How specific should your training be before a race?

As many of you know @Silje has just completed a long MTB race (6+ hs) and is now preparing for XCO Championships, which will be about 1h long. So we changed her training in the weeks leading up to it to be very specific to the types of efforts she will be doing: high power, high torque, short bursts and surges. Explosive zones are important here, as are threshold zones, and being able to hit big numbers again and again. That is very similar to cyclocross and somewhat similar to crit racing prep, but different than a road race, TT or Zwift Race.

Up until the long MTB race last week, Silje was training much in the same power zones as all of you are in your workouts. So why the change, and should training always be this specific before an event? The answer is: it depends on the event, the rider’s type of training up until that point, and her current ability level.

For ALL riders, it is important to train all power zones. Training only one or two zones (or a “range”) is the equivalent of having only one gear in your car. Cycling is not a steady sport, and riders need the ability to act and react to all the changes caused by the terrain, wind, and other riders (and of course, in races, the ability to attack, counter-attack, cover a move, stay with a fast group, ride solo, etc.) The same is true for riders who do not race but do group rides and/or ride alone outdoors.

In addition, developing all power zones makes you more resilient and helps delay fatigue.

For long events of any kind, TTs, road races, and Zwift races, there is no need to change training significantly before the race (assuming a training program like ours), unless there is something very specific to that race, such as a long/steep climb. The reason for that is that we need to be able to work with and mix/match all these zones for these events. For gravel and TT races there might be some fine-tuning to be able to spend extended periods of time in the medium/low threshold zones depending on the rider, but that’s only if the event is 4+ hs for example.

For CX, short MTB, and crits, it becomes important to sharpen and bring to peak the top-end zones (above threshold) because the efforts in these races are almost exclusively dependent on these zones. But you can’t just have these high-end zones without all the ones below it (they don’t exist in a vacuum). That’s why we train them all throughout the year, then call upon them to fine-tune 1-2 months before event day. These top-end zones are very demanding and even somewhat damaging to the body, that’s why we need to be very careful how we train them, and that’s also why we only bring them to be the main focus for a short period.

Please let me know if you have any questions about any of the above!


I will definitly pay attention and report how this transition feels and how the race works out of course :slight_smile:


So for my 10 mile TT series next month - my current training seems to be just right?? Is pretty flat and I am gonna be riding my tarmac - in the retro cat - this race series doesn’t count for BRAC point so just for fun :hugs:

Yes, @mpatton! And you’ll need to change your training to decrease training stress so you are fresh for these. You can do that by doing no more than 2 workouts/week (and have them on Fri/Sun for example, and reducing the number of hours you ride/week.