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A Crash Course in LOSING: Lessons from failing in an XC race.

A Crash Course in LOSING: Lessons from failing in an XC race.


Last year, I completed my second ever XC race in May. The race consisted of two laps, with my lap times being 42:44 at 11.2 mph and 38:09 at 11.9 mph, for a total time of 1:20:52. This year, I made my second attempt at the race, hoping to improve my lap times by 5 minutes per lap. However, my lap times were 40:46 at 11.8 mph and 41:34 at 11.7 mph, resulting in a total time of 1:22:20. At first, I was disappointed because I didn't achieve my goal.

Since the race last year, my weekly riding has increased by an average of 4x, and I've been doing regular structured training. My FTP has gone up significantly, and I now have a faster, lightweight XC mountain bike. I feel like I'm in way better shape overall. 

Then, I realized there's more to racing and achieving good race results than just fitness. While it's true my base aerobic fitness and ability to ride longer at a faster pace have improved, I've only done minimal work to increase my threshold and above threshold performance. 

I also realized that XC racing requires maintaining riding skill at race pace when your heart rate is elevated and someone is right behind or in front of you. It requires practice at race pace riding to stay cool and maintain your technical riding skills. Additionally, I spent a lot of time behind slower riders, not wanting to "burn too many matches" passing them, which cost me a lot of time. I wasn't riding at full pace, not even close. I also chose to take easier lines to avoid injury, which were much slower.

The point is, there's a lot more to racing and being fast in a racing scenario than just fitness. Don't neglect the other components needed for a good race finish. Train and practice for what you want—the whole package, not just bits and pieces.

Key Takeaways:

 XC racing requires maintaining technical skills and race pace under elevated heart rates.

     Practice needed for racepace riding to stay calm and maintain skills

  • Practice what you have to do during the race/event.
    • For example, above practice tech riding at race pace. Practice riding at race pace for 60 to 90 minutes. 

Race Strategy

  • When to pass and when to bide your time, is a skill that takes practice. 
    • For example, it may be a smart move to “burn those matches” and go for it. It’s a short race you can recover when it’s done. 

Racing and bike events can be a great way to push yourself beyond your comfort zone and find areas for growth, they can also be a great place to make friends and connect with old ones. I plan to keep developing my skill and ability on the bike, it enhances every area of my life. I’m hooked on biking for sure!

That’s all for now.


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