A deep dive into the MTB National Championships

14 April 2022

Last month, the Mountain Bike National Championships took place in Maydena, Tasmania. Located an hour and a half inland from Hobart, it’s a secluded mountain bikers haven. It’s the second time we’ve fought for the National titles in Maydena, on a track known for its incredibly steep climbs and naturally technical descents.

Mountain Bike National Championships
Photo credit: Connor McKenzie

This year’s course was no exception and had to be modified throughout the week of unofficial practice to dull it down and make it race-able for all age categories. In the end, the commissaires made the right call and settled on a 4.4km lap with two decisive climbs and an impressive 175m of elevation gain per lap.

Mountain Bike National Championships
Photo credit: Connor McKenzie

Today’s plan has been on a long-time supporter of Team Bridgelane; Australia’s top-ranked continental road team. But for 2022, we set out to disrupt the norm and added a mountain bike program. Sam and I decided to forego our last year in the u23 age category to contest the Elite national title.

Mountain Bike National Championships
Photo credit: Connor McKenzie

This year’s Elite men’s field would be a sure test for our new team setup. Intense competition from riders such as Dan McConnell, Cam Ivory and Jared Graves ensured the title would be hard-fought. Without any early season races to set a comparison, it was anyone’s guess who would come out on top.

Mountain Bike National Championships
Photo credit: Connor McKenzie

For the race analysis, we’ll be taking a look at some of Sam’s data. Sam rode an aggressive race and went out hard from the start. For the 1 hour and 41mins of racing Sam averaged 239w with an adjusted power of 301w. This spread is far greater than we would typically see in a road race, and it is due to the descending and cornering on an MTB where you wouldn’t be pedalling. Adjusted power accounts for the variation in Sam’s effort, and it gives us a better indicator of his physiological cost.

Race data

Straight off the start, Sam produced some of his best numbers in the race, enabling him to establish a position near the front entering the first climb. In the first 2 minutes, we can see Sam produced 426w equivalent to 6.4w/kg. From there, the pace backed off slightly as everyone looked to recover from the start. That was until we hit the second climb, where Jared Graves launched an attack. Sam was in a prime position to follow Jared’s move and peaked at 717w (10.8w/kg). Jared crashed on the following descent, with Sam remaining off the front as the sole leader.

Once Sam had a gap, he had to try to establish it to hold off the chase from Dan McConnell behind. We can see Sam produced his best 20-minute effort during this period with an adjusted power of 352w (5.3w/kg). On the second climb, he was brought back and rejoined by myself and Dan. Sam lost contact with the group the following lap but left me in a great position to consolidate the lead.

Race data

As the race wore on, I led with Dan in the wheel and continued to set a pace I knew I could sustain and build on. My heart rate data reflects this as it is very consistent and gradually builds to a peak of 196bpm on the final climb. Sam’s effort at the start meant I could conserve energy and ride a more consistent race, allowing me to avoid spiking and save the effort for when it counted. In the end, I defended the lead up the final climb and rode on to win the Australian Elite Men’s XCO title by 5 seconds.

Race data

I believe this National Championship was a sign of things to come for Team Bridgelane. Over the past few years, we have seen more cross-discipline riders impressing on the world stage. Bridgelane’s mountain bike program will be a vital step for rider development and provide them with another avenue for talent ID. Sam and I made a start for future riders to build on and with the support of sponsors like Today’s Plan, the team hopes to continue helping riders achieve their goals.

Mountain Bike National Championships
Photo credit: Connor McKenzie

Weird stats you didn’t need to know:

  • Sam’s race effort was the equivalent of burning off nine beers, so he’s a lot cheaper to run than a car at the moment!
  • Sam burnt 856kj/h, which is less than half a Big Mac.
  • Sam had a VAM of 1224Vm/h up the main climb on the first lap, which would take him just over 7 hours to climb Mt Everest at that pace.
  • Sam’s max speed was 52.6km/h, quite impressive on the trails.