2020 British Cycling 8-week MTB Marathon Training Plan


Insight Zone


8 Weeks

Typical Week

1 Day Off, 2 Bike, 3 MTB, 1 X-Train

Longest Workout

5:00 hrs

Plan Specs

cycling mountain biking intermediate power based hr based tss based

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Includes Structured Workouts

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Learn More about Structured Workouts.

The British Cycling 8-week MTB Marathon Training Plan is ideal if you’re targeting a MTB Marathon, mountain bike sportive, challenge ride or are just wanting to apply some structure and gain fitness that’ll allow you to ride faster for longer. .

The plan and the workouts within it are most suited to power users but can be adapted for heart rate. All of the cycling workouts are fully built within the plan and so, it’s compatible with smart trainers and many head units.

To start the plan, you should ideally be riding three or four times a week, be familiar with structured training and be capable of riding for 3 hours.

The volume of training is between 6-11 hours per week. If you’re already familiar with TrainingPeaks and its metrics, weekly TSS starts at 388 and peaks at 540.

The training is typically broken down into five rides; three mid-week and two at the weekend.

In general, the first mid-week ride, when you’ve just had a rest day, will focus on high intensity efforts. Although you’re training for a MTB Marathon, having the ability to sprint, produce high power and recover is essential for mountain biking; think about when tackling a technical climb. This session, although do-able on your mountain bike, is most suited to an indoor trainer.

The second mid-week ride is effectively strength training on your bike and is all about building low cadence torque for grinding up steep climbs. You’ll also find it excellent for building trunk strength. If you’ve got a suitable trail, you can do this session off-road but it can equally be done on the road or indoor trainer.

For the third mid-week ride, you should definitely try and get out on your mountain bike. With two tough sessions in your legs, you’ll be glad of the skills focus but, if you’ve got some energy left and with a day off the bike tomorrow, there’s scope to put in some hard efforts.

Onto the weekend rides and both should be on your mountain bike. The first is your main endurance ride and the second, more of an opportunity just to get out and enjoy the trails.

There is also an optional session that gives you the opportunity to do some cross training. Cross training, although optional, should be part of your training. Don’t worry if you can’t manage dedicated sessions, even doing regular mobility work at home will benefit your riding. Cross training helps to prevent boredom, provides options if you are unable to ride and builds all-round injury preventing robustness. Be aware though, having done three midweek rides and with two sessions at the weekend, you might need to make your cross training more restorative or even take an extra rest day.

The plan is fully supported by content on the British Cycling Insight Zone, where you can find advice on skills, training, nutrition, equipment, clothing and maintenance.


Training Load By Week
Average Weekly Breakdown
Average Weekly Training Hours: 08:02
Training Load By Week
Average Weekly Training Hours: 08:02
Average Weekly Breakdown

Back to Plan Details

Sample Day 1

BC Threshold Test

For full protocol and links to zone calculator, http://bit.ly/threshold_test

This test protocol can be used for both Functional Threshold Power (FTP) and Functional Threshold Heart-rate (FTHR).

Sample Day 2

BC Big Gear/Low Cadence

You can think of this session as "weight training" on the bike.

All the efforts are seated and you should be really disciplined about sticking to the low cadence targets.

To keep the strengthening as MTB specific as possible, the ideal is to do this session on your mountain bike. If you have a suitable 5-minute climb, which can be on tarmac, this can be the best option.

Sample Day 3

Midweek MTB

A mid-week opportunity to get out on the trails. The main focus of this ride is to work on your skills but also, as the plan progresses, there will be an endurance focus to it too.

Sample Day 4

Cross Training

This is not an essential session; add it to your
training if you have the time. You might find it equally beneficial to take an extra rest day.

Choose an activity to help develop all-round
fitness and flexibility.

Remember to start all new activities slowly, don’t overdo it and that gentle restorative exercise, such as yoga or Pilates, can
complement cycling well.

Whatever you choose to do, it's important that it doesn't impact negatively on the quality of your cycling training.

Sample Day 5

MTB Endurance

Your main endurance focussed session of the week.

This is your opportunity to practice the pacing, fuelling and hydration strategies that you'll use on your MTB Marathon.

Sample Day 6

MTB Skills

After yesterday's endurance ride, this session is about skills, fun and recovery.

As much as anything, it's a chance to get out and have some fun on your mountain bike.

Sample Day 8

BC 20/40's

This session develops your ability to sprint and recover from multiple hard efforts. 

Repeated short high intensity efforts are an integral part of mountain biking.

2020 British Cycling 8-week MTB Marathon Training Plan

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