Pro mountain bike racers are just like you and me. Only faster. In part one of thie two-part series, Mtbr asked five riders from the Sho-Air/Cannondale team for tips on technical training, on-bike fueling, favorite (and least favorite) workouts, and more.

Our panel included Marco Fontana (@fontanaprorider), Max Plaxton (@MaxPlaxton), Keegan Swenson (@Keegels99), Stephen Ettinger (@settinger_) and Evelyn Dong (@EvDong), who we spoke to before the USA Cycling US Cup race at Bonelli Park in San Dimas, California.

of Marco Fontana's training formula is riding with road cyclists. Here he shows a friend how to have fun on a mountain bike.

Mtbr: How do you work on your technical skills?
Marco Fontana: To me what is really important is the economy you have when you ride your bike. The movement and the way you ride your bike-it becomes more natural so you spend less energy. This is more important than going the fastest from A to B in a particular descent. In the end, it's a one-and-a-half hour race and you need to keep your energy to the end.

Keegan Swenson: I like to work on my technical skills by just riding my bike on technical trails, whether it be Moab-style stuff or more mountainous terrain. I also dirt jump a lot in the offseason which I think has helped me a lot.

Stephen Ettinger: I find something that scares me, and send it over and over again. I try to push myself to feel comfortable on new kinds of terrain, and I think a lot about where my body is in space and what works best.

Evelyn Dong: I chase boys around on trails. It works out pretty good.

Max Plaxton: I just ride a lot on the trails near my home on Vancouver Island in British Columbia.

Stephen Ettinger relaxes post-ride.

Stephen Ettinger relaxes post-ride. (click to enlarge)​

Mtbr: What are your favorite and most-dreaded workouts?
Marco Fontana: My favorite work is technical training. Sometimes people think riding is just riding, but if you head out on technical terrain, you train; you are practicing. In the end it's also a lot of fun. My least favorite is power training. It helps, and you have to do it, so I do it.

Max Plaxton: My favorite intervals are mountain bike specific technical work workouts. My least favorite would be VO2 max intervals.

Keegan Swenson: My favorite interval workouts are any done on an cross-country race course, like hot laps. That way, you get some downhill mixed in and you are on your mountain bike, which is always better, then the road bike. My most dreaded interval workout would have to be the 20-minute threshold style intervals on the road bike. They're long and tedious.

Stephen Ettinger: My favorite intervals workouts are hard, motor-pacing days. They hurt, and I always finish completely cooked, but there's something perversely rewarding about those efforts. My least favorite interval days are the short, hard 30 second to one-minute intervals. Those are the days that I really have to go to work, and just get it done the best I can.

Evelyn Dong: I love climbing threshold workouts-I could do that all day. Throw in altitude and that makes it more fun. My least favorite? Over gear sprints. I work on leg strength in the winter with tall gear sprints. Starting in my hardest gear, I go from a standstill to an all-out sprint for 30 seconds, repeating that a few times over the course of a ride. They're super awkward!

Continue to page 2 for more pro tips and full photo gallery »

Evelyn Dong in action.

Evelyn Dong in action. (click to enlarge)​

Mtbr: How do you fuel on the bike?
Marco Fontana: When I go for long distance, I eat a lot-sandwiches with cheese, honey, ham, or jam. And I drink a lot. Afterwards, I like Red Bull because it really gives me a little spark.

Max Plaxton: I don't tend to eat much riding and I rarely ride over four hours. I do use drink mix in my bottles with proper electrolytes and bit of sugar. If I eat, it's usually something simple like a fruit and nut bar, and maybe a protein bar.

The Sho-Air/Cannondale Professional mountain bike racing team.

The Sho-Air/Cannondale Professional mountain bike racing team.​

Keegan Swenson: If it's a longer ride, then I fuel with GU hydration tabs in my bottles and a mix of regular food (like peanut butter and jelly and rice cakes) and some Honey Stinger waffles. If it is a shorter more intense ride I use GU hydration mix in my bottles and GU energy chews for food, because they are easy on the stomach and they are also quite tasty.

Stephen Ettinger: When I am training, I try to stick to real food and focus on hydration in my bottle. The Honey Stinger bars are my favorite right now; but it's really about what I am craving. Sometimes that means fruit, cookies, or even boiled potatoes with sea salt and olive oil. Eating frequently, in small bites works best for me. I use a pretty similar strategy for racing, but I keep the food lighter, typically getting down a GU energy chew every 10 minutes and hydrating well.

Evelyn Dong: For long intervals, I take down a few GU energy chews. For endurance rides, I bring lemon Honey Stinger waffles or make "panwiches" (leftover pancakes with honey drizzled in the middle). Really long rides usually involve a stop at a gas station for some coke or a pop tart.

Check out part two, where Mtbr asks about winter training, riding in muddy conditions, and advice on doing your first race.