Zone distribution - MTB/XC-racing

Hey everyone!

So I’ve gone through the latest of my races and something has struck me. I’m spending a lot of time in Z7 (anaerobically) when racing. I can’t really wrap my head around if it’s because of bad technique or just my inclination towards having more Type II muscle fibers. I’m guessing that Type II are prominent because my preference of extremely punchy XC-courses.

I’ve been focusing more towards General Build now to up my sustained efforts-game but I’d still like to know if others are experiencing the same in MTB-races and if I should consider planning my workouts in a certain way. I’ve almost completed General Build Low Volume to which I add a race on Sunday or a long distance workout in the lower zones to not loose to much technique over winter.

I’ve added screenshots from my latest 5 races varying from 1-2hrs in length but the zone-distribution is the same for my marathon-races.

Fall_race Vinter_cup%233


@Jonathan has gone into this more than once I’m sure. Maybe this ep?

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This distribution is very typical for MTB racing, especially for shorter races (e.g. < 3hours). However, even in long events I have a lot of high-high-end effort. This is simply the character of the discipline and has nothing to do with bad form or so.

This was my season opener 1 week ago. 2 hours race, not overly technical:

(I use a different zoning model but the basic pattern is the same)



and even science can contribute:

Table 2


Hey sryke! Thanks for your response. In comparing to other racers I’ve viewed I’m way more in the high-end-zones than them. But they’re seasoned racers and I’m fairly new starting out cycling 2017 and started racing 2018. So that’s why I thought that it might be something in regards to me being “new”.

These are longer races, same here:

3 - 3,5h

Keeping momentum better in turns means less need to accelerate hard out of a turn. Improved cornering technique helps keep your speed.

Similar on dips and rollers - keep pedaling on the short downhills to build up momentum for the uphills so you don’t have to push as hard on the uphills. This means a lot of gear changing - it can be tempting after climbing a roller to leave the bike in the same gear, coast down the back side, and then start pedaling when you hit the next uphill. Shift into a tougher gear and pedal down the back side instead. May mean shifting 5+ cassette sprockets, but get used to it.


All valid points! I feel that it’s not the turns/upphills/downhills that cause the most spikes but rather technical terrain where roots, rocks and such come in to play and I guess there’s no real avoiding that because bunny hopping around an entire singletrack just isn’t a viable option.

It is also a function of your size (mass) and available power (FTP). For a given climb or technical section requiring power to cover it at the same speed, if you are light rider at 64 kg with a 400W FTP then you will need less power and the “zone” of that power will be lower than say for me at 86 kg and a 231W FTP. Said another way, what is tempo for thee is neuromuscular for me.

here’s a screen shot of a pro mtb rider, Jeremiah Bishop’s power distribution from a 100 mile race with very punchy climbs. His endurance/all-day power is what some us aspire to as an FTP. :slight_smile:
His combination of power to weight and technical skill lets him use less relative effort than larger riders.

As you build your endurance base and get stronger and more skilled your distribution will shift but the important thing is to fun racing! Good luck.

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This is why i still do short power build for xc racing. I know @Bryce mentions using short power if you are an animator or trying to ride really aggressive, but i think it really matters most where you live and what kind of trails you are riding.

Hopefully some of the TR users who raced at Bonelli park last weekend will post up some of their files to share. When I’m not doing a triathlon, a 60-90 minute effort has me going about 20-25% anaerobic, but I’ll drop that down a bit when it’s an xterra leg, going 10-15% anaerobic.

I should add… it looks like the profile/style of XC trails where I live are similar to that of Bonelli, maybe only 100-200 feet climbs, but a fair amount of them… and pretty steep.


I’ll post my distributions from Bonelli later today


True. To more accurately interpret your power distribution, you’d need to be able to compare vs an experienced riders’s power distribution for the same course.

17% of time anaerobic seems a little more than just roots and rocks? Did you have to do much passing? That could also be a factor.

Strava zone-distributions look somewhat different for me though. I’m guessing they do other calculations than Garmin and Trainerroad.

Here are a couple of screens from our reigning XCM/XCO national champion. Z1-8 but the idea is the same though.

These are from XCM-races

Li_2 Lind

Here are the zone distributions from the latest race. I’m first then a racer which has about 9 years experience and usually places in top 3. He did one more lap than me but since it was a short course we did lap around the same number of people.


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Ever get the chance to follow a rider like that on a training lap? That might give some clues.

Here’s my data from Bonelli, 4th place Cat 1 30-39. In the mix but well off the pace of top speed. In the 19-39 range, all the top guys were going in the 1:27ish range, I was 1:32. Also, I unfortunately stopped my Garmin for 4.5 minutes but you can see most of the data…22min in Z7, yeah it hurt.


Yeah this particular rider is one of my friends so we ride together all the time. The biggest difference is that he sits a lot more than me and focuses on conserving energy a lot more than me. Thing is that I’m almost as fast as him on punchy/technical tracks despite about 70W difference in FTP whereas he’d out ride me on any climb longer than 2-3 mins.

I got 4th at Bonelli in Cat 2 (30-39). My first lap was solid and was in a really good position until I crashed at the end of the first lap, which threw me off slightly and is evident in the drop off in the upper zones for laps 2 and 3. I also have way too much coasting.

First lap:

Second lap:

Third lap:

Full race:


Thanks a lot for sharing! What is your average cadence for this race?

  1. First two laps were 94 and last lap was 89.