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Coach's Column with Chris Eatough

Posted by: Shannon Boffeli |March 24, 2011 1:51 AM

Chris Eatough is a 6-time 24 hour solo world champion and 5-time 24 hour solo national champion along with multiple win in 100-mile mountain bike races.  Chris uses his 12 years as a professional mountain bike racer to assist others in reaching their peak fitness and ability. View Chrisís tailor-made training plans including 100-mile, 24-hour, and MTB stage race at

Question: Iíve been riding for a few years but want to start racing this season. How do I get started and what should I focus on when training? 


Answer: The main difference between "riding" and "racing" is that you need to be close to your limit the whole time when racing - but not over it.  This requires accurate pacing and a strong focus maintained for the whole race.  Many riders can go fast for a short time, but holding everything together for a longer period is tough.  I recommend including "race simulations" in your training, where you go at race pace with no interruptions or let up.  You can start with 15 minutes at a time, and build up to 60 minutes at a time of full speed, non-stop race simulation.  Focus on smooth and efficient bike handling as well as a strong effort. 

For pacing during the race, it's important to avoid the error that most riders make - going out to fast.  Start out fast, but not all out.  It's better to have something left in the last 30 minutes so that you can step up your pace when other racers fade rather than burn yourself out early and limp to the finish.  A good pacing strategy is:

  • 85% effort for the first third of the race
  • 90% effort for the second third of the race
  • 95% effort for the third of the race

This will give you the best chance of even lap splits throughout the race, which usually provides the best results. 

Most importantly, focus on your own performance and effort level during the race and don't worry about everyone else. 

Ripping through the course at maximum speed takes all your concentration, so don't waste it elsewhere.

Good luck with your training and racing!

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