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Repeatable 2-Week Taper Program for your A-priority MTB XCO race(s) - (Power-Based)

Includes Structured Workouts

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Tom Bell

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2 Weeks

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Includes Structured Workouts

Structured Workouts automatically sync with compatible devices and guide you through workouts in real time.

Learn More about Structured Workouts.

Plan Description


This MTB plan is designed specifically for XCO athletes to taper for an A-priority XCO race.


Tapering is a reduction in training load to allow recovery and super-compensation from previous higher-load training and thus a decrease in fatigue and an increase in form. The taper needs to be balanced so as not to result in too much fitness loss [1].

Numerous studies, including a high quality meta-analysis [2], and training data from 11 elite-level endurance athletes in the year before winning gold at the Olympics or World Championships [3] suggest the success of tapering strategies are sensitive to numerous factors, including the rate of reduction of training volume, the length of the taper, the frequency of training, and the intensity distribution. This research suggests that a successful taper should maintain training frequency and intensity, while reducing overall training volume via a reduction in lower-intensity training. The taper should also maintain race specificity in the run-up to the race.


This is a two-week plan designed to be implemented in the two-weeks immediately preceding an A-priority race. It is designed to follow on seamlessly from our other training plans, and in particular the Specific/Build Phase for MTB XCO Plan. The plan is also suitable if you have several A-priority races in quick succession or for stage racing, in which case the plan would run up to the first of these races.

We draw on the scientific literature, alongside our own personal experiences of coaching over 100 athletes to develop our tapering strategy, following best practices as outlined above. We also employ the ‘block periodization’ technique (grouping hard sessions together, followed by substantial recovery) to cause a spike in fitness, thereby minimising fitness loss during the taper [4].

NOTE we advise this plan is followed only for high-priority races, and only a handful of times per year, as fitness loss is unavoidable during a taper. Thus frequent use of this plan will likely result in a fitness decrease. For lower priority races, you can follow any of our other MTB-specific plans and adapt the training as described in the accompanying user guide to accommodate racing.


  • Reduce overall training load following tapering best practices.
  • Shed fatigue while ensuring minimal fitness loss to result in maximal form.
  • Maintain training intensity, frequency and specificity to maintain sharpness for race.


[1] Thomas, L., & Busso, T. H. I. E. R. R. Y. (2005). A theoretical study of taper characteristics to optimize performance. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 37(9), 1615-1621.

[2] Bosquet, L., Montpetit, J., Arvisais, D., & Mujika, I. (2007). Effects of tapering on performance: a meta-analysis. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 39(8), 1358-1365.

[3] Tønnessen, E., Sylta, Ø., Haugen, T. A., Hem, E., Svendsen, I. S., & Seiler, S. (2014). The road to gold: training and peaking characteristics in the year prior to a gold medal endurance performance. PloS one, 9(7), e101796.

[4] Rønnestad, B. R., Ellefsen, S., Nygaard, H., Zacharoff, E. E., Vikmoen, O., Hansen, J., & Hallén, J. (2014). Effects of 12 weeks of block periodization on performance and performance indices in well‐trained cyclists. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports, 24(2), 327-335.

Training Plan Sample Week


Average Weekly Breakdown

Workouts Weekly Average Longest Workout
MTB x4
5:57 hrs 3:00 hrs
Bike x2
2:34 hrs 1:30 hrs
Workouts Per Week Weekly Average Longest Workout
5:57 hrs 3:00 hrs
2:34 hrs 1:30 hrs

Training Load By Week

Tom Bell

High North Performance

High North Performance is a cycling training and metabolic testing consultancy based in Harrogate, UK. We provide customised training programs and performance diagnostic services to professional and amateur athletes using both established and novel training methods, leading testing and analysis technology, as well as a scientific and strategic approach to planning and preparation.

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