Are you thinking about entering your first-ever cycle race? Congratulations! You're attempting a challenge that tests the limits of your physical and mental fortitude. Every rider needs to start somewhere, and your first cycle race is a memory you won't forget.
To ensure you have the best experience possible when you're out on the road, you can follow these ten tips for an enjoyable race.
Get Used to Riding in a Group
Can you ride in a group? Many newcomers to the racing scene don't spend any time preparing with a cycling club. As a result, it's a strange transition to cycling in a large pack. You'll need to contend with riding at high speeds while you all race for the advantage in a shoulder-to-shoulder environment.
If you only cycle alone, look for riders at the start all wearing the same cycling apparel. These riders are part of a team, and they'll all ride at a similar pace. By tagging along at the rear of the group, you can benefit from their movement through the field.
If you're fit and setting record times, follow a group at the front of the start grid. If you're in it for fun, rather than competition, follow groups towards the middle of the pack.
Preparation for race day is key.
Understanding the twists and turns in the route prepares you for the days racing. By taking time to study a race map, you get to see where the water stations are, when you can open your stride, and when you need to prepare for chicanes or downhill racing.
Locating the hazards on the course before the race starts helps you avoid potential accidents. Look for sharp turns and narrow pathways where you might have to temporarily adjust your riding style to navigate the course's pitfalls.
Conduct a Safety Check on Your Bike
The afternoon before race day, give your bike a full service and test all its components. This strategy ensures that your brakes, gears, and shifter are all working perfectly. The last thing you need is your bike acting up in the middle of the race.
Check your tires for any cuts or damage, lubricate the gears, and working parts of the bike to ensure you get the best race day experience possible. If you don't know how to service your bike yourself, take it to a bike shop and get everything put in working order before you head out to the race.
Pre-Pack Your Cycling Gear
The night before the race, pack everything you need for race day. The excitement of the race will cloud your mind in the morning, and your early start, combined with your enthusiasm, results in your forgetting stuff.
Create a checklist on a spreadsheet and list all the cycling gear you need. Your helmet, gloves, sunglasses, water bottle, and cycling apparel like your top and shorts all belong on the list, along with your jacket, snacks, water, and other consumables you'll use before, during, or after the race.
Don't forget your race license, and make sure you take along clothes to change into after the race. Sitting in your car in a sweaty top and shorts isn't much fun on the way home. Remember to bring some comfortable shoes to swap out for your cleats after the race!
(Source: San Diego Union-Tribune)
Intra-Race Nutrition and Hydration
Fill all your water bottles and prepare your drink mixes for the day. Pack energy bars and gels for snacking while you're riding, and make sure you have enough to cover your needs, depending on the length of the race.
A race that's an hour long requires a bottle of water and one gel energy pack. Scale that to your needs depending on the length of the race. If you're cycling for over an hour, you'll need to consume around 500-calories per hour to maintain peak energy levels.
The night before your race, make sure you eat normally., If you don't usually eat a massive plate of pasta, now isn't the time to start. Introducing new items into your diet the night before the race could end in disaster. Focus on eating plenty of carbs and healthy fats for energy on race day.
Stay Limber Until Race Day
In the weeks leading up to race day, you put in the hours in your training. However, during race week, it's time to step off the gas. The hard work is over, and all you need to do is go through the motions to stay limber and fit.
By taking it easy in the final three or four days before the race, you give your body time to rest and heal from all the training. As a result, when you set off from the start, your nervous system fires on all cylinders during the race.
Get to the Start Early
Getting to the start early in the morning is important. If you arrive too close to the start, it results in you getting everything together in a rush. This stress runs down your immune system and your energy levels. This panic mode ends up affecting your performance.
Get the start times and arrive at the venue at least two hours early. Register when you arrive, and take a final toilet break before readying yourself for the race.
Position for a Good Start
Position yourself with a pack of riders that you know or behind a team that matches your physical fitness. Learning how to "draft" behind riders reduces the energy you expend during the race. Remember that you're riding in a pack, and pay attention to your surroundings.
Push Your Limits and Have Fun
We doubt your goal is to win your first-ever cycle race. Sure, it would be nice, but it's not a feasible goal. Instead, make your goal to enjoy the experience as much as possible.
There will be moments in the race where you get to test your mettle against the course's challenges. Relish these opportunities to push yourself to your limits.
However, above all, remember to have fun out there!