Too soon for build phase?

As I’ve said before, I’m new to structured training, so I apologize for all the questions. Just looking for Some guidance.

I’m in week 5 of ssb mid volume 2. Next week (6) will be my easy/recovery week. I then plan to jump right into general build mid volume for 8 weeks. Followed by Olympic cross country mid volume for another 8 weeks. This has me finishing everything up in the second week or April. My first xc race is scheduled for April 19.

So my question is, do I want to be completely done my program right at the start of the season? Or am I better off finishing the build phase around the start of the season and then doing the specialty phase throughout the early parts of the season?

I’m also wondering if I do push everything back, should I redo the ramp test after the current base phase is over and then do another six weeks of ssb mid volume 2 at my new ftp?

I guess I’m afraid if I follow my current schedule and finish the specialty phase at the start of the season, then I’ll be peaking too early in the season and risk potentially burning out midway through.

Like most of us that want every race to be an A race, you really just have to decide at what point in the season you want to peak. If you’re concerned about peaking later in the year, versus your current trajectory I would recommend going back to SSB1 or 2, yes re-test, there’s little point in doing that if you haven’t seen an FTP improvement, and you’ll want to tax yourself in new (higher ftp, or different energy systems) ways. Try the Plan Builder. I didn’t love what it spit out for me but it at least will get you close.

Some basics, learn what a good A race taper week looks like (last week in specialty plans), and know that it will take a minimum of 8 weeks to peak for another A race after your first. If your race schedule has a lot of back to back racing every week, you’re then in more of a maintenance phase during the week and can pluck out workouts from the specialty phase that you feel are limiters. If you have weeks in between racing, your strategy will depend on how long the gap is. You can’t ride a fitness peak for too long, hence the need to go back to a build phase.

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All of this, right here, is what I need to figure out.
I plan to compete in the local xc series again this year but I have to move up (mandatory) to cat 1 due to last years results. So I’m really unsure where I’d want to be to start the season. I have no idea what a taper week looks like or how to do it. I only have a handful of races that I REALLY want to do. I guess they would be my A races. Now talking about peaking for one and then training in between, that’s a whole new ball game for me. There will be races mostly every weekend with a few breaks here and there. Then throw in training crits every Thursday and the occasional century ride when there is no race weekend.

I just know that, in 2019, I basically rode hard just about every ride, except for a few social rides here and there. And by August I started to see somewhat of a decline in my performance. I didn’t start gaining fitness again until I started trainerRoad five weeks ago and I’m already feeling better and seeing gains. I don’t want this to happen again this year. I also went from doing 2,000 miles in 2018 to doing 5,000 miles in 2019. I’m guessing adding that much mileage in one year took its toll on my body as well.

Yesterday I had lamarck. In the footnotes it said that the workout would be a good test of my ftp and would tell me where I’m at whether the workout be too hard or too easy. Typically those workouts are hard for me, but yesterday was very manageable for me so I’m looking forward to doing a ramp test at the end of this base phase. I’m thinking 6 more weeks of base wouldn’t be a bad thing at a higher ftp

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I think the general wisdom is that you can hold a peak for, at most, about a month. If you want to ride a peak through the season, you may not want to finish specialty at the start of a season. Having said that, you probably have a few options.

  1. Finish SSB, do General Build and then reevaluate. What are your weaknesses/limiters? If you find VO2 is holding you back, put in a 2-3 week tuneup focusing on VO2. (Good guidance can be found here: Progression workouts) If it’s sustained power, tune that up (perhaps borrow a week or two from sustained power build or a later SSB II block). Then do specialty phase from there, which would likely have you peaking a few weeks into the season, which you can then carry through for a month.

  2. After build, move back to redo SSBII at your new FTP. SSB II has good VO2 work to keep you sharp there and will expand your base further at a higher FTP. Then move on to specialty as the season begins (maybe do LV to account for TSS/fatigue from races). Put in tapers as needed to prep for A/B events. If you have a key A event, you can chop/drop parts of SSBII to carry you into those events at a specialty peak (end of week 4 and 8).

  3. Give the new plan builder a go. I haven’t looked at it much, but it seems to me a pretty great solution. Add in your events you’re targeting and see what the @chad brain builds to give you the best fitness for those events.

As for what a taper should look like, you want to keep the intensity but drop the volume way down. Basically the 30-45 minute versions of the workouts you’re doing during the phase. For XC, it’s probably a focus on bursts and VO2 efforts.

To avoid burnout, you may want to put in a week of “nothing” here and there. I like putting in a week of only workouts I enjoy, or cut everything way back with the minus versions, and/or go out for a ride with the only goal to have fun or try out a new route (knowing I’ll go slow, get lost, grab a coffee/beer whenever I feel like, etc). Mentally it’s a reset and I come out of them ready to get out and smash the next few weeks. I try and put them in about every six weeks (between SSBI and SSBII this year I went bikepacking for a long weekend and came back wanting to get back to it.)

Sorry for the tome, but hope it helps.


That’s pretty common and it happened to me last year as well, I actually dropped fitness right in time for my A event in late July. This was after a build and specialty phase, (I skipped base altogether and that’s a whole other topic, obviously a misstep) and after a work trip that only allowed a few social rides I lost the motivation for structured work, at least indoors. I was really enjoying the buzz from heightened fitness so I was just riding my mountain bike, trainer workouts were secondary.

After my first fitness drop I made a concerted effort to get back on track and decided on another round of build and specialty phase to peak again in early November, after lessons learned the first go around. I had a good secondary A race and was able meet most of my process goals and walked away with a podium as well.

So much low hanging fruit here (to quote coach Chad) to improve on. It’s common that we begin the season mentally fresh so we push too hard too soon. In my case I didn’t even have a solid base to work on, so all that high end, I think it goes away even faster. Couple that with a complicated racing schedule (I’m like you, I like racing XC and it’s hard to pick when to peak), life challenges, and the desire to ride for fun - it’s a tough balancing act.

What was a tough pill to swallow was that I had a higher FTP in 2015 when I was actually just riding a lot, zero structure. I had one of my best race results ever, I was flying. So, fast fwd to last year when I worked hard all winter indoors and saw a drop in performance - TBH I almost gave up on workouts and TR altogether, but I looked at my actions and decided that I would stick with it for at least one year - to grow on what I learned from my first full season of structure (even though I had plenty of mistakes).

So, let this year be a season of learning for you. Try to take some of the pressure off and enjoy the process. Listen to your body and skip a workout if you need to, but be accountable at the same time. Realize that most out door rides don’t tend to serve our fitness but they are needed mentally and to prepare our skills for mountain biking. Don’t let one or two bad days detract from the big picture. Dig into the information loaded in this forum and subscribe to the podcast.

Good luck!

Many of us have seen something new in TR’s approach as we experiment with the Plan Builder. Plans have us going SSB, Build, SSB, specialty.

As one who trains for an entire season as well, decide when you want to peak. Typically you want to continue to improve through the season, as your competitors will do that as well. Going back to another round of SSB then build will get you rolling hard by your first race. You can race off a build cycle.

If you have a long period between races, you can peak (specialty) then rebuild and specialty again. Our XC season is not like that.

Have you tried the beta Plan Builder? See what it gives you.

BTW, where are you with a race in April? The midwest does not have anything that early.

I’m in Pennsylvania. The last two years our April race has been 70 degrees and sunny. It’s the first xc race of the season and a very smooth fast course. By far this event gets the most participation as well.

Here is what our schedule looks like…

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My plan is to do more crits as well this year. I don’t plan on racing every cat 1 xc race this year. Last year I did just about every xc race on the schedule. I finished second in 6 races, 1st in one, and 3rd place in a couple others, and second overall for the season behind a super strong competitor, who is also moving up to cat 1. Doing just about every race is very demanding with 3 kids under 6 years old and a wife who works saturdays. I even hired babysitters so I could race on saturdays while my wife worked.

I’m going to see what the plan builder works up for me, sounds interesting!

That is an impressive race schedule. I don’t think I could do that and I just have one kid and a working wife. I did 5 xterra tris last year and a couple of XC races and was absolutely fried by October.

Put your A races in before you do the plan builder. See what it does. Then put in the B races. See what happens.

they nailed it that you really want to figure out what your A race is for Apr-June, and go from there. You don’t need to be RIPPING for the first race on april 19, but if there’s that race and then like 3 more, it might be a good cluster to hit. If it’s just that one, use it as training and push back your planned peak.

Re: another 8 weeks to peak, it doesn’t mean you’ll only get one big race from the legs and then you’re toast. The taper will have you rested but you should be flying for 1-2 weeks after that race also if you play it right (keep intensity up and volume in the middle), so sometimes it’s best to plan a peak for a cluster vs just one race.

and last thing…spring races…does a lot for the mental game if you get on the podium…so might want to ask yourself, if the first race has others around it, how good would you feel to get a W and roll into the next few with that monkey off your back.

lots of ways to play this one! best of luck!


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So I did the plan builder. I’m Now in my recovery week from my first round of ssb mid volume 2. Plan build has me starting next week in this order:
Ssb mid volume 2
A race
Recover week
A race.

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