Suggest a good workout for XCO MTB race starts

Need to improve my jump off the line. Been racing for years, so I get the technique and all that, just more of a slow twitch kinda guy and generally have a slow jump. After the first initial minute I am fine, and generally don’t have a problem racing in that red zone and making spots back up to where I need to be. But it would be nice if I didn’t have to spend the first 10 minutes of each race clawing back tot the front and could save that energy.

Any recommended workouts? Simple as practicing 30-45 second jumps all out x 5 or so? What works for you?

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Maybe but in an ideal situation strength training comes first before you focus on practicing the neuromuscular aspect of sprinting. You will also need upper body strength to give your legs and core something to push up against. Have you seen this?

Already doing strength training…

Start with a good warm up and then perform some sprints, perhaps vary the length of them, say 10 - 20 seconds with about 30 seconds recovery, after the third sprint don’t recover but settle into a 15 minute sweetspot effort…see how that goes.

How does your race progress? Do you eventually catch the front?

Yes, usually catch the front of the race. But spend a bunch of energy passing 2-3 guys who aren’t able to catch the front of the race and start letting gaps open. Was 2nd place in my last 2 races, would just like to not have to spend the extra energy in the first lap to catch up. Just wondering if anyone who doesn’t have a great jump like me has had some success improving with specific workouts.

Richardson +2, Xalibu +2 and Xalibu would be my suggestions. They require you to work hard.

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Yes. Simple as that. 3-6 x 20 seconds flat out like you would start a race. FULL recovery is key. At least 4 minutes of noodling between starts. Move on when you feel yourself getting sloppy/weak before the 20 seconds is up. You can do this twice a week before your usual workout.

Look at the cyclocross plans. They have some good starters in there, the hole shot is pretty important in CX as in XCO


I think you want something like Megantic +3.

Megantic +3 is 5x5-minute race-like efforts beginning with a 30-second surge at 150% FTP and closely followed by 4 minutes of repeats where you’re either working at 125% or “floating” at 88% FTP.

I’d also practice starts outside with a focus on mechanics: getting in the right gear, butt on saddle, getting your other foot clipped in on the first stroke, and surging for a short distance.

Also, what kind of warmup are you doing? Everyone is different, but I know I need a good 20-30 minutes of spinning with some faster cadence efforts before most races.

How are your local XCO races, do they drop immediately into single track? Typically, and in my case, races have a generous start before it narrows into single file after 0:30 - 1:00. Also, if you pre-ride the course, is there a spot in the first 5 mins that would make a great place to pass? I’d look for those places on the course. Though I don’t have your issue as I come from a long history of strength training and explosive power (Olympic lifts), the following workouts are great: Xalibu, Richardson, Chimney, Owl +5 and Priest +4.

Also consider if mentally you are governed. Sure, someone may have a bigger initial snap, but what about your 20 sec, 30 sec or 1 min power? Can you not get around those few guys that get in front of you initially but then hold you back. Are you holding back your power because you are in fear of going too hard too soon or blowing up? What happens if your rip your face off for 20+ seconds, it may be worth trying (even if you fail) if your current tactic is not working.

Also consider if you actually need a new tactic. You are making it back to the front pack in relative short time (10 mins), so why do you feel like you need to be there immediately? You are racing to your strengths of being patient and possibly this may be your best tactic. 10 mins is about 10% of the overall race, so I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

Those front guys are not saving energy, they put out a big effort to get and stay up front. It’s a common feeling that you’re the only one suffering or expending energy, but that’s just not the case. I’ve been in the front and leading all this race season, however I’m only willing to go so deep. If guys want to bury themselves at the beginning to get in front of me I let them, because I know this won’t decide the race. I think being confident in your abilities to eventually move to the front is key. You can’t win the race off the start, but you can lose it if you blow up.

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To that I would say if you’re (@konass) following the XC plan, you should have some pretty good ideas on some workouts. Those race-start will let you know where you stand, but doing some 30s to 1 min all out efforts with complete recovery in between might be something for you to focus on for 2-3 weeks. Don’t try to really even pace them that much, but go all out to really stress your anaerobic system.