Planning your MTB season

Fabian Heinzer 17. May 2023

Now is the time to start thinking about which mountain bike races you'd like to enter.

As the warmer weather arrives, some endurance athletes are starting to emerge from their winter hibernation. Others, however, are already taking to the start line and getting their first race underway. How about you? Are you ready to take on a bike marathon challenge? Which races are you interested in?

The professionals usually begin planning their competition schedule at the end of the previous year, as soon as the dates are announced. Certain events will be a firm fixture on their calendar, requiring a timely return to peak form. These often include title bouts such as national or international championships. Their annual calendar is then often also filled with preparatory races or even an entire race series. For example, the Bike Marathon Classics series in Switzerland has been a fixed feature on many ambitious cyclists’ calendar for years.

For amateur racers, the potential goals for season highlights are even more diverse. While competing in a home race is the main priority for some athletes, others enjoy setting themselves a unique challenge such as races involving many metres of climbing that make the hairs stand up in the back of your neck. Why not try stepping outside of your comfort zone this year?

Factor in preparatory races

No matter whether you're looking to achieve a certain ranking, set a personal best or tackle a challenging course, it’s a good idea to get some preparatory races under your belt. Many things need to come together in order to be successful on race day, be it the nutrition before and during the competition or the training in the days leading up to it. Pacing also plays a major role in achieving your goal. Ideally, you should put all of these factors to the test during a preparatory competition rather than leaving it to chance on the day of the main event of the season.

On the other hand, the strain of a bike marathon shouldn't be underestimated either. Maximum physical and mental strength is required on the day, which can seldom simply be unleashed at will during any given event throughout the season. It’s therefore a good idea, even for expert athletes, to undertake no more than 10 competitions in order to prevent burnout mid-season.

Reaching peak form at the right time

The bike marathon calendar traditionally fills up in August and September with the most popular and famous races. This gives you plenty of time to prepare for your personal highlight of the season. If your highlight involves the Iron Bike Race as part of the Bikeside MTB Festival in Einsiedeln at the end of September, we recommend preparing as follows:

  • For expert cyclists

Want to put your abilities to the test with multiple races and measure yourself against the best? In that case, we recommend the six races of the Bike Marathon Classics series, which takes place between June and September. These leave you with plenty of weekends free for other sporting goals or longer trainings to get you ready for the marathon.

  • For amateur cyclists

Don’t want to take on too much but want to be optimally prepared for your highlight event of the season? If so, one or two competitions beforehand will be enough to shake off the cobwebs and get some racing experience in the bag. In August, the Eiger Bike Challenge and National Park Bike Marathon form two genuine Swiss classics. This leaves enough time to iron out any issues before the season highlight at the end of September.

  • For casual athletes

Got a lot on your plate, don’t have time for other races and are hoping to at least participate in the Iron Bike Race on 24 September? In that case, try to focus on the following three things beforehand:

  1. Mix up your training: Don’t always work out at the same intensity; instead, take a gentle and easy ride if you're covering a longer distance, or increase the effort if time is more limited.
  2. Between June and early September, cycle the anticipated race duration three times on a similar route profile at your personal competition pace. Use the opportunity to try out your race nutrition and get your stomach used to the sports food.
  3. Have your bike checked out by a mechanic one or two weeks before the race.

About the author: Fabian Heinzer is a bike marathon rider. Moreover, he is completing a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and he is working part-time as an electrical engineer. After several overall victories in mid-distance bike marathons, he is now focused on long-distance races with the goal of shaking up the national marathon scene.

More info about Fabian: Website / Instagram