Question: How can I use my new road bike to train for a 40-mile mountain bike race in early September? My plan is to ride 30 miles at least once a week in July and increase to 40 miles in August. Does that sound reasonable? — Jim G.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: Most mountain bike pros spend around 80% of their training time on their road bike. Road riding is the best way to improve aerobic capacity, and it avoids the thrashing that daily mountain biking would inflict.
Do a weekly long road ride, but increase the distance each week rather than each month. Shoot for several 60-mile rides (after a steady buildup, of course). The longer distances will give you greater stamina in mountain bike races.
Also, consider riding your road bike one other day each week. This would be a shorter ride with some intense efforts. For example, 2×15 or 20 minutes at a steady and “annoyingly uncomfortable” pace; a series of hard hills; or a long climb that takes 20-30 minutes. These workouts will increase your cruising speed. They’ll help you maintain a faster average pace off road.
Don’t overdo it. Always keep the danger of overtraining in mind. Your performances should follow a gradually ascending curve. You should feel good and eager to train on most days. If you feel draggy several days in a row or lack enthusiasm, take three or four days off and then resume training at a lower workload.