One of the Most Important Practices the Best Bike Racers Do that you need to Adopt a.s.a.p.
Long before you toe the start line of a race, there’s one thing you can do to seriously increase your odds of success. I like to call it, Pre-Race Homework. The best bike racers in the world are not just physically prepared before the start of each race, they are mentally prepared. Having thoroughly researched the course, conditions and competition well ahead of time gives racers a notable advantage over others and provides a well-timed confidence boost.
Saving energy, staying properly fueled, stabilizing core temperature, preventing mechanicals, gauging efforts, are all benefits of doing your pre-race homework. The idea is for you to show up to a race knowing exactly how you will race the course, understanding your competition, anticipating how the race will play out, and feeling comfortable with your race and nutrition strategy. In this post we’ll delve into the topic of pre-race research.
One week ahead of the race, ask yourself the following questions:
Understand the Course and Conditions
What is the distance and predicted duration of the race?
Where is the start line, finish line, and parking lot?
What is the weather going to be like?
What direction will the wind be coming from (typically)? Think about where you will want to position yourself in each section of the race to protect yourself from wind.
Study the course, anticipate turns, climbs and sections where it’s hard to move up. Which sections are wooded/low-visibility, which sections are wide open/high-visibility? Strava & Google Maps are helpful tools.
Where are attacks likely to go? (climbs, before a climb, narrow sections, windy sections, low-visibility sections)
What are the roads like? (narrow, wide, chip-seal, smooth)
How will the course and conditions affect your equipment, clothing and nutrition choices? (tire pressure, gloves, extra water bottle, ice socks, etc.)
Understand Nutrition Needs
How many total calories do you expect to burn, including riding back to the parking lot?
How much food, electrolyte, and water bottles will you carry?
Will you have a feed zone feeder? What if you miss them?
What if you drop food, will you have extra?
Do you have 100% confidence there will be Neutral Water available?
Understand the Competition
Who is registered for the race? Are there any large team presences and how might that play out? Who is most likely to contest the top 5 spots?
Who won the race last year? (Go to USAC results) What type of rider are they? (Look at other races they have done well at)
Contemplate a few race scenarios, how will you respond?
Where do you want to be positioned during the race? How about positioning before a climb, on a climb, in the final few kilometers, 1km, 500 meters, 200 meters?
How could you win this race?
Plan for the Unexpected
What will you tell yourself when the race feels really hard/painful?
What will you tell yourself if you start to feel apathetic?
What will you tell yourself and what actions will you take if you get a mechanical?
What will you do if the race is neutralized or stopped?
How will you respond and adjust warmup if you arrive late to the race?
By now, you should be feeling a little more confident and prepared for the race ahead. Do your homework and best of luck!