Ready to race?
So, you’ve decided that you want to compete in a bike race. Awesome!
Racing is a wonderful way to progress as a rider, to see how your bike handling skills and fitness stacks up against others and to meet new people who share your passion. Whatever your reasons for choosing to compete – be it curiosity, a desire to crush the competition, or an item to be crossed off your bucket list – the process of getting to the start line can be just as intimidating as the race itself. However, a little preparation will get you ready for race day, and will enable you to focus on your goals without the jitters of a firsttime racer.
• Find a race to enter.
Once you’ve done a bit of research on races within traveling distance, narrow down your choices by determining what style of race you’d like to compete in.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with options such as enduro, cross-country, endurance, and downhill, but the first factor to consider is your personal riding style. What kind of riding do you normally do? If your rides tend to be 50-mile suffer-fests, an endurance race might be your best option.
If you like to ride bike-park terrain, then look into doing a downhill race. Once you’ve determined what your riding style is, consider factors such as race entry fees, distance, terrain, and your current bike setup to make a decision. If you only own a downhill bike, and aren’t willing to purchase a light cross-country bike, then that may impact what kind of race you enter.
Once you’ve found a race that meets all of these factors, sign up and carve out the time on your calendar to prepare!
• Set some expectations.
Do you want to win? Do you want to finish? The next step in getting ready to race is determining what you’d like to accomplish. Once you have these expectations in place, you’ll be able to come up with a training plan that will help you meet those objectives.
• Establish a training plan.
While every training plan will vary, take into account what style of race you’ve signed up for, your schedule, and the amount of time you have to prepare. Look into training plans that cater to these factors and commit to one that is sustainable.
Make sure you take plenty of rest days, consider cross training such as yoga or strength training, and give your body the nutrition it needs to power through. Keep your expectations in mind as you train, and know that a goal of reaching the finish line may require less time on the bike than a goal of coming in first place.
• Get to the start line.
Now that the race is on the calendar, and your training is done, it’s time to get to the start line.
This is usually when the jitters set in, and you may find yourself questioning your decision to race. Don’t worry; the fun is about to begin!
If you’re able to pre-ride the course, take the opportunity to do so the week of the race.
Determine your strategy for walking any technical parts, passing, or refueling at aid stations. Next, make sure that your bike is in good working order. Resist the urge to change too many things about it, but give it a good tune-up and take it for a spin to ensure that everything is functional.
In the days before the race, rest your body as much as possible. Check in for your race, pick up your number plate or timing chip, and attend any mandatory meetings.
The evening before your race, affix your number plate to your bike; lay out your outfit complete with helmet and body armor; fill up your hydration pack with water, food, an extra tube, and all other necessities.
When you wake up, you’ll be ready to race and your mind can focus on the finish line rather than finding a set of knee pads or worrying about a drop in the middle of the course. Use that energy, instead, to warm up on the bike.
Before the buzzer goes off, take a few deep breaths and clear your mind of any negativity. Once you’re on the course, remember the strategies you set to help you get to the finish line. Above all else, focus on your bike handling, maintaining good body position, and remembering to breathe.
Take any challenges in stride, and cross that finish line with a feeling of accomplishment.
You finished your first race – congratulations! Before you sign up for your next race, take some time to reflect on the experience. Maybe you crashed or got a flat. Maybe you got the top spot on the podium after a stellar race.
Don’t let one race define your attitude; every rider has both good and bad days.
Get comfortable with any lingering disappointment you may experience, and use those feelings to determine how you’ll approach your next race differently. Reflect on the aspects that were positive as well. While every race is different, know that you’ll continue to progress your skills, meet new people, and expand your limits beyond what you ever thought possible. Now get out there and do another!