What We Can Learn From European Mountain Bikers


UCI MTB World Championships 2013The UCI MTB Marathon World Championships. It’s the one event many riders dream to win. The white jersey with stripes indicating that you are champion of the world. Incredible to believe that South African heroes such as Greg Minnaar and the late Burry Stander have both had time in the jersey. Showing that South Africans not only have the potential but also the will power to succeed at the very top.

Preparing for the world championships is a tricky task, especially if you have not been world champion before. Having the support, belief and help of those that believe in you is very important when your aiming to win a world champs.

Before we get started and I shed some light on my preparation for world championships, let me first say I have by no means been world champion, so even for me it’s a work in progress and hopefully one day, with fine tuning in preparation, I get it right.

First off for me was checking out information on the website about the route, surroundings, what weather to expect, road surface and the past race times of winners in previous events. Remember, knowledge is power. With this information it’s a little easier to arm yourself with a training programme and getting the right equipment for the event.

This year the world champs was in Kitzbühel, Austria, a very famous ski town. The course was 94km with 4,400m of vertical ascent. The road surface was great and the last 7km had a very tricky downhill to the finish.

Training was in full swing for me with many days of riding in the mountains and plenty of intervals. Also with so much climbing, weight would also play a role and being in mean and lean shape was really crucial.

Unfortunately on the day I finished a somewhat disappointing 31st. A few hard lessons later and its time to sit, reflect and learn what I can from the European riders.

First off, courses in Europe are of such a huge physical demanding nature, it pushes you to the absolute limit of human capabilities. The level of commitment from the Europeans is also something I hugely admire. Instead of the one month or two of specific preparation for world champs, they are dreaming about it for six months. The dedication and focus on that one day leaves a lot to be admired. The smart structure of training, rest and nutrition is also cutting edge. Don’t get me wrong, we South Africans are by no means lazy, but many of the European riders are definitely some of the most hard-working athletes around. However, results are not always achieved by long hours on the bike, but instead by the right training for the right duration at the right intensity.

Bottom line, I learned there is a need for more quality training, not quantity.

Quality not Quantity

  1. Rather than focusing on riding six hours daily at a coffee shop speed, rather utilise two hours at a high intensity. The reward on your body will be greater, not to mention the mental fatigue will be a lot less.
  2. There is no need to stretch everyday for hours on end. A consistent twenty minutes a day will pay off way more in the long run.
  3. Rest is one of the most difficult and overlooked things to do. As an athlete resting feels like cheating, however, this is the time that your body gets stronger and your mind gets re-motivated.

Originally published in the September/October 2013 issue 61.


Other articles posted in this period

About Max Knox

The popular Specialized rider is the current national MTB marathon champion. Some say that the sprouting of his retro moustache last year gave him power and speed. Rumour has it 2013 will be the year of the mullet.

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