Incorporating Sprint Bike Ride into Ski Training

Q: I do 30 miles with 4-5 sprints at level 3+ to level 4+. Since it is not a Level 1 two hour bike ride, – is the Level 1 bike still very important? Is this the same as the level 4 workout listed in the plan?

A: It is not uncommon for the athletes that I work with to do a workout once a week that incorporates sprints like you do. My question would be, what is the duration of the sprints that you do. If they are <30 seconds per sprint and you are taking at least 3 minutes between each sprint, there is no reason to alter the training plan at all. These sprints are really good to incorporate into your training regularly.

If the bike sprints are 1 minute or longer, I would suggest that you maybe take one or two of the repetitions off the Level 4 workout that is in the training plan. Another option would be to take a recovery week every once and a while (about every 4 weeks) and remove the Level 4 completely with this bike sprint workout. We want to be careful with the amount of L4/L5 we do because when we start going over a minute in length we really start to stress that anaerobic system more then if it was a short duration sprint. This excess of L4/L5 will break down the body quicker and overload us to the point of over training, so we need to be careful.

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Photo Credit: Renee Callaway

Overall, I think having these sprint bike workouts is great and you should continue to do them. Although like always, we should continue to monitor how you are feeling and if you begin to feel rundown or not recovering well, start to cut hard workouts out and the duration of the workouts. The recovery portion of our training is just as important as the time we put in during training. This recovery time is when our body makes the adaptations we want and becomes stronger.

Andy Keller, CXC Academy Coach

Related Articles: Substituting Cycling for Skiing During Training and Competition

Coming Into Skiing From A Cycling Background

Q: Coming from a cycling background, Zone 2 is typically seen as the magic endurance training zone that every coach and plan I’ve ever worked with puts the most training time in and Z1 is typically used for recovery. I’d love know why this seems to be the standard for cycling, but EOD for the CXC plans is Z1. Being new to the sport I find keeping the heart rate in Z1 while skiing really difficult as I’m transitioning into fall season from cycling.

A: Thanks for the question. As somebody who has a limited background in the world of cycling but someone that does road bike, here are my opinions.

This zone 1 can be broken down into two halves. The first half being what you are talking about as a recovery pace. Second higher half being our longer distance training zone. This second zone can extend into the zone 2 as you want to work on skiing with good pace and not have to walk on the trail to maintain heart rate.

One of the main reasons skiers don’t work zone 2 very often is that it’s a zone that is in between our two most important zones, and sacrifices Improvement on both sides. Zone 2 doesn’t help the body learn to utilize fat more and spare bodies glycogen stores that are used during high intensity as well as zone 1. It’s also not quite zone 3 which helps to improve your anaerobic threshold, your long distance race pace.

I think in certain doses, zone 2 skiing can be beneficial and working on technique and trying to increase training pace. Doses of 30-45 minutes could be really beneficial. My experience with biking is heart rate is secondary marker for effort and wattage is more regularly used. Maybe skiing can learn something from cycling and incorporating zone 2 skiing into training may be beneficial when appropriate.

My suggestion would be to be wary of doing too much in zone 2 as it can get you in trouble quicker than keeping the easy skis easy and the hard skis hard. Zone 2 can become zone 3 quickly and we want to work the appropriate systems the appropriate amount.

Andy Keller, CXC Team Head Coach


FOLLOW-UP COMMENTS:  Ha, it’s always possible to slow it down! Cyclists always call Z1 junk miles, but for skiing it makes sense to complete distance in Z1 to train the aerobic systems with the minimum possible needed recovery time so you can be fresh and maximize the hard days. In a long road race you can actually spend a lot of time in Zone 2 while hiding from the wind in the pack, where given the shorter duration of ski racing you’ll be Z3+ for the majority. I pasted the below link much better describing how I am used to looking at Z1 vs. Z2 for cycling, and another article on the importance of Z2 training for cycling.

Power Based Training Levels

Zone 2 Training For Endurance Athletes

Biking And Skiing, What’s The Connection?

An Interview with Vince Rosetta. 

Vince always loved to bike, as it was his “ticket to travel” during the summer as a little kid to take him to the trails with friends, where they spent endless hours biking. Today, Vince continues to bike, as a way to maintain his endurance seeing as he has also added another highly aerobic sport to his regime; cross country skiing.

Vince Rosetta shares his experiences and input on the correlation between biking and skiing and how both are beneficial to building a base of endurance.


Before moving to Minneapolis in 2010, Vince lived in Austin, Texas for ten years.

“Living in Austin and San Antonio during the height of the Tour de France craze, road riding was king. Everybody I hung out with was on road bikes. I worked at three bike shops during my time in Texas and that is all we did. My final stop before moving to Minneapolis was working at Mellow Johnny’s, the shop Lance Armstrong owns, being there at the height of the Lance craze was an incredible experience. Basically, if you weren’t riding a bike you weren’t doing anything. The infrastructure for cycling in Austin was amazing. I’m pretty convinced that there were still trails I was never on and I was down there for 10 years.” Explains Vince.

Despite Austin’s endless bike trails, in his opinion, the Minneapolis bike culture has topped Austin’s. There was another aspect Minneapolis had that Austin didn’t; snow.

Vince has a background in skiing, but being without snow for ten years made for a more challenging comeback.

“I skied a little bit in college, but a few years after graduation I found myself in Texas. Needless to say there wasn’t any skiing to be had for 10 years. I moved to Minneapolis in 2010 and picked up right where I left off. I was just a little more rusty than I had hoped. The most challenging aspect in resuming cross country skiing after so many years off was basically learning how to do it again. I had the general idea how to ski but it was really ugly. Imagine a newborn deer trying to walk, that is how I felt when I was re-learning. The frustration of re-learning alone, was all the motivation I needed to get better at skiing. I think I went to Como golf course in St. Paul everyday for a month just to practice technique, and make progress everyday I was out there. A friend mentioned a group called CXC so I looked more into it and I have been involved ever since. I continue to learn things every time I go to a Masters camp.”


Once Vince got his ski legs back, he realized skiing was the ideal winter workout to keep him in shape for bike season, and bike season was a perfect way to build his base for the ski season.

 “Four hours on a bike up and down Minnesota and Wisconsin hills throughout summer and fall, do wonders for my base building. Throwing in high intensity road rides simulate the effort needed to finish the Birkie or any other ski race. Constantly speeding up your heart and then recovering long enough to do it over and over again, lays the groundwork for the ski season.”


Once the snow flies, and the bike gets put away for the winter, skiing intensity workouts are important for Vince to increase physical and mental gains for both the ski and bike season. He mentions he doesn’t have to do long skis, but can focus on short intense workouts to maximize top end speed and recovery.

“In the winter, you can’t replicate the level of intensity skiing gives you in your basement with a bike hooked up to a bike trainer. Biking on a trainer more than 45 minutes is a mind numbing experience. Too many of those types of workouts and you go nuts. Nothing beats being outside with friends flying up and down the Birkie trail.”


Vince has become a better skier in part by being a member of the CXC Masters Team. He attends technique camps and clinics throughout the season. Although the workouts are beneficial, Vince also loves the social aspect and camaraderie of being a Masters Team Member.

“After sessions It’s fun to hear different stories of everyone on the Masters team. The aspect I like most about the Master’s team, is it’s made up of people from all ability levels and backgrounds. I’ve been apart of some training groups where if you are not an Elite or Wave 1 skier in the Birkie, you get the feeling you shouldn’t be there and are treated like a 2nd class citizen. Those groups are all about ego, having the best stuff, fastest times, etc… Thankfully that isn’t anywhere close to the CXC Masters Team! I say team, but it’s more like a group of friends that all help each other to get better as a group. Egos are non existent and yes, Elite wave members actually talk to people who have been on skis for the first time.”

Switching gears to spring, the benefit of skiing for four months is evident for Vince when he gets on the bike for the first ride of the season.

“Basically, my base is already built for the riding season. Honestly, I can say ever since I’ve started skiing, my road riding and racing has never been stronger. In the early months when people are out spinning long base building rides, I’m able to concentrate on higher intensity workouts because my base is solid from skiing.” Explains Vince.


When Vince isn’t riding his bike, skiing or working, he serves as a CXC Board Member as well.

“When Yuriy asked me if I ever considered a board position at CXC I really didn’t know what to say other than “yes.” There were other ski boards I wanted to be apart of but for one reason or another it didn’t work out. An opportunity to help grow skiing and more importantly CXC, was a chance I couldn’t pass up. It is fun seeing all the programs take form from planning to execution. Contributing to the growth of CXC is a very rewarding experience.” Said Vince

As a board member, Vince’s vision is to continue to grow CXC to become the go-to cross country ski organization in the country.

Skiing or biking, we’re sure Vince will continue to promote the CXC vision, and for that we are thankful!


Support CXC Adaptive Program for Kids with physical disabilities and visual impairment with your ticket purchase for the annual bike drawing! Win a custom designed, hand crafted, Eriksen titanium road frame bike!  Click here for more details! 


Substituting Cycling for Skiing During Training and Competition

I used to compete in a few mountain biking, triathlon and trail running race events in the summer months when I was a ski competitor. Each competitor will find balance between competition and training. Competition is an opportunity to test how well training is progressing as well as provide opportunities to test our tactical strategies in a real race setting. I found through experience that there is a balance that one must find between competition and training. Maintaining peak race fitness unfortunately can not be done all year long, so preparation, pre-competition and competition phases are necessary to develop, identify and plan out in your training.

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Bryan Fish, U.S. Cross Country Ski Team Development Coach

My primary sport was always skiing and hence the summer events (namely mountain races and trail running races) were means of breaking up the standard mode of ski training to keep things fresh both mentally and physically.

First, it’s critical to set priorities. Is cyclo-cross going to become your primary sport in that period or is cyclo-cross a means of training for cross country skiing? The difference here will be the number of work outs that will be substituted from ski training to cycling. There are not right or wrong priorities here, but it is important to set what your priorities are for the upcoming year.

Secondly, timeline is also important. What are the dates cyclo-cross competitions will take place? Cyclo-cross is September through mid-December here in the US and Cyclo-Cross World Cup is Sept-early February.

It is important to understand what systems of the body are trained similar and different when evaluating cycling and skiing. There are a few key ideas to keep in mind as you substitute cycling for skiing during some of your training and competition.

The cardio-respiratory system is the mechanism that transports blood, oxygen and nutrients to the working muscles. This system is a pump and is increased and decreased with effort. This system is not sport specific and hence going hard on the bike and hard on skis is not recognized by the cardio-respiratory system. Hard is hard regardless of the sport. This is important as it relates to substitution of training modality.

The peripheral skeletal system does recognize differences in modality of training. The movements and muscles (motor units) recruited for cycling versus skiing are different. It is also important to understand how motor units are recruited. The body recruits slow twitch (aerobic) at low intensity and an additional contribution of fast twitch (anaerobic) motor units are added as intensity increases. The percentage of fast twitch to slow twitch motor unit recruitment continuously increases as intensity increases. Therefore we need to train both low intensity and high intensity for both sports. The priority will go to the sport you are presently participating in.

Following the lines of point number 2, cycling is generally non-weight bearing while skiing is a weight-bearing activity. This means that a majority of the time is spent in the bike saddle. The core and particularly lower abdominals and hips are worked differently in the saddle versus activities that are weight-bearing (standing up) like running and skiing. Cyclo-cross has more weight-bearing activities due to the dismounting, running and pedaling out of the saddle. In short, the movements and muscles (motor units) recruited are somewhat different.

Competition duration. Race time is a critical aspect to look at as well. 5km running races are like max VO2 efforts while most cycling races are over an hour (and often 1.5 to 3 hours) long. Bike racing requires a strong emphasis on threshold while a 5 km running race places the emphasis on max VO2. Substituting threshold training with cycling efforts is important.

Two efforts that are critical to substitute skiing for cycling is the threshold training and over distance training. Cycling events require a high demand on the aerobic system and threshold. It is important to get in continuous hours both at low and high intensity on the bike.

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Bryan Fish, U.S. Cross Country Ski Team Development Coach