Get Ready for XTERRA Portugal - Training Tips

Tips and race recommendations by Julien Buffe (Organicoach -XTERRA Racing Team)

Julien raced as an age group athlete in 2015 and after finishing in the top 15 in this particular race he decided to start racing as an Elite athlete from 2016. Nico Lebrun worked with him on the training part.

The Beautiful town of Golega will be hosting XTERRA Portugal for the 5th year in a row. Well known for its equestrian heritage this beautiful town is now also famous for its mountain bike courses marked by the iconic white and yellow painted rocks along the XTERRA Bike route!

Golega is located about 100km north of Lisbon. Only 1h15m drive from the airport, which makes a rental car the ideal option to travel although there are trains that go to nearby towns.

XTERRA Portugal will take place during the first weekend of June but don’t let the early summer time fool you as we are expecting very warm temperatures as usual.

Race director Jaime Rosa hosts this event along with friends and family and they have built a strong triathlon and off road triathlon community over the years.  The race village will be located at Park Equuspolis which is located on the bank of the swim course providing ample shade and lush green lawns.

The swim will be a 2-lap swim with a water start and an Australian exit at the start of the second loop. Make sure those goggles are tight to prevent them slipping off then you diving into your second loop. A non-wetsuit swim is always a possibility due to the warm water so be prepared if this is the case.

The transition area in Golega is unique in the way that each racer has their own personal racking. Here they made it with two wooden poles stick in the ground, 100% organic bike rack. The bike loop is 37km and one of the longest on the European tour.

You start out on a flat 8km section through the roads of Golega, take this opportunity to get the legs spinning and take fuel on board, plus work with other athletes if you can. This will prepare you for the 18km of technical trails that follow, short steep climbs and twisty slippery terrain will have you fighting your way through this exciting part of the race. If you are not that confident, take it easy as the course is much more difficult than it may appear from the onset. On the other hand if you are an experienced mountain biker knowing that “speed is your friend” the technical sections will be the best place to take advantage. It’s a good idea to practice this section a few times before the race, it will give you a big advantage come race day.

After the technical section you will be facing 11km flat and rolling terrain over grassy sections, hard riding will be required so it’s the perfect place to put the hammer down. The last 5km on the course will see you back on the same roads you started on.

The 11km single loop run course stretches over a fast and flat route. You will pass through plantations, run single track and follow the river. You fill find a few technical sections and crossings along the way like crossing under the road via a tunnel through a river bed. Time to cool yourself off in the sweltering heat. You will finish the race on the roads of Golega with loads of cheering fans helping you over the finish line.

This race is a tough one, make sure you don’t make any mistakes when it comes to fueling and staying hydrated.

Race preparation tips

To prepare for XTERRA Portugal the most important part is to be ready for the technical middle section of the bike course. You will be exhausted after a hard-steep climb of about 5 minutes and you need to stay alert for the technical decent that follows immediately after. Find a steep hill (MAX 2/3) with a technical decent on the other side. Do a set of 4 to 6 repetitions of 5 minutes at 80%-85% of your maximum heart followed by 2 repetitions at 90%-95% heart rate. Rest for 3 minutes between reps. The key is to ride the last part of the hill and start the downhill section at the highest intensity.

For the run we recommend that you do speed work. Ideally, you would want to train off road to simulate the race course. Find a single track or fire road for this.

Fartlek Training: 4mins / 8mins / 6mins / 4mins with 2mins res in between. You need to adapt your speed to the time and run at 90% of your max heart rate. Focus on your cadence not to slow down and increase your speed in the more technical sections controlling where you place your feet.

Julien recommends a 29er hard tail mountain bike for this race. There are some technical sections but noting that a hard tail won’t able to handle. The bike will come into its own on the last 15km where you will need the speed and efficiency to make up time.

Nico Lebrun however thinks a full suspension will provide the comfort you need to such a long and demanding course feeling fresher heading in to the run.

Both options have their advantages so go with what you feel comfortable with. One thing they agree on is that you should definitely use tubeless tires, the weight saving really helps over such a long course.

Light trail shoes are the ideal choice here. Road shoes will not offer the grip needed for the short technical sections so make sure you have some tread on your soles.

You are now ready to take on the 5th race of the European Tour.

Next article: XTERRA Belgium by Maxim Chané and his coach Julien Pousson