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 base miles when you'd rather be curled up with a book. It starts with the sacrifice you embark upon in June 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-focussed masochism.

Race day comes just like any other day in the training schedule—cold, dark, early—only today, there's a gnawing pit in your stomach and a slight, impatient unease, like the feeling you get when you're ready to go but don't have to be there for hours. There's tension, undue stress, but you peck at your breakfast anyways. You start driving before you need to, just to get it out of the way, knowing that you'll shed an ounce of anxiety just by doing something on your list. Then the towel change, the rollers, a trip to the honeypot, another trip to the honeypot, but then the call to the line brings a calm that washes over you. It's your race—these people just don't know it yet. 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 rigours 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.