The start of a MTB race is one of the most demanding parts of the race for many people. Whether you want a good position before heading into the singletrack or you want to stay with the leaders through out the race, the start is a key part of a high finish.
If you are having trouble in the start of a race, be it a 2hr XC race or a multi hour marathon or 100, you need to adapt your body to the demands of those conditions. You do this by practicing the starts. This should be one of your weekly high intensity workouts in the build period of your training cycle. You should practice the start that is similar to the next course you are racing. If the course starts out with a big climb, then practice on a big climb. If the course starts out rolling, then practice some something similar.
An example workout to improve your starts may go like this. From a standing start, (unclipped from your pedals,just like a race) go all out for 2-3 min, then settle in zone 4-5 for the rest of the interval. Go for 10-15 min total. Fully recover before doing the next start, 10-15 min with easy spinning.
Another good workout is V02 Max intervals. 6-8 3×3 or 4×4 also once a week. Full gas for the interval, then rest the same duration of the interval. There are a lot of benefits to this workout beyond the starts. You’ll notice an increase in power, speed and endurance.
These workouts should be after a rest day and done earlier in the week when there is a race that weekend. I like to practice starts Mondays or Tuesdays, and the V02 Max workouts on Wednesday or Thursdays. Give yourself a rest day or active recovery after these workouts.
Yes, intervals are not fun. However, if you are having trouble meeting the demands of certain race conditions, intervals are a great way to adapt to those conditions. Sometimes riding just doesn’t do it. If you have time after these intervals, you can still ride at your own pace. Don’t feel you have to stop riding after the intervals. Go enjoy some fun single track after your hard work!