Coach’s Column with Alison Dunlap – Maximize Your Busy Racing Schedule

Question: My race season is stacked with great races early on that I want to do but it would mean racing 9-10 weekends in a row.  Is that doable or just stupid?  If I do race that many weekends in a row, how should I plan my training going into that block and once the racing starts, how do I get the best results?

Answer: One of the biggest challenges to planning a race season is figuring out how to fit everything in; races you want to do vs races your team wants you to do vs races your sponsors may require you to do.   What sounds really good on paper may not be realistic for you physically and emotionally.  Here are a few factors to consider.

  1. Racing 9-10 weekends in a row is very possible.  Elite riders and Europeans do it all the time.  With good recovery, rest, and nutrition your body can do amazing things.  The bigger question to ask is how important is each of these 9-10 races and do you have to be at your best for each one?  Physically our bodies can’t perform at their peak for 10 weekends in a row.  It isn’t possible.  Sure you can race all those weekends but you have to realize that you may be “pack fill” for most of them.
  2. How many years have you been racing?  It will be much harder for an athlete that is new to the sport or a younger athlete to race 10 weekends in a row compared to a rider that has been racing for 15 years.  I would never allow a junior to race that many weekends in a row.  And it would be unusual for a rider under the age of 30 years old to also race that much.   Racers in their forties rarely race that much because they know better.   The more miles and years you have in your legs, the better your body will be able to handle the stress of that many weekends in a row.    If you don’t have many miles/years in your legs, then don’t race 10 weekends in a row.
  3. How important are these races?  If you want to do all these races but you aren’t too concerned with your results then you’ll be fine.   Go to each race, ride hard, and then take 2-3 days of recovery.  You can do some hard training on Wed/Thurs and then rest on Friday.  Race again on the weekend.  This is the best way to maintain fitness.  But again the results will suffer because you’ll be tired.
  4.  If these are all important races then you’ll have to change your training plan quite a bit to accommodate this schedule.  I would suggest doing a huge amount of training in the two months leading up to your big block of racing.  Get yourself super fit almost to the point of overtraining.  But not quite.  Take a rest week leading up to the first weekend of racing and then off you go.  To maximize your performance at the races you’ll need to rest and recover as much as you can during the week with maybe one day of intensity to keep the legs from completely shutting down.  You’ll be able to perform well at each race but you’ll begin to notice a slow decline in your power output as the weeks wear on.  The biggest drawback to this schedule is that racing hard on Saturday and Sunday and then maybe having one day of intensity during the week isn’t enough to maintain your fitness.    You will slowly get out of shape over the ten weeks of racing.  Ironic isn’t it?
  5. What if you have a mix of races; some that are super important and others that you can train right through?  For a big race I would rest and recover with either one day of intensity mid-week or a day of openers on Friday.  Then race hard on the weekend.  If you have a race that isn’t important but you want to go because it is a great course or all your friends will be there, then I would recover on Mon/Tues, train hard on Wed/Thurs, rest on Friday and then race hard through the weekend.

Ten weekends in a row of racing is quite hard and not something I would recommend to anyone.  But if you really want to do it and are smart about your recovery and nutrition you can convince your body to do almost anything.  Keeping a good mindset will also help.  And then once you’re done I would take at least a two week vacation and put your bike in the closet!

Good luck and happy trails!


Alison is a superstar in the sport of cycling.  She competed in two Olympic Games, won the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships, the UCI World Cup Overall, and is the holder of thirteen US National Championships in road, MTB, and cyclocross.  Since retiring in 2005 Alison has been working full-time coaching cyclists and running skills camps and clinics. She is a USA Cycling Level I coach, a certified Professional Mountain Bike Instructor out of Whistler, BC, a Wilderness First Responder, and a very proud mom to her 4-yr-old son, Emmett.  Alison is a Colorado native and lives in Colorado Springs with her family.