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The Path // Part 3: Does enduro specific training make you a better, faster rider?

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Last time on The Path I shared details of my EWS Training Program designed by professional coach and sports scientist, Professor Geraint-Florida James. So, how has it panned out? What was the impact? Does enduro specific training make you a faster rider? Should you kill yourself with a pro-level training plan, too? Let’s find out!

Here’s what I’m training for…

the path zermatt enduro world series
2019 Overall Winner Isabeau Courdurier squeezing around a tight alpine switchback at EWS Zermatt, Switzerland. Photo courtesy of Enduro World Series.

Since publishing Part Two, training has continued in much the same vein as described there, with a few key alterations. Why the changes? We got some big news recently. My 2020 race season has changed to include Round 1 in Zermatt, Switzerland!

The opening round of the 2020 EWS is scheduled for August 30th. The small, car-free Alpine village, nestled away at a lofty 1,608m played host to the final round of the Enduro World Series in 2019. The one-day race saw riders descend over 15,000 feet, with the striking silhouette of the Matterhorn as a stunning backdrop.

the oath ews zermatt matterhorn switzerland
Photo courtesy of Enduro World Series

In Part Four, I will share details of how my training has become even more specific, designed specifically for the run up to Zermatt. The terrain is allegedly moonscape-like, with boulder fields aplenty, tight-as-they-come switchbacks, dust… all features I rarely (if ever) get to ride in the loamy Tweed Valley of Scotland.

Up to this point, though, I’ve suffered through a Scottish Winter, training six days per week in the wind, rain, slop… and so on. But, has it actually made a difference?

enduro-specific training innerleithen golfy ews 2021 jessie-may morgan
Will training in these conditions translate to racing on the boulder fields of Zermatt? Photo by Robert Hinds.

Does enduro specific training make you a faster rider?

We can answer this in two ways. Do I feel like I’m a faster rider? And, am I actually measurably faster?

The first turn on a Tweed Valley classic; Flat White at Caberston Forest, Innerleithen. Credit: Robyn Wilkinson.

Does training make you measurably faster?

I had planned to measure gains (or losses) at Edinburgh Napier University’s Sports Science Facility. I was looking forward to geeking out on VO2 Max data (aerobic test) and Wingate Test data (anaerobic). Then, a global pandemic went down so… yeah.

Jessie-May performing a Wingate test at Edinburgh Napier University in March 2018 with Sports Science Masters Student Ruaridh Cuthbertson

Luckily, I record almost all of my training sessions on Strava. In the absence of actual scientific data on my fitness attributes, I can at least rely on Strava segments. So, my QOM (queen of the mountain) count has risen steadily over the last nine months since I started enduro specific training. But, QOMs rely on comparing ourselves to others which almost never ends well.

strava queen of the mountain summit account feature
Strava’s Summit account list of your QOM/KOMs. These are “nice-to-haves” but they aren’t a proper measure of progress.

What’s more useful to know is how much my descent times have come down over that period of training. My Summit Strava account gives me historical data for every segment I’ve ever ridden.

So I can now track how my times on each of those segments/trails has changed. I used the same GPS tracking device for the duration – the Bryton Rider 420, so comparisons should be legitimate in that sense.

strava summit account historical segment data track training progress
Strava historical segment data has been really useful for tracking my progress on descents. Faster times are shown higher on the Y-Axis, so it shows that I’ve gotten consistently faster over a five month period.

That’s a relief. A quick segment search for a short local track tells me that my times have been slowly creeping down since November. In early January I was recording times around the 56 second mark.

enduro-specific training makes you faster better mountain bike rider
Photo by Robyn Wilkinson

Now, my times are down to 44 seconds, an improvement of over 21%. Ultra pleasing. Clearly there are some outliers there but we’ll put that down to waiting for pals (who aren’t slow, but were probably faffing mid-trail).

strava summit premium account features historical segment data track training progress over time
Remember, the higher the data point, the faster the time.

Here’s a second example. This one’s a section of track that was used at a 2014 Enduro World Series round, called Repeat Offender. Pleasing again to see my time come down from 1:30 to 1:13 since I started training. A gain of 18%. It’s all going in the right direction!

hill intervals key session enduro specific training mountain biking
Hill intervals have been a key part of my enduro specific training program. Photo by Robyn Wilkinson

My descents have got faster, but so have my hill interval times. I’ve seen rep times come down by 15% since I started this enduro specific training program under a professional coach.

Does enduro specific training make you feel faster?

And I can feel it too. I feel like i’m going faster, but I’m also a lot smoother on the bike.

No great surprise, but when you start seeing real, measurable gains for the first time in your life, it does feel like magic. I’ve always known that training would make me fitter and stronger but I didn’t know it would make me a better rider too. That’s what is exciting.

enduro mtb training pro ews enduro world series preparation
Photo by Robyn Wilkinson

I feel a lot stronger on the bike; I can stay off the brakes more, knowing I now have the upper body strength to take bigger and faster successive hits. I find myself hopping root features and hitting new high lines that were way beyond my perceived ability before.

enduro mtb training sessioning trails skill development ews preparation
Ride it again, this time faster! Photo by Robyn Wilkinson.

The act of going through the motions, getting up every morning (OK, I have missed one or two sessions), putting in the hard graft, and spending time sessioning trails has instilled a bit of confidence in my riding. I’ve put in the hard yards so I should be a better rider.

Weight training at The Health Rooms, Peebles, is a new part of my training program that looks to improve all-round strength and fix an ongoing back issue. Photo by Stephen Wrigley.

What’s most noticeable is the reduced fatigue on descents. I find myself tiring much further down the trail than previously, allowing me to go faster for longer. The push-ups and time spent in the weights room doing squats, dead-lifts and shoulder-press has definitely paid off.

Building upper body strength is important for preventing injury when crashes inevitably happen. Credit: Robyn Wilkinson.

Next time on The Path

met parachute mcr fort william top chief enduro track scotland
Jessie-May riding Fort William’s 3.6 km, 470 m-drop Top Chief enduro track, July 2019. Photo Credit: Chris Hetherington.

I’m heading North to sample some of Scotland’s rougher, rockier terrain in preparation for EWS Round 1 in Zermatt. Of all of Scotland’s built trails, Fort William’s DH and Top Chief Enduro tracks probably come closest to what lies in store in Switzerland. We’ll also head deeper into the highland hills in search of unacceptably tight switchbacks, a feature Zermatt is infamous for.

MET Bluegrass offer ideal protection for ews racing astm certified full face helmet ce certified back protector d3o knee elbow pads
 MET and Bluegrass offer the ideal protection for EWS racing – a well-ventilated ASTM certified full face convertible helmet, D3O knee and elbow pads and a CE Certified back protection vest with water carrying capacity

Join us next time to catch that action, and more info on how my enduro training program gets even more specific as we count down to race day.

full face convertible helmets with detatchable chin bar moutpiece are approved for enduro world series ews races
Excerpt from the Protection Rules section of the EWS Zermatt 2020 Race Book

This project is supported by MET Helmets and Bluegrass Eagle Protection.

Thank you to Professor Geraint Florida-James for overseeing my enduro training program, and BSpoke Cycles for ongoing mechanic support. Thank you also to Cannondale, Adrenalin Uplift and Strava.

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Antoine Martin
Antoine Martin
3 years ago

Nice serie, keep up the good work.

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