Andalucia Bike Race, a Coach’s View. Part 1

ABR scenery Small

Technical riding, stunning scenery and clear blue skies in February. What more could you want?

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I started working with Mel Alexander (Contessa Scott Syncros) at the beginning of the 2012 season. The long-term goal was (and still is) for her to compete in the XC event for Wales at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. For 2012 we were too late for Mel to benefit from a traditional periodised plan so instead we focussed on several key areas where we agreed that there was room for improvement.

One of these priority areas was speed which meant lots of short, high intensity efforts and very few training sessions without an intense effort of some sort. As many of you will know, Cross Country (XC) MTB has changed considerably over the last few years with the courses becoming more and s much less about Strength and Endurance and much more about Power, Speed and technical riding than it used to be. So what is the connection to Andalucia Bike Race?

At the end of 2012, Mel and I put together a race calendar for 2013 and planned the training year around key races. Then at the beginning of 2013 Mel had a last minute invitation to compete in Andalucia with Matt Page, riding for Bike Magic. Given what I’ve already said it might surprise you to read that it didn’t take us long to agree that she should compete. In my view, the race can be a great way to prepare for a long XC season and that’s why Mel is racing again in 2014.

From a physical preparation point of view, there are very few riders who will be able to work as hard in training as they do in a race. Think about that in the context of a 6 day stage race with an average stage length of over 66km and a total of over 10,000 metres of climbing and I don’t believe there are many riders in the world who would replicate the effort in training, especially in the midst of a UK winter (Despite the area seeing the worst snowfall for 30 years during last year’s event the chances are that it will be significantly warmer in southern Spain than in the UK in February and that is definitely an advantage for a hard training block). There are also benefits from a psychological point of view. After a long winter of training most riders will be chomping at the bit to get racing again, especially when the event is on new, fun trails with great scenery and some of the world’s top riders surrounding them. The weather plays a part again here as we all know that riding in the sun puts a smile on our faces and makes us feel good generally. Lastly, there is a technical benefit to riding trails that you are not used to and that have different characteristics to what you are used to riding in the UK, especially without the benefit of a recce.

Overall, the event makes a really good hard training block and as long as you allow for some recovery time following the event it gives the rider a good foundation on which to build the speed and power necessary to meet the demands of XC racing. It can act as a really good refresher for riders who can otherwise get a bit stale over the winter and, almost as important as anything else, it should be a fun trip-never underestimate the effect of fun on rider motivation!