XC racing doesn't begin at the start line on race day. It starts in the cold, early morning hours, when you're the only one up, fussing with your kit under the glow of a smartphone screen. It starts with putting in winter base miles when you'd rather be curled up with a book. It starts with the sacrifice you embark upon in November when you commit to crushing it next season. Some might call it falling in love with the process, but in the dregs of winter, it could easily be construed as goal-focused masochism.

It might have been 10 years ago, or maybe just yesterday, but it all started with just wanting to finish. Over time, the goals evolved to not getting dropped, then finishing with the front group, and now, feeling the podium under your feet. They evolved with a strengthening in commitment—a commitment to riding early, riding late, riding harder. It took you saying yes to entrance fees to races you couldn't win. Yes to salads instead of donuts. Yes to suffering. Yes to failure. It took a commitment to waking up every day and saying, "This is going to be Epic."

I Am Specialized: Kate Courtney


Racing takes more than just riding your bike—you need a plan that's specifically tailored to the rigors of XC racing. We've found that this requires both strength training in the gym and plenty of time on the road and trail, and to get you moving down the right path, we've included a cross country plan that works for anyone with a full-time job, social commitments, and family. Three weeks on. One week off. Repeat.

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