Maximise your advantage before the race even starts
The following notes are intended to give some general guidance on race preparation. They are not intended to be a definitive guide to race preparation so feel free to ignore anything which you do not find effective and please pass on any additional information which you think other club members might find useful.
Diet and training are huge subjects in their own right, so I have only touched on them briefly in these notes. For more detailed information on diet, see Paula Hynd's guide to race nutrition.
In anything related to bike racing, ask 3 people and you will get at least 4 different pieces of advice. The best approach is to listen to as many different people as possible, try out different ideas, and use your own judgement and experience to use what works and discard what doesn't.
Get your training done well before the race! If the race is an intermediate target for the season, you should be structuring your training several weeks prior to the event. If the race is a major target you may be thinking months ahead (perhaps incorporating other minor races).
Do not try and train hard right up to the date of the race. Hard training in the final week before a race will not improve your performance, but will almost certainly make you slower. Studies of tapering in race preparation have shown dramatic performance gains in athletes who cut back the level of training prior to important events. In general terms, you should aim to maintain the intensity of your training, so that your body is used to the effort that it will have to produce in the race, but should substantially reduce the volume of this training.
This does not mean that you should take it easy when training to race, but it does mean that you need to get the hard stuff done well in advance of that important event.
Long term preparation means eating well throughout the season, so that you stay healthy and well fuelled.
In more immediate terms, what you eat will depend on the type of event you are competing in:
For short distance events, like 10 mile time trials, you should stick pretty much to your usual diet prior to a race. It is not so important to stock extra reserves for this type of racing, and a huge plate of pasta the evening before a race or heavy breakfast on the morning of the race is likely to sit heavily on your stomach.
For events over 25 miles, it is necessary to think more seriously about pre-fuelling. If you are riding a long road race or time trial, you should aim to eat greater quantities of food than normal the day before the race. This should be predominantly carbohydrate (eg pasta, rice, malt loaf, cereal). Make sure that you drink plenty of water at the same time, to allow your body to process the food and to ensure that you are well hydrated.
On the day of the race, eat a substantial carbohydrate breakfast (cereal/toast/fruit juice). This should be enough to keep you topped up for the early part of the day, but should not leave you feeling bloated. A useful trick to increase your carbohydrate intake without adding bulk, is to stir some carbo-drink powder into your breakfast cereal. Tasty... Keep drinking all the time, and drink a bottle of carbo-drink on the way to the race.
Eat 3 to 4 hours prior to the race. It takes this long for your body to start using the food you eat, so it is a waste of time to eat light snacks the day before and then try to eat a huge breakfast an hour before the race. If the race has a late start, keep your energy stores topped up with light carbohydrate snacks (malt loaf, dried fruit, sandwiches) or carbo-drinks, prior to the event
Make sure that your bike is ready before the race. Clean it and check it over the day before, then go for a short ride to ensure that everything is tight and there are no funny noises coming from the bottom bracket! Check tyres for cuts or glass, and make sure the chain is well lubricated.
Make sure that all your essential race kit is at hand. Get a utility box and keep it in one place. You will have plenty of pressure to deal with on the day of the race and missing pieces of equipment can spoil your concentration.
Suggested list of essentials:
· Race kit - obvious, but someone always forgets their shoes or helmet.
· Make sure you have a range of clothing to cover different race conditions. If the beautiful summer day turns into a monsoon 5 minute before the start, you might need those arm-warmers and over-shoes.
· Safety pins - have your own stock to prevent your race number acting like a parachute.
· Bottles and carbo-drink
· Sun block. Don't burn when the Scottish sun finally shows through.
· Tools - tyre levers, screw driver and allen keys, for those last minute adjustments which you didn't make when you checked your bike the day before...
· Pump and spare inner tubes.
· Race start sheet.
· Energy bars for longer races.
· Toilet roll.
· Basic first aid equipment - antiseptic wipes, plasters, non-stick dressings.
· RACE LICENCE!!!
The mental aspect of bike racing is as important as the physical side, and your preparation should therefore include "getting your head sorted".
In the period leading up to the race, think positively about the outcome, and visualise yourself achieving your target, whether that is winning, finishing in the bunch, or achieving a personal best. Think about riding fast and feeling good, leading on a climb, improving your personal best or passing your minute-man in a time trial.
Read the start sheet, so you know who you are racing against. In a road race, try to identify the important riders who you should be watching. If you do not know the course, try to study it on a map or ask someone else for advice, so you are aware of the key points on the route (major climbs, tricky descents or junctions).
The most important point about preparation is that it should be complete before the day of the race, so that you can concentrate all your efforts on the race itself.
Have a good sleep the night before the race. On race day eat an appropriate breakfast and leave plenty of time to travel to the race. Aim to arrive at least an hour before the race starts, so that you have time to prepare without panicking. It is important to warm up so that you are ready to compete as soon as the race starts. A turbo trainer will allow you to do a focussed and controlled warm up, especially it the roads around the race HQ are not suitable for warming up.
Focus on the event and a successful outcome, and finally - enjoy the race!
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