1 Question: What's the Most Important Part of Your Off-Season?

Apr 17, 2017 at 4:34
by Paul Aston  
The 2017 international race season has kicked into action: the Enduro World Series has ticked off the first two rounds, the first major XC event, the Cape Epic is complete, and there's less than one week to wait until the first Downhill World Cup in Lourdes kicks off. We asked some of the most focused, well prepared and well-decorated racers out there about what part of their off-season routine is the most important.

1 Question

Jerome Clementz – Cannondale Factory Off Road Team

Jerome Clementz is likely the winningest enduro rider on the planet; a palmares of multiple Megavalanche and Mountain of Hell wins, French Enduro series titles, and the winner of the inaugural EWS series.

bigquotesThe off-season is often long, giving you plenty of time to start wondering what was right and wrong in your previous season. Once the season ends, after a break, you have to start working again and make decisions on which direction you want to go. If the previous season was successful you can be tempted to repeat what you did that year and if the result didn't reach your expectations, you may want to change everything.

It can be strange, but to be confident when the season starts, it's important to think about your past season, analyze your performance, your motivation. Define what worked and what didn't, find which areas you could improve. The main mistake would be to repeat the same thing—if you want to progress you need to change things in your routine. The level of your competition is always improving, so you have to try to bring new things in your approach to get better. I'm speaking of fitness or skill aspects, but also mentally, in your material, in your staff, and approach of the race. It doesn't mean doing more but doing better, in a way that fits your vision and goal.

I believe that the athletes consistently at the top, or who manage to come back strong after injury or a bad year, are there because they have the capacity to have an honest vision of their performance, are able to innovate in their approach and have the will to get better and not just 'surf' on their success. It can be done on your own or by chatting with your team, coach, family…

So as a conclusion, I could say that to be sure to be ready when the season starts, analyze your strength, weakness and define your goal, then make a plan a commit to it until the season start. If you're not changing things, you're not progressing and you'll be regressing. This requires an honest look at yourself and the ability to criticize what you have done in the past.

Jared Graves – Specialized Factory Racing

The ultimate multi-discipline rider. Jared Graves owns medals of varying ores from XC, BMX, 4X, downhill and now enduro.

bigquotesI have always prepared for the start of race season beginning in early December, when I resume 'the bubble' as I call it, haha. You’ve had some downtime to rest and relax and just enjoy your riding with no plan for the last 6–8 weeks, and then it’s time to start working on what you could have done better from the previous year, and formulate a plan to make that happen.

Every year you prepare in a slightly different way, you take certain things that you know work, and try some new things to hopefully keep you on top of your game and faster than the year before, which is crucial and also keeps things interesting! But probably the number one thing I focus on leading up to the start of the season is getting my day-to-day habits well established, from diet to sleep and recovery and to not wasting any time during the day and getting done what you need to get done to move forward. Once a good routine is set and in place and I see the fitness and strength and skills all coming back, then my mental state always starts to take a big leap forward, and confidence grows.

It's super easy in the off-season to quickly slip into a bad daily routine (which is also needed for a mental freshen up and your sanity!), but getting out of the bad routine (I developed somewhat of a pizza addiction during November and December last year and a very inconsistent sleep routine) and establishing a good routine that slowly becomes the everyday norm again is the most important thing for me. Everything improves once my day to day routine is set and I feel like I’m making the most of every moment, and doing the right things.

So I guess it could be summarized as, a lot of little things that all involve not taking the easy or quick option. Just being in the routine of doing things the best and most consistently as you can.

Tracy Moseley – T-Mo Racing

T-Mo is one of the most decorated downhill racers ever and was the first female to switch discipline to enduro and make a significant mark. Convincingly winning the Enduro World Series titles three years in a row, she's now 'retired' from full-time racing but as committed as ever to the sport.

bigquotesPreparation is key to success, and that covers so many different parts of your training, nutrition, bike set up, recovery etc. So I think one of the most important things you can do in the winter is to make sure you have a year planner. Mark out all of the race dates and events you plan to be at. Once it's up on a big piece of paper it's easy to see if you have too much going on at one point in the year and not much at others, you can get a good overview of what your race season looks like. Make sure your goals are written down, both longer term and short term goals.

Then you can start to work into your off-season planning back from that first race, and know when you get to the start gate you have done everything you could to help prepare for that event. You then also have your year mapped out and can see where you are going and what you are doing for the coming months, which I think can help reduce the stress and allow you to be confident in your planning.

Fabien Barel – Canyon Factory Racing

Fabien Barel is a three-time Downhill World Champion and has won many enduro events. Perhaps more impressive than his results is his ability to come back bigger and stronger than ever following serious injuries.

bigquotesTo start a season strong and confident, for me it is key to have spent lots of time on my bike. Your bike has to feel like an extension of your body. You have to feel the tires on the ground just like walking barefoot in the dirt. This instinct will allow you to stop thinking while riding and focus on what is coming at you. Your body will then react naturally and instinctively when the pressure is on and the starting bleeps beep.

Loic Bruni – Specialized Factory Racing

Loic Bruni may still be young but has a mature head on his shoulders. Knowledge and skill passed down from a pinned Papa have helped him gain the coveted rainbow colors at a mere 21 years of age.

bigquotes I cannot say that focusing on only one thing will grow my confidence for the start of the season, to me, it is definitely a mix of different things. But let's talk about something I did more than the previous offseasons before: body care. I normally get physio and massages during the season at the races but never at home. This winter I felt like I needed to help the body going through training. Maybe it's because I'm getting old?

We are riding so much on the roughest tracks to test suspension, crashing and training hard every day. I don't think the body is made for this abuse. This winter I felt like some people needed to look after me. It feels so good to get a massage and some chiropractic care, for example. Our bodies crave it and even mentally it makes me feel better to know that I'm preventing my body from getting old already. Some people do yoga or I don't know what, but to me, this is important now. Injuries suck so bad that I want to do anything not to get them. So, I hope I will be healthy in Lourdes in order to let the full power speak for itself!

Danny Hart – MS Mondraker Team

He's only 25, but it seems like the Redcar Rocket has been around forever. Judging by his form at the end of 2016, he is the fastest bike rider in the World right now.

bigquotesI have been concentrating on riding my downhill bike a lot this winter, I have not ridden my MX bike much at all, whereas normally I would ride it quite a lot, I only rode it once this offseason. So yeah, lots of DH riding, my bike is worn out! I am looking forward to the final stages of preparation leading into Lourdes. We're heading out to Spain and Portugal to do some testing.

The downhill riding I have been doing has been at my bike park, Danny Hart's Descend Bike park, as well as other bike parks across the country. Obviously, with me taking over a bike park, I have been riding there a lot. Then when I want to get away from my comfort zone I ride other places over in Wales, and in Europe, I had a solid winter last year riding, doing different exercises on the bike, for instance, no braking for as far as possible down the track, and also no pedalling, it is amazing how when you concentrate on not pedalling how fast your times can still actually be.

As for gym stuff, I have been doing a lot more heavy lifting, just to try and get my strength up. It has actually been quite fun, especially when you can see the numbers increasing every session! Moving closer to the season I will be riding in Europe a little more and doing even more testing.

Jenny Rissveds – Scott-SRAM MTB Racing

Anybody who takes home a gold medal from their first Olympics has a firm grasp on training and preparation, there's rarely luck involved under the five rings.

bigquotesFor me, one really important thing apart from training is the time I get to spend at home during the winter. I really appreciate spending time with my family and to stay at home for a longer period. People might think I'm crazy but there is something special about riding my bike in the dark, cold and shitty conditions during the winter. I believe these contrasts from the racing scene make me even more motivated to jump into the season.

Rachel Atherton – Trek Factory Racing DH

The best downhill racer ever? After fifteen World Cup and Championship wins on the trot, and a perfect 2016 season, if not already, she's damn close and in the form of her life.

bigquotesGuaranteeing success is almost impossible and certainly doesn't boil down to 'one thing' but numerous things all falling into place in the race season. Mountain biking is so dynamic, the variety of skills you need is really very broad, so all of these areas need working on, but I would say that generally if you 'make your weaknesses a strength, and make your strengths bulletproof,' that's a good starting point.

So you might know you are technically a very good bike rider, but if you are shit at jumps, you go out and nail jumps, and technically improve even more—you will be an all-around better rider—you get the picture! I think addressing your weaknesses, whatever they are, but also knowing and being confident in delivering your own strengths is huge.

Nino Schurter – Scott-SRAM MTB Racing

Another Scott rider, and another Olympic Gold medalist and multiple World Champion. Although purely a cross country competitor, Nino is regarded as one of the best all round bike handlers in the world.

bigquotesFor me, it's important to take a proper break in the off-season and not ride any bikes for 2–4 weeks. I normally go on holidays with my family where I spend some quiet time away from the sporting world. After this restart, I'm motivated again to give it all to prepare for the new season. I don't take any shortcuts as soon it's time to train again, that's the time you build up towards your entire season. If you stick to your program through the winter you can start your first race with a good feeling and that's already the first important thing in your mental battle.

Gee Atherton – Trek Factory Racing

If you've seen Gee without his shirt on, you know he's been training hard for years. Two World Championships, one World Cup Series title, nine World Cup wins and over fifty WC podiums. Outstanding.

bigquotesIf I can ride all of Dan Atherton’s tracks that he has created, consistently, then I know I'm getting close to being ready for the World Cup season. It's harder than it sounds!


  • + 139
 How long do you think it takes the pros to get used to all the extra stiffness the new "standards" have given them? I'm pretty sure that some of their off season HAS to spent on getting familiar with all those performance gains.
  • + 29
 You win two bike internets this month
  • + 4
 @WAKIdesigns: How many bitcoins is a bike internet worth? Razz
  • - 20
flag derTetris (Apr 25, 2017 at 23:36) (Below Threshold)
 actually, troll postings like this makes me read the comments less and less. it's getting the norm here on pinkbike Frown
yeah the boost standard makes your bike "outdated" and the dh race at sea otter is to flat ...come on get over it.
  • + 1
 @derTetris: suck it up, big daddy
  • + 68
 What is "off-season"? Is it when you forget to marinade the steak?
  • - 29
flag metaam (Apr 25, 2017 at 13:16) (Below Threshold)
 No, it's when your bitch isn't feeling sexy.
  • + 7
 When you ride a hardtail?
  • + 1
 It's When the is surf up.
  • + 3
 @metaam: up voted. That was funny
  • + 7
 @dro-cfr: Haha, I'm glad someone thought so. I think it was one of those comments that sounded better in my head than it looked in print!
  • + 2
 Like most people, I laughed and then downvoted. A bit like hearing a Jimmy Carr joke.
  • - 11
flag Tmackstab (Apr 25, 2017 at 12:44) (Below Threshold)
  • + 2
 Beer tropics...one season, just beer
  • + 5
  • + 4
 Yeah I didn't see crushing beers and Netflix.
  • + 36
 Hey... Leave Pizza out of this!
  • + 31
 Zwift and donuts 24/7
  • + 5
 You might think that Mike is joking (he is not).
  • + 5
 I hoped Mike meant Suzuki Swift and donuts 24/7, then I googled Zwift and that's not something I'd like to see him doing
  • + 2
 Zwift looks very very scary.
  • + 28
 Buildin a trail!
  • + 22
 Skiing and trailwork
  • + 25
 Loic 'Maybe it's because I'm getting old.' Hahaha, you wait!
  • + 16
 Nino Schurter wins the Cape Epic in his "off season".... These guys are on a level us mere mortals can only dream of... Keep us inspired!
  • + 14
 Graves' response was the most professional and probably true. pro athletes need a serious hard core routine to focus and prepare to do what they do. at least he admits to being human for a while during the off season.
  • + 4
 Really was. Little off topic, but sat next to an trainer for an NBA team on a flight and the "schedule" the top guys follow is pretty nuts. They had the added wrinkle of making sure your body is at its peak from 6PM to 11PM at night, but how the top veteran players adhere to schedule of sleep and what not was pretty crazy.
  • + 11
  • + 10
 Sounds like Gee has it figured out.
  • + 8
 No off-season in NorCal.
  • + 2
 Nor in Vancouver BC. Why would you live anywhere with an off-season? Ski when you want to or ride when you want to. And ocean sports year round.
  • + 7
 There's an off season?
  • + 5
 Bought a plus bike, no more off-season. My mind loves it but my knees wish for some rest...
  • + 6
 fabien dh dojo- sign me up!
  • + 4
 All I know is that Lourdes is going to be off the hook. I. Can't. Wait!
  • + 4
 Pb, get rid of the haibike ad please.
  • + 3
 I'm really into how much they deadlift while being so fkng skinny. Anyone has any idea?
  • + 0
 I think the "standard" fitness coach would tell you 2x your body weight. squat 2.5-3x. Have a friend who does coaching for college football (soccer)
  • + 0
 Who ever downed me, please update me as to what I am off on. I would like to correct my training regimen to reflect your knowledge.
  • + 3
 @joose: 2xBW squat and 2,5xBW deadlift. That's "strong enough" for any athlete besides weightlifting etc. I don't think many cyclists are that strong, cause it's a more endurance based sport.
  • + 3
 @hirvi: endurance sport yes, no doubt, fullly agree. It is mostly slow twitch muscles, but bring in heavy climbs and sprints and you really start bringing in fast twitch. These guys are animals, and have legs like cannons. So I have zero doubt in my mind that they can't do 2x squat and 2.5 dl. Damnit when is there a pro cylicst when you need one Smile
  • + 2
 A guy I work with is a former olympic class power lifter. Power lifting is different than building big bulky showy muscles. It's about getting the most strength out of a given muscle mass. Therefore the focus is on building really strong efficient muscles. Not the biggest ones. The guy is in his early 60's and he's still ridiculously strong. Shoulder presses 75lb dumbbells no problem does full dips etc. you get the idea. He's an average looking guy stands about 5'8" 170lbs. Nothing special to look at but his strength level is scary. I'm sure the trainers these elite riders have know all about how to build for power not size.
  • + 2
 Good question, I'm willing to bet that Graves and Rude are easily around the 500lb. mark. Being low body fat is not a bad thing for lifting heavy. There are 170lb. dudes pulling 650lbs. and more all day long. Makes my 450lb. deadlift weak at 180lbs.
  • + 0
 @dualsuspensiondave: how long did it take you to get there? I'm 165lb and can do 280lb on deadlift and sht myself at the very thought of going 200lbs on deep squat. Do you have to spend like 2 hours with the barbell alone 3 times a week?
  • + 0
 @dualsuspensiondave: also, going low with body fat is rather easy at their level, considering how much they exert, so the impressive bit is getting so much power out of so "little" muscle mass.
  • + 3
 @WAKIdesigns: I'll jump in... just cracked 500 deadlift for the first time at just shy of 200 lbs. Been lifting for 5 years, when I started I could barely get 185 up (with bad form). I was stalled at around 400 for a while... Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 is what I used to bring my numbers up. It's a serious program, but on it, I only deadlift once a week. Here's a video of a deadlift session of mine from back in October that gives a bit of insight... hope it helps! www.youtube.com/watch?v=b79vF0VGhV0
  • + 1
 @martis: huge thanks! I actually got into it to the point where I already skipped a few evening rides just to go to the gym. I also used to go to the pumptrack during lunch, like once twice a week, but now I go to the outdoor gym for caliesthenics. Two weeks ago I had a choice 4h long ride or two short rides and gym - went for the second.
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns: It took me about 8 months, 3 times a week working with a barbell for about 2 hours. One week would be 2 deadlift and overhead press days, then one the next week. The other days are bench and squat. I also do 2 days of conditioning with kettlebells with that or riding. The keys are form, programming, nutrition and sleep. It's tough not to hurt yourself trying to PR. You'll go through plateaus, but you can get there. Eat a lot of good food along the way!
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: No problem, man. I love discussing the correlation between lifting and riding. Your routine sounds like you're getting a really good balance of many different types of activity, which is awesome. When I first got into the gym, I did a bodybuilding split (mainly to lose fat) and saw some improvements in my riding... but when I shifted to emphasizing the big four powerlifting movements (Dead, Squat, Bench, Standing Press), I was really surprised to see all aspects of my riding improve in a major way. Going fast on the DH bike became so much easier.
  • + 2
 @martis: @wakidesigns: I also used Jim Wendlers 5/3/1 programming. Mark Rippetoe teaches some great things with the barbell at startingstrength.com as well.
  • + 2
 @fattyheadshok: There's a couple of guys I lift with that are the same way... more or less average looking dudes with completely ludicrous numbers. That's the great thing about powerlifting, it's about substance over appearance. Raw strength.
  • + 2
 @dualsuspensiondave: 5/3/1 was such a game changer for me. I had been stuck at a 1RM 270 bench, 410 dead, and 315 squat for so damn long. Within about two months on the program, I gave all three a shot, and all three had been improved upon, some more significantly than others. The only downside is that it gets a little bit repetitive, but I guess that's a price that's worth paying. I took a few months off from serious lifting due to a really busy schedule and living in two different states, but now that things are settling down for the summer, I'm going right back to 5/3/1.

I have Rippetoe's book. Several people I know are huge fans of it. I've skimmed through it, but haven't really sat down and read the thing cover to cover, which I might do this week.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: Also, I had a brief chat on instagram with Aaron Gwin a few months ago about deadlifting. I kept hinting at wanting to know what his 1RM was (so I could see if there's something I'm better at than Aaron Gwin) but he didn't take the bait. I'm sure it's more than I'm expecting, though.
  • + 0
 @martis: I try to keep things varied this year as I realized that biking alone with gym only in the off season is burning me off a bit. I got into cold exposure, precision nutrition with Time Restricted Feeding, trying to sleep well although that bit is not for me for at least 5 more years since my youngest is 3. I decided to give calisthenics a go too. I just feel pathetic for how little I can managemy own body weight. Then dealifting: I just like it, I feel awesome afterwards, so pumped. For now I will be more than happy with double my current body weight on the classic deadlift. Same with HIIT, love all sorts of combos. Just fkng get that body to the state where it goes: what the fk is going oooon?! But without pushing over the edge.

I can't say that about deep squats - hate that sht. Do it just because I was told I need to. Bench pressing only 2xBW at the moment. I mean lying flat with bar to the chest. Oh by the way, why wouldn't you combine Bench with deadlift in one day?
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: @WAKIdesigns: if your struggling to squat deep either your forms off or you need to work on mobility. For the second try some of Abi's hip openers! In terms of form key cues are to think about spreading the floor (sounds weird, effectively trying to push your feet apart, this helps activate the glutes) then push your knees out as you squat down, this effectively makes room for your torso to move into. Finding the right foot position, both width and toe angle for your body will help too.

Deadlifts are awesome for all sports and everyone. But so much of the movement is training your central nervous system, hence gaining greater efficiency here will improve your strength even without gaining tons of muscle.

2xBW bench is actually a pretty awesome achievement!! Not many people manage that!!
  • + 1
 @symanoy: aaa fk, no, sorry. I meant I can bench 2 reps of 1BW. So no, I'm not good. As to squats, I have a pretty decent mobility, I think my form is relatively ok too. I don't have problem getting deep into the squat, not at all - I just get tired very quickly. Even with goblet squats. It wears me out a lot too. I can do 5x5 100kg (weigh 74-75kg) on deadlift and I stop only because I once binged really hard and I needed to rest full 2 days. When I squat, I do 5x5 75kg and I am demolished. after 5x5 deadlift I can do 3 HIIT circuits, then do 5 hill sprints. After squats I can do only 1 circuit and I'm done, can eventually ride road for 1 hour.

Wow a quality discussion on Pinkbike! Big Grin
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns: I have to agree, this turned into an awesome discussion. If you are getting tired of doing the same motions of "go to the gym, ride my bike(the awesome part), go to the gym etc". See if your gym has a rowing machine, it can beat the crap out of you're whole body, hits both the cardiovascular system while still hitting your muscular system. I think it is one of my most effective training tools in my tiny basement gym. Check out concept 2 if you are interested, really good quality machines.
  • + 4
 Tacos - The most important part to any off season
  • + 4
 MOTO X the "off season"
  • + 2
 Ahem, invite requested next time you go!
  • + 1
 @bdamschen: you got it ole buddy!
  • + 4
  • + 3
 Travel to different bike parks and secret trails
  • + 3
 Skiing hard and often
  • + 1
 Jenny Rissveds - "Uhm, I do some training and riding, but honestly it's 90% selfies of my abs."
  • + 1
 The fact that there is no off season here! !!
  • + 0
 Off season is those first rainy weeks in October when the trail stunts get all slippery and I am constantly coming "off"!
  • + 1
 Riding as much as I can, in the off season.
  • + 1
 counting the "looks like a session " comment
  • + 1
 Australia has no off season! Certainly makes up for the lack of snow.
  • + 4
 Some places in Aus Summer is the off season. 42 degrees, blown out pea gravel or soft sand and snakes. Loving the cooler weather we're getting now and doing a rain dance twice a day. I still build and ride mellow but night lights and plus tyres would be needed for year round riding.
  • + 1
 Luckily I'm in central coast of California. No off season.
  • + 0
 I build muscle by jacking off.
  • + 1
  • + 1
  • + 1
  • + 1
 riding my other bikes
  • - 3
 I want to know about training for WC in Lourdes not this useless question. other MTB websites are already showing images of racers training in Lourdes and you are to slow on the news
  • + 0
 Off season?
  • + 0
 Bong rippers
  • + 0
  • - 2
 Ride your bike, period! No Excuses! Ride Ride Ride! and have fun doing it!
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