General/Base Phase for MTB XCO/MARATHON (Power-Based): 16 Weeks; 7-12 Hrs/Week (Adjustable)

Author

Tom Bell

All plans by this Coach

Length

16 Weeks

Typical Week

1 Day Off, 1 Other, 2 Bike, 3 MTB

Longest Workout

4:15 hrs

Plan Specs

cycling mountain biking

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Summary

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A MTB-SPECIFIC PLAN FOR THE GENERAL/BASE PREPARATION PHASE, DESIGNED TO ESTABLISH EXCEPTIONAL FOUNDATIONAL FITNESS DURING THE IMPORTANT EARLY STAGES OF THE TRAINING CYCLE


This MTB plan is designed specifically for both cross-country and marathon athletes, where the primary aim of the phase is to establish a sound endurance base, largely gained through prolonged, moderate intensity workouts [1] whilst also using a significant amount of extensive higher-intensity training to achieve necessary adaptations in aerobic capacity and the fractional utilisation of VO2max at the lactate threshold.

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE GENERAL PHASE/BASE TRAINING


“Base” refers to the underlying idea that there are pre-requisite abilities that should be built before focusing more exclusively on advanced abilities, implying an ordered step-by-step process.

It's an important preparation period, laying a foundation of aerobic fitness for the MTB race-specific abilities to be built on top of, and a widely-accepted and successful approach used by world-class performers across endurance sports [2]. Instead of using confusing terms like Base 1, Base 2, Built 1 etc, we find simplifying training periodisation (the idea that the nature of the training should be adjusted in an logical and ordered fashion depending on the period of the training cycle and proximity to competition) to a “General Phase” (like this plan), a “Specific Phase” and a “Peak/Taper Phase” helpful and more practical.

Comparisons are often made (quite aptly) to building a house - where there is an implicit and practical order in which steps should be taken in order to construct a solid and necessarily tall structure.

COMPOSITION OF THE PLAN


The plan is laid out over a 16-week period, using four mesocycles, each featuring a 3-week ramp in training load, which is then followed up by a week aimed at recovering and adapting to the load. This ramp rate from week to week is "functionally conservative"; enough to result in a meaningful training stress yet gradual enough to avoid 'non-functional overreaching' or overtraining.

In pursuit of greater adaptations, a more fulfilling training experience and to avoid mental and physical burnout, the plan features a large variety of MTB-specific workout designs and intensities, balanced with what's known as a 'polarised training intensity distribution'; a planning and sequencing approach shown in the literature and in our own experience coaching 100s of athletes to be a successful framework for significant fitness improvement for both time-rich and time-crunched athletes [3].

NOTE: The plan's volume is totally adaptable from the default 7-12 hrs/week, where guidance on doing so is provided in our detailed user guide supplied with each plan.


PLAN OBJECTIVES



  • Develop greater stamina, fatigue resistance, and time-to-exhaustion;
  • Enhance substrate utilisation to improve ability to oxidise more fat at higher intensities, sparing limited glycogen stores;
  • Build greater mitochondrial density in skeletal muscle to improve a multitude of endurance-based abilities;
  • Improve cycling economy and gross efficiency by enhancing and building greater % of Type I (slow twitch) muscle fibres, delaying the recruitment of less-efficient Type II (fast twitch) muscle fibres.


REFERENCES


[1] Hawley, John A. "State-of-the-art training guidelines for endurance performance." South African Journal of Sports Medicine 2.4 (1995): 7-12.

[2] Tønnessen, Espen, et al. "The road to gold: training and peaking characteristics in the year prior to a gold medal endurance performance." PloS one 9.7 (2014): e101796.

[3] Seiler, Stephen, and Espen Tønnessen. "Intervals, thresholds, and long slow distance: the role of intensity and duration in endurance training." Sportscience 13.13 (2009): 32-53.

Stats

Training Load By Week
Average Weekly Breakdown
Average Weekly Training Hours: 08:39
Training Load By Week
Average Weekly Training Hours: 08:39
Average Weekly Breakdown

Tom Bell

tombell.co

Individualised, data-driven performance coaching and training programs for MTB XCO, MTB Marathon and Cyclocross athletes. We combine our real-world, elite-level experience at national team, UCI MTB World Cup and World Championship-level with leading science and expert data analysis skills to provide effective and actionable programs for our athletes, all whilst offering the educational and motivational support needed for true potential to be reached.

Back to Plan Details

Sample Day 1

1:00:00
54.3TSS
Tempo: Blocks w/ Threshold Finishes

1H ~55-70% FTP with 10M tempo blocks consisting of 6M @ 78-85% FTP and a finish of 2M @ 95-98% FTP.

Feel free to alter cadence throughout workout, as well as pedalling style (seated and standing).

PURPOSE: Enhances aerobic fitness by stimulating greater mitochondrial biogenesis (production of mitochondria - the power house of the cell that turn fuel into energy), greater capillarization in the muscles, development of slow-twitch muscles fibres primarily. This workout in particular develops muscular endurance effectively with addition of threshold finishes to prepare you for the demands of upcoming threshold-focused training.

Sample Day 2

1:00:00
25TSS
Recovery: Easy Ride (Road or MTB)

1H recovery ride @ 40-60% FTP.

If riding MTB, try to include some technical skills practice, such as cornering practice, line choice, off-camber sections, roots etc.

PURPOSE: Allow for adaptations from previous hard workout, whilst keeping rhythm of training and muscles working without adding any further stress to the body.

Sample Day 3

1:00:00
58.2TSS
Tempo: Steady Ride w/ 12M Blocks

10M warm up between 50-60% FTP.

Then 3x sets of blocks alternating between 12M @ 82-88% FTP in the work interval and 40-50% FTP in the recovery interval.

Cool down with 5M @ 45-55% FTP, but feel free to elongate this if possible.

Feel free to alter cadence throughout workout, as well as pedalling style (seated and standing).

PURPOSE: Enhances aerobic fitness by stimulating greater mitochondrial biogenesis (production of mitochondria - the power house of the cell), enhanced capillarization in the muscles, development of slow-twitch muscles fibres and trains body to more efficiently use fat as primary fuel source. Develops muscular endurance effectively.

Sample Day 5

2:15:00
89.3TSS
Endurance: Steady MTB Ride

2H15M @ 55-70% FTP.

Feel free to stray into Zone 1 on descents and Zone 3 on steeper climbs, but try to choose as flat or rolling course as possible to maximise time in target zone.

Can be done on road or indoors on turbo trainer if off-road riding is impractical. If you can ride first thing in the morning, try to perform this training with low carbohydrate ability to enhance the adaptations of greater fat oxidisation (sparing of limited glycogen stores)

PURPOSE: Enhances aerobic fitness by stimulating greater mitochondrial biogenesis (production of mitochondria - the power house of the cell), enhanced capillarization in the muscles, development of slow-twitch muscles fibres and trains body to more efficiently use fat as primary fuel source.

Sample Day 6

1:00:00
25TSS
Recovery: Easy Ride (Road or MTB)

1H recovery ride @ 40-60% FTP.

If riding MTB, try to include some technical skills practice, such as cornering practice, line choice, off-camber sections, roots etc.

PURPOSE: Allow for adaptations from previous hard workout, whilst keeping rhythm of training and muscles working without adding any further stress to the body.

Sample Day 8

1:10:00
59.8TSS
Tempo: High Frequency Efforts

Start with ~10M warm up in the range of 45-65% FTP.

Then, as closely as is practical, ride for 45M consisting of alternating 5M @ 80-90% FTP and 2.5M @ 50-60% FTP. If intervals have to be shortened because of the terrain or obstacles, just make the proceeding recovery interval 50% of the duration of the work interval.

After this set of tempo intervals, cool down for ~15M @ 40-50% FTP.

PURPOSE: Develop muscular endurance and resistance to fatigue, as well as ability to repeatedly increase and decrease power, mimicking a rolling course. This workout will also help progress your more basic aerobic efficiency and endurance too.

Sample Day 9

1:30:00
62.99TSS
Endurance: Short Steady Ride (Road or MTB)

1.5H @ 60-70% FTP. 

Feel free to change up cadence and switch between the lower and higher end of Zone 2.

PURPOSE: Enhances aerobic fitness by stimulating greater mitochondrial biogenesis (production of mitochondria - the power house of the cell), enhanced capillarization in the muscles, development of slow-twitch muscles fibres and trains body to more efficiently use fat as primary fuel source.

General/Base Phase for MTB XCO/MARATHON (Power-Based): 16 Weeks; 7-12 Hrs/Week (Adjustable)

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