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Pacing in Enduro MTB racing so you can ride smoother and faster

We all know Enduro racing is hard. And that’s why we like it.

As a sport, it’s a beautiful mixture of physical ability, skill and risk. As in most dynamic sports, these components cannot stand alone. For example, having balls without skill won’t get you far, and likewise, being an absolute physical specimen with no skill, you will not race well. It’s this blend that makes it interesting to race and train for, and further why we see different riders at the top on different courses.

However, one huge question remains: how do we approach a race run to enhance the effectiveness of each of these components?

We all watch the same race videos. On watching the starts for runs, it is not uncommon to see riders absolutely smashing the pedals from the gun. This makes sense- we pedal when we can to throw down the extra watts and move through the pedally terrain as fast as possible, then hold on for the rough stuff. It’s a strategy that makes sense in theory, but does it work in practice?

How many times have you smashed a pedal section and gone into a rock garden cross-eyed? Have you ever crested an uphill and gone into switchbacks like you were all thumbs? This is converse to the phrase we’ve all heard and probably repeated: “Smooth is fast”.

Smooth is fast.

Can you be smooth when you are seeing stars? Can you pump and flow when your heart rate is maxed?

Probably not. But this is our typical strategy…

It’s easy to debate this strategy basing off of ‘feel’ or from resultant performances of uncontrolled strategy fidgeting. But this is not science, and in this age of DATA, we can do

better than just feelings.

Be sure to check out my enduro training plans, including sessions used by 2x USA Elite Champ

Fortunately at a recent race, I was able to collect some variables doing just this. This was a Super D race in Eastern NZ. Conditions were deplorably muddy and the track was fast. Check out the following files for my two runs (we were allowed as many as we wanted on the same track). I had one practice run and one track walk before the race.


Figure 1. Data from Run 1. Brown is elevation; blue is speed; yellow is power; red is heart rate. Peak power, speed and HR were 680 W, 28.7 mph and 197 bpm, respectively. Race time was 8 min 2 seconds.