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8-week Preseason Plan - MTB XC and XCM (HR-based)


Coach Jeff Winkler

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8 Weeks

Plan Specs

cycling mountain biking intermediate advanced masters hr based base period

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Plan Description

This plan is designed for the competitor who is focusing primarily on the MTB Season: March - September. This a plan to transition you from the off-season to the early competition period. Use this plan to prepare for XC and XCM events. XC events are typically in the 1.5-2.0 hr duration and XCM events 3-4hr.

Ideally, you would begin this plan in January and complete it in March. Many locales start racing in March/April and important summer events will begin to appear on the calendar.

You can adjust the order of the workouts to fit your schedule, but I don't recommend changing the order of workouts too much. I have placed them with purpose and certain workouts may be harder to complete if done in a different order.

Many of us are forced indoors for early season training. Not all these workouts translate well to the trainer, e.g., sprints. It is usually necessary to adjust the workout for the trainer, while still achieving the basic goal of the workout. For example, a SPRINT workout could be done as a seated maximal effort of similar duration. This will avoid most of the limitations of an indoor trainer: insufficient resistance, wheel slippage, etc.

If you have weekend group rides during this period, feel free to substitute. "Spirited" group rides are good substitutes for the Saturday workouts. Riding with a group on Sunday long rides can make the time go by too. The 2 major concerns are: 1) group rides are too HARD compared to the planned workout OR 2) group rides are too EASY. You will not be peaking at the end of this block, but you will be ready to race. After this block you should employ an "in-season" block that balances volume and intensity with your weekend racing schedule.


Average Weekly Breakdown

Workouts Weekly Average Longest Workout
11:31 hrs 5:00 hrs
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Workouts Per Week Weekly Average Longest Workout
11:31 hrs 5:00 hrs
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Jeff Winkler

Winkler Cycling

Over the past 25 years, I have coached athletes to multiple State and National Championship titles in the disciplines of Road, MTB and Cyclocross. I have worked with all levels of individual racers from novice to professional and have coached collegiate, club and amateur teams.

Sample Day 1


Mellow spin to loosen up legs.

Sample Day 2


Mellow spin to loosen up legs.

Sample Day 3

TESTING: Field Test (30min effort)

30min progressive warm-up (as if you were warming up for 10-20km TT)

30min best effort. The goal is the best steady output you can hold for the duration. Don't start out strong and then fade. Try to use a stretch of road with minimal interruptions. A gradual climb is good if you have one (3-5% steady grade).

Your threshold HR is the average HR for the last 20mins of this effort. Set this value in TrainingPeaks for future workouts.

Sample Day 4

Recovery Spin (optional)

This is like a "walk in the park". We are not looking for any "training stress" just movement to assist with recovery.

Sample Day 5

Skills Session (technical trails)

Head to you more technical trails. The goal for this skills session is steady riding technique work. No "sessioning" this time, just work on sustained smooth flow over technically challenging terrain.

If you have a loop trail, you could try different riding styles (or bike setup) and compare lap times.

The overall effort should still fairly modest, Zone 2 primarily. Even if you are using the clock to time laps, the efforts should not be "time trials", you want to compare technique not fitness.

Sample Day 6

Endurance Session

The goal for this session is to build endurance. This is an obvious need for XCM events, but is also critical for XC events.

The intensity of this ride can be steady Zone 2, variable, or race-like. The key is duration: 3-5hrs is ideal. Try to minimize stoppage and keep time in Zone 1 to < 25%

This can be an ideal day for exploring new trails and/or integrating skill work.

Sample Day 8

Maximal Aerobic Capacity (short)

This workout is designed to develop your "maximal aerobic capacity" or VO2max.

Most of these efforts are too short to use HR as a pacing guide. Therefore, the short efforts should just be done at maximal effort for the duration.

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