Intervals for Faster Race Times

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If you are looking to get faster at Mountain Bike Racing then you missing out big time if you are not including intervals in your training.  Here are 4 interval types that will give you a broad base of power across different time domains.  If you are looking for a guide on how to train while strapped for time, check out our Beginner to Intermediate Template.

Power Intervals

The Warm Up: 10 – 15 mins

The Rationale: Power intervals work your anaerobic system and help you have power on demand during a race.  Strong legs = faster race times.

The Interval: Ride all out for 30 seconds in a hard gear (this should be hard and your heart rate should be high) followed by 30 seconds easy spin at a high cadence.  The goal here is to generate as many watts as possible.

The Workout: Repeat this process of 30 seconds of all out effort and 30 seconds of easy spin at a high cadence 10 – 40 times depending on your fitness level.

Hill Repeats

The Warm Up: 10 – 15 mins

The Rationale: Hill climbs of different lengths and grades are a huge part of Mountain Bike Racing.  Practicing the skill of climbing can do a lot for your race times.  Better climbing = faster racing.

The Interval: Find a challenging hill and ride up it for 2 minutes.  When you hit the two minute mark, turn around and coast down the hill.  Then, when you hit the bottom of the hill climb again.  Alternate between climbing in the saddle and climbing out of the saddle

The Workout: Repeat this process of climbing for 2 minutes, alternating saddled and unsaddled climbing 8 – 20 times depending on your fitness level.

Breakaway Intervals

The Warm Up: 10 – 15 mins

The Rationale: Breakaway intervals work your anaerobic system and will give you a better ability to push for that extra bit of speed on the flats.  Pushing on the flats can pay huge dividends to race times.  Faster flats = way faster race times.

The Interval: Find a nice, flat stretch of dirt or road and go all out for 2-3 minutes followed by a rest period of 5 minutes in the form of an easy spin with an easy cadence.  The goal here is to completely recover between each interval.

The Workout: Repeat this process of going all out for 2-3 minutes and spinning easy for 5 minutes 4 – 10 times depending on your fitness level.

Threshold Intervals

The Warm Up: 10 – 15 mins

The Rationale: Threshold training works the lactate system and will allow you to go harder for longer.  Threshold training = better efficiency and faster race times.

The Interval: Find a good ride with varied terrain.  Warm up and then hit it as hard as you possibly can for 10 – 20 minutes.  Rest with an easy spin at an easy cadence until fully recovered, or about 5-10 minutes.

The Workout: Repeat this process of going all out for 10 – 20 minutes and spinning easy until recovered 2 times.  Make sure to go back at a later date and ride the same stretch to gauge improvement.

 

       

Comments

  • By John Hunt - on Reply

    I’m 57 and time challenged and looking for the most efficient and beneficial workout to improve my racing time. When performing the workout of intervals and repeats, are they all intended to be performed during the same workout or separated into multiple workouts over several days each week? It would seem due to the number of recommended repeats that doing more than 1 or 2 of the exercises would impact the workout. What works best? Does doing 1 of the workouts followed by a moderate to hard ride for 60+ minutes repeated 3-4 times a week provide benefits? Threshold intervals could be worked into each of the hour long rides.

    • By Matt Wenger - on Reply

      Hi John, Excited for you to get going this season.
      I’m going to put this to my friends at Carmichael Training to get them to help you get ready…stay tuned! -Matt

  • By Paul Ruggiero - on Reply

    Hi John –

    Paul here, a Pro Coach over here at CTS. Let me see if I can help.

    The intervals should all be done in the same work out. No matter what level athlete or how ever intense the interval, there needs to be a certain amount of time spent at the prescribed workload to gain adaption from the workload. Meaning, if you’re doing sub lactate threshold intervals, you need a longer time within each interval to illicit a training response than if you were doing threshold or above threshold intervals. For a threshold effort, 40 minutes is ideal, but holding threshold for 40 minutes in one shot is challenging. So try 4×10 minutes @ 8 out of 10 effort level with 5 minutes recovery between. Boom! 40 minutes at threshold. More on threshold intervals below.

    For your question regarding repeats impacting the workout, remember, the repeats or intervals ARE the workout. Any other riding beyond the intervals you knocked out are gravy.

    For your last question, try this: Pick one of the interval sets above. Threshold Intervals for conversations sake. Do that workout set twice a week. Use the other days of riding as a recovery day, an endurance day and a long day (preferable on mountain bike working handling skills for race day) Trying to do interval days 3-4 times a week will fatigue you and not allow for quality intervals. You want quality and not quantity, as these are hard. Don’t mistake fatigue for fitness! Cyclists love feeling tried, but is it from riding themselves into the ground or actual, precise quality training?

    Have fun and let us know if you need anything else. I live locally in Orange County and looking forward to seeing you out there!

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