obvious plan would be the Cross Country Marathon but I’m also considering the Cyclocross plan as that would give me more “top end” power and potentially help stave off the cramps. There’s workouts in both that look “interesting” in the sense that the efforts look similar to what I’d experience in the event. I’m doing the low volume plans as that gives me time at the weekend to do outdoor rides/skills sessions without either impacting too much on the other.

Any thoughts or recommendations?

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I’d recommend XCM Marathon which has a nice blend of short sharp efforts and sustained. In addition, I’d add in some regular steep hikes or stairs work to prepare you for hike-a-bikes. Hike-a-bikes target your muscles drastically different than cycling and if your legs aren’t used to that it could be a cause for cramps. Then of course I’d throw in some long efforts on the weekend that have you cycling and hiking your bike. Probably even back to back long efforts while still being careful not to destroy yourself and negatively effect training. Maybe good to do these long efforts right before a recovery week so it doesn’t effect the following workouts.


Ta. Prior to focusing on biking I did a lot of fell running (mountain running) so I can revisit that for some cross training.

There’s also a few loops locally that have push/hike-a-bike sections so those will be worth targeting.

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