The (short) Road to XCO World Champs
You have been selected to represent Australia at XCO World Champs!
I was glad to have been upping the intensity in training in preparation for the Epic, as it means I am not coming into the race underdone. That being said, the preparation hadn’t been 100% optimal for a race of this calibre. I certainly had forgotten about skin folds, power numbers and things like visualisation in the post BC Bike Race haze.
But in many ways, I feel like this lead up probably puts me in a better standing psychologically than if I had been on the rivet doing food numbers and power numbers and other neurotic elite cyclist-type behaviours. So now, rather than having World Champs at the end of a long build season, I have it at the front of something new.
After all my shoulder work and protracted time off, and the epic miles I was doing ahead of BC, I know I have base but the top end has been a struggle. Something to do with not wanting to train hard through the icy Brisbane winter. While I have a plethora of highly motivated athletes putting in the miles for the Epic and other long events, I have been using my ‘school hours’ time to train on my days off work. It’s not been so bad, I had been doing to intensity prior to the team announcement, but it wasn’t with the motivation and intent I had in the throes of our national season.
Until I knew I was going to worlds and then IT. WAS. ON. It’s a bit unusual to have a race of this scale at this time of year. As a domestic athlete the only other time I had a race that was important at this time of year was mid-last year, Marathon Worlds. As Marathon worlds was long and climb-y, I had been doing bulk miles, bulk threshold with a few crits to complement.
It went well, I scored a top 30 and had a great time.
But XCO Worlds is an entirely different beast. Short bursts of power, repeated anaerobic efforts, and riding down perilous trails while crosseyed.
Yep it’s a different beast, but one I would argue suits me more when I am fit and ready for the challenge.
So training changed a little with some key factors.
Train to your discipline. With limited time you need to pick apart the demands of whatever challenge lies ahead and just replicate, replicate, replicate. Many sessions getting done on mixture of road and gravel for sustained efforts and dirt time, on the mountain bike. Usually I would be spending my time more between bikes but the focus has been on bum on seat time on my Rocky Mountain Element.
Pick up the bro rides.
Riding by yourself is good especially for sustained efforts and sets of power-based efforts. But nothing will get you to lift your game fast like a Kholo loop with the A grade bros. Or chasing someone up a max effort climb multiple times.
3. Cram train and recover.
Double sessions are great for those who have the luxury of a day with legs and up and good capacity to recover. For most of us, we will have to do with jamming in intense sessions back to back in the longer term, then adding in more recovery as we near the event. 40:20s? No worries. 20:10’s? Sure? Vo2 max? You got this. Sure, hitting similar numbers to the start of the year is great, but not being as light it’s hard to know where the form is. It certainly hurts a lot and the ability to suffer is still strong, especially at a high intensity. Whether that suffering converts to speed is another question…
4. Get to the start line.
We have been in Cairns the last few days. I am staying with Aussie teamie Eliza Smyth/Kwan and Mark Tupalski. These guys have been great to ride and train with, and Tupac in particular has just said ‘here, ride down this’ and then it was done; somehow I have made it through the course so far without incident (touch wood!). The rest of the team hasn’t been so fortunate with a few crashes and fractures resulting in DNS’s. So whatever happens, even though I am well on the back line of the grid, I have made it to the start, and you can’t be unhappy with that!