Keeping The Rubber Side Down At XTERRA

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By Melanie McQuaid

April 26, 2007 — It is ironic that I would plan to write this story the week that I crashed out of the Sea Otter Classic mountain bike race, but also somewhat appropriate.

I went down in the cross-country race because I did not follow a number of the following rules, which when applied appropriately, can help prevent some unsightly post-race bruising. However, a couple of bumps and scratches are not that big a deal and the lessons learned can help you to find those few extra seconds to boost your finish.

XTERRA has a reputation as a “dangerous” sport, which I whole-heartedly disagree with. Poor bike handling skills equally contribute to crashes on the road as they do off-road. Riding a mountain bike and racing XTERRA can help you develop better skills to avoid crashes no matter what bike you are riding. In addition, mountain bike racing will help you corner better, descend better and help you to stay aero on your road bike by teaching you to relax your upper body while powering with your legs.

Here are my recommendations for a safe and speedy bike split:


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Bicycling Magazine – Play It December 2005

Play It
Romp through the off-season with one of these 6 surprising cross-training sports and by spring you’ll be fit, fast and–best of all–fresh.

(this is an exerpt from the print version of this article…)

The off-season is so named for a reason: It’s time for you to at least occasionally get off the bike. Cyclists who pedal year-round might love their sport, but they’re not showing the same affection for their bodies-or their two-wheeled aspirations. "It’s physically and psychologically impossible to train on the bike at a high level year-round," says Neal Henderson, M.S., C.S.C.S., coordinator of sport science at Boulder Community Hospital in Colorado, who calls cross-training for cyclists a "crucial necessity. Without it, there’s a huge potential for burnout, as well as for injury."

Getting out of the saddle doesn’t necessarily consign you to soul-draining intervals on a treadmill, or to classic off-season sports such as cross-country skiing or speedskating, which almost directly mimic the muscular and aerobic demands of cycling. In fact, some pro riders believe the best cross-training sports are the ones that get you the furthest away from your cycling regimen while still delivering great fitness benefits. "I don’t stick to any routine in the off-season," says Dave Watson, a member of Kona’s Clump freeride team. "I like to surf, ride longboard skateboards and play floor hockey, basketball, racquetball and ice hockey." The bonus, he says, is that by spring, "I’m always hungry to get back on the bike."

©Peter Holst

Melanie McQuaid

To catch up with her mountain biking buddies over long, wet winters in Victoria, British Columbia, Melanie McQuaid hits the squash court. "It’s much more fun than just meeting for coffee," says the 2003 Xterra World Champion and seven-time member of the Canadian national mountain bike team. The self-taught McQuaid, who plays once or twice a week in the off-season, says she "is certainly not good, but I’m willing to hack away at it. The more I play, the better I get."

Regardless of her skill level, the 31-year-old says her mountain biking technique has benefited from the time she spends swatting a low-bounce ball around a small, white court. "Squash is a reaction sport, just like mountain biking," she says, "and when you ride tricky descents, you use your feet and require lateral strength. I build that up playing squash."

Calories Burned Per Hour: 1,080

Squash Works Your: Core muscles, leg muscles (especially fast-twitch), shoulder muscles; eye-hand coordination

Will Boost Your: Average speed. "Because squash conditions your total body, from quads to lungs, you’ll get on the bike feeling stronger and more capable," says Henderson.

Bonus: "Unlike other sports that use a large field or court, squash requires a focus that clearly improves your concentration," Henderson says.

Alternate Workout: To improve overall strength and power, try the dumbbell front squat-to-press. Stand holding dumbbells at shoulder height, with your elbows resting on your ribs, palms facing each other. Beginning the movement with your hips, squat back and down until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Explode upward with your hips and quads, using momentum to drive the weights off your shoulders and overhead. (Keep your feet on the floor.) Lower the dumbbells back to your shoulders. Repeat 5-10 times.

2006 Top Ten List

Top 10 ways to prepare for an XTERRA
By Melanie McQuaid

August 17th, 2006 Back by popular demand, two-time XTERRA world champion Melanie McQuaid offers her top 10 tips for XTERRA success. Check out for a feature interview with McQuaid and even more XTERRA training and racing information.

10. Start a swim program

Starting a swim program means enrolling yourself in coached practices. Because swimming is such an incredibly technical sport, hacking out miles and miles with a bad stroke is not as effective as less distance with more efficiency. You need someone to help you improve your stroke mechanics first and foremost, so enlist the experts at your local pool, YMCA or triathlon club.

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