2020 British Cycling 8-week MTB XC Plan


Insight Zone


8 Weeks

Typical Week

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

Longest Workout

3:00 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 XC Training Plan is ideal if you’re looking to compete in XC mountain biking over the summer and want a dedicated training block to prepare for it. It’s also a time efficient plan for more recreational mountain bikers who want to improve their fitness but have limited access to trails during the week.

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 5-8 hours per week. If you’re already familiar with TrainingPeaks and its metrics, weekly TSS starts at 312 and peaks at 361.

As is the case with the majority of elite XC riders, training time is divided between the trail, the road and the indoor trainer. There are a few reasons for mixing things up in this way and not training exclusively on the trail. The first is that the road and turbo make holding specific efforts easier. Secondly, it will spare your bike and body the battering that trail riding can entail. Finally, many riders don’t have suitable trails on their doorsteps.

If you don’t own a road bike, don’t worry. In fact, probably the best option is to have a spare set of wheels for your XC bike and to put road tyres on them. There’s also no reason why you can’t use this set-up on an indoor trainer too. This has the advantage that you’ll always be training in your race position.

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

During the first half of the plan, apart from Week 1, the first mid-week workout 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 second half of the plan, this session focusses on race starts.

The second mid-week workout tends to be sprint focussed and more suited to an indoor trainer.

At the weekend, the first ride, which focusses on endurance but includes specified efforts is best done on the road. The second ride gives you a chance to get out on the trails.

There is also an optional session that gives you the opportunity to do some cross training but this can be restorative such as yoga, Pilates or mobility work.

You should aim to coincide the final week of the plan with the week before your first XC race of the season. If you’re then intending to go on and race a full season, probably competing every weekend, you can rotate back through the plan, making a few key changes.

Although a XC race will feel hard at the time, the actual “training load” it delivers is relatively low. This means, if you can fit it in, that Mondays can be good for fitting in an endurance style ride. It doesn’t need to be epic, 2-3 hours is plenty, mostly at a solid Zone 2 intensity and can even be done on the turbo. If you can’t get out, use it for cross-training.

Perform the Tuesday workouts as described in the plan, this should include a Threshold Test every 8 weeks.

Wednesdays should stay as a rest day.

On Thursdays, you should complete the prescribed session.

Friday can be a rest day but, if you didn’t manage to fit an endurance ride in on Monday, you could do it today.

Saturday should just be a leg loosener such as a Leg Speed Session or Pre-Event Ride.

Sunday will be your race.
It’s important to remember, this is very much just a guide and you need to listen to your body and see how you perform at races.


Training Load By Week
Average Weekly Breakdown
Average Weekly Training Hours: 06:02
Training Load By Week
Average Weekly Training Hours: 06:02
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 3

BC Big Gear/Low Cadence

You can think of this session as "weight training" on the bike but, for mountain biking, being able to produce power at low cadences is essential.

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

Sample Day 4

Cross Training

This is not an essential session; add it to your
training if you have the time.

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

If you already do another exercise session, structured or social, then continue to fit that into your week. If not, then maybe try something new; for example gym work, swim, jog or a fitness class.

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

BC Endurance with 4 X 10 minutes Tempo

An endurance focused ride with some tempo efforts that can be completed on climbs.

Sample Day 6

Trail Ride

After yesterday's endurance ride, this session is about skills, fun but, with a rest day tomorrow, if you want to push things a bit, you can.

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

Sample Day 8

BC Big Gear/Low Cadence

You can think of this session as "weight training" on the bike but, for mountain biking, being able to produce power at low cadences is essential.

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

Sample Day 10

BC 20/40's

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

This is important for all types of cycle sport, but is especially relevant to circuit racing, cyclo-cross and bunch races on the track.

2020 British Cycling 8-week MTB XC Plan

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