X-terra and Half Ironman

by Franck Barath

I'm planning a 70.3 in June, X-Terra France in July and an Ironman in September. I wonder if I can replace quality sessions of road bike by mountain bike, or long road sessions by mountain bike and how to get the best out of it.

I have pretty good technique on the mountain bike, can ride a 36 km/h average on a 70.3 and 40 on olympic.

Thank you in advance for your support.

Intelligent Triathlon Training replies:

You certainly can replace road sessions with mountain bike sessions. Many of the professionals in Xterra will also do 70.3 and IM triathlon races.

Depending upon the terrain near you I would be inclined to go with a long ride on the mountainbike and keep the quality work on your road bike.

A few reasons for this:

1. Off road can be difficult to control the intensity easily due to fluctuations in terrain, surface and technicality.

2. Two of your three races are road and account for a much greater proportion of the time.

3. You need to practice riding your road bike in a low aero position, which takes much more practice to be able to gain the most out of it.

Especially riding it at fast speeds and higher intensity. This helps you to a perspective of pacing for the IM or 70.3, which can be vital in shaving seconds or minutes off your time.

By comparison a mountain bike is fairly easy to sit on and ride because they are generally fairly upright for control purposes. Here the practice comes in actually riding it round corners, over bumps etc which you can do on a long steady ride.

4. if you are like me you will find a long mountain bike ride more fun than a long road ride.

However, be careful with the intensity! It is very easy on a mountain bike off road to push the intensity up too much and ride quite hard. This will be fatiguing and possibly compromise your overall training if you have not accounted for it.

5. The long ride on the mountain bike will give you time to practice being smooth over the bumps, corners etc and practice your skills under less pressure than doing a session.

You can use sections of the mountain bike ride to practice some technical areas whilst riding a bit harder but again keep an eye on the overall load of the session.

These are some of the reasons that many mountain bike pros will do a lot of their training on a road bike and use the mountain bike sparingly.

A mountain bike is a good way of keeping motivation up during triathlon training, and to give yourself a change, but ONLY if it is something you enjoy.

Some find the technicality and risk of off-road too much stress and not worth the return.

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