In 2014, enduro racing established itself as the newest and most exciting form of mountain biking yet. The Enduro World Series attracted professional riders from the cross country, downhill and cyclocross worlds to compete alongside established enduro racers in seven races stretching across the globe. Here, we look at what the pro’s are doing in training, how it applies to racing, and what aspiring enduro racers can do to improve in 2015.
Enduro combines the skill and technique of downhill, powerful sprinting normally seen in the velodrome, and amazing endurance matching the top cross-country racers. The athletes at the top of the sport in 2014 are some of the most dedicated and hardest working professionals in cycling, and their success isn’t an accident.
It’s no surprise that Stages Cycling, a power meter manufacturer, is a sponsor of World Champion Jared Graves. Graves trains scientifically to ensure his training is appropriate to racing, and it can be measured and repeated. In a discipline where intervals are often short and fast, a power meter is much more useful than heart rate to measure your efforts.
Starting training in January is the only way to be in top form come May. Building your fitness gradually will prevent injury and give you plenty of time to enjoy riding trails in between training. In terms of fitness, there are three areas you need to focus on:
Graves won the EWS in 2014 after a training period that involved winning Elite XC races in Australia against some fierce competition. To compete at the top, pros are training longer and harder than before. The Whistler round of the EWS took in more than 7,500 feet (2,300 meters) of climbing in between an hour of brutal timed descents.
In order to have the fitness to compete over a full weekend of racing, base miles are a painful necessity. The easiest way to get that fitness is to jump on your XC bike: even three to four hours a week of steady, uninterrupted riding each week will increase your aerobic fitness.
For those not lucky enough to have dry trails in winter, don’t be afraid of the road bike. Motivate to ride now and you’ll be thankful in the middle of a transfer stage this summer. Getting fitter means you’re free to concentrate on racing during the race, rather than making the cut-off time.
Timed stages in enduro vary from five to 20 minutes long. Unlike just riding your local trails, winning an enduro means sprinting out of every corner for 20 minutes straight. This requires the starting power of a BMX rider, and the ability to keep riding smoothly when your heart is beating at warp speed.
Combining interval sessions into your week is the easiest way to gain that fitness. The dreaded “30/30’s” are the session of choice for the enduro racer. Find a gentle incline and get used to sprinting all out for 30 seconds followed by 30 seconds of rest.
Each timed descent in an enduro starts with a standing start so getting up to speed is critical. Practice standing starts in training is essential. Find a section of trail with lots of visibility, and practice your standing starts down the trail, just watch out for other users!
How many push ups can you do? Racing a 20-minute enduro stage is like doing push ups for 20 minutes, while trying to keep your bike on the trail and your legs turning too. Strength training during the spring will give huge returns in the summer.
Put a core workout into your training plan: sprinting out of the saddle is only efficient if you can hold that position for the whole race. Planks, burpees and crunches can be done in front of the TV in 20 minutes. Time well spent. Try building up your number of push ups each week, and hit the gym for some weights too. High weight, low repetition lifts are the best way to build power. Be sure you get some instruction if you’ve never stepped beyond the treadmills before.
Succeeding at enduro is about so much more than bike handling skills. Following a training plan will allow you to enjoy each race without worrying about getting back to the top of the hill. Training starts now though. The race calendar is beginning to be published and you need to work backward to make sure you have enough time to get fit.