Note: Several people have pointed out to me that the ride in question was not an “aerobic base miles” ride but may in fact have been a time trial or sprint workout. I apologize for not having all the facts, I did search around but did not find anything on the exact type of workout she was doing when I wrote this post. And while this particular ride may not have been a “base miles” ride I would still bet that “base mile” rides make up part of her overall program.

While she may not have been logging “aerobic base miles” she was still logging “road miles”. I think that road cycling is not as beneficial for mountain bikers as many assume it is and that it is potentially dangerous for obvious reasons. My main point is that we need to get away from road cycling being such a heavy influence on our sport.


Not sure if you saw but defending World Cup DH champ Rachael Atherton got hurt in training a few days back. Obviously training injuries are a part of the job for a downhill speed demon like her, right?

While this is true, the sad part of this story is how she got hurt. She didn’t get hurt on her mountain bike ripping some sweet downhill run, she got hurt while logging miles on a road bike! For the love of God, when will this insanity stop?


First, I want to say that this is not a slam on Rachael in any way. She is doing what she thinks is best in her quest to stay on top of the podium. Tradition states that ALL mountain bikers need to log road miles to get into shape and she is simply following the advice that her coach gave her.

But, the fact that she was out battling cars doing something that is not only unnecessary but perhaps counterproductive can not go unmentioned. Why on earth was she out there in the first place?

For years we have been told that you need to log base miles in order to increase your VO2Max, which will help you endure the later, more intense stages of training. The fact that whoever is coaching her has not been keeping up on the latest in performance training science is pretty sad.

In the last several years there have been studies that have shown that the fastest, most effective way to increase VO2Max is with interval training, not with aerobic training. Fitness is a very specific thing. Being fit to ride a road bike is not the same thing as being fit to charge a downhill run. Yet mountain bikers have been misled by coaches who look only to road cycling (one of the most “tradition” entrenched sports in the world) for their training ideas. That may have given us a start in figuring out training programs for our unique and relatively young sport but we can do much better.

I seriously challenge anyone out there to explain to me why a downhill rider, who competes for an intense 2-5 minutes, needs to log road miles other than “its tradition”. Hopefully when my newest client Aaron Gwinn gets on some World Cup podiums this year, after not having logged a single base mile, people will start to realize that there are better ways to approach training for downhill racing.

And Rachael, if you read this please know that I hope you recover quickly from your injuries and can get back out there to defend your title. And shoot me an e-mail if you want to learn how to get faster without having to brave traffic or need some help getting your shoulder back up to par.

-James Wilson-

photo credit: Sven Martin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *