Race Day Prep for your first race
It’s race day…What should you do?
After a good night’s sleep, go over the checklist (mental or written) that you’ve made and make sure you have everything that you need for the day: shoes, helmet, sunglasses, race kit (uniform), bike, water bottle(s), gel/energy bar, post-race food, money, license, floor pump, tools, change of clothes, sunscreen, baby wipes… Carpool with a friend, as it will help calm your nerves.
READ the race flyer and be sure to understand the language (free lap? wheels in/out?), and get there early. Be prepared for traffic. Be prepared for lines…at registration and at the port-o-john! Register, pin your number on the correct side of your jersey in the correct position, or ask an experienced pinner (really!). Ask at registration “Which side?” You are trying to make it easy for the finish line camera to record your number, so don’t crumple your number and have it lie flat while you are in your “riding position”. Prep your bike. Make sure tires are properly inflated and the brakes are properly seated and not rubbing, and that everything is secured and working well. Now is not the time to make adjustment or changes on your bike.
Warm up, but not on the course, unless it’s permitted. Riding on the course often happens between races for about 15 minutes, so plan accordingly. Get on the course for a few laps, and THEN get on your trainer if you can’t warm-up on the road. (Actually if you are real serious about this you will have pre-ridden the course before the event in larger/longer events.) During some circuit races, you can ride in the opposite direction on the road while another race is going on. A good warm-up should be at LEAST 20 minutes, but usually more.
Plan ahead and bring food and drink. EAT breakfast (!), with a snack/gel/bar before your race. Be well-hydrated *before* your race (lots of drinks for hot weather). If you or someone on your team has a pop-up tent, bring it along. They are a great gathering place for teams and shelter from the sun or rain. Make sure the tent is secured to the ground. If you’re racing and the wind picks up, you could find your tent taking out the whole pack! Bring folding chairs and a blanket, too.
Wear your helmet all of the time, even if you’re just riding over to registration or the port-o-john. This is a rule that is strictly enforced for insurance purposes. Know when your race starts and make sure you are at the line or staging area early. There’s no point in doing all of this preparation and then missing your start, but it does happen. No refunds for rolling up to the start line one minute late…….unless you’re SuperDave! (-:
Line up and listen to the Official’s instructions. If you’re not sure about something, just ask. Be proficient at clipping into your pedal quickly and without looking so that you can get a good start. Unless you are making a conscious tactic to attack from the gun, just stay with pack until the pace settles down. Give yourself a little extra room in the corners until you see how people are taking them. If you’re in the front or middle of the pack do not brake in the middle of a corner. If you must brake for a corner, do it before you enter it (gently, not abruptly), then release the brake as you go through the turn. Be predictable. If you’re nervous in the pack, stay to the outside in corners, but don’t go too wide; you will lose momentum and waste energy getting back in the pack. A great way to learn about cornering is to plant your self as a spectator on a tight corner during a category 1/2 race and watch how many people never touch their brakes.
Now you’re racing. Be aware of what is going on around you. Look ahead and not at the wheel in front of you. Always try to keep a good position in the pack. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you’ll find yourself being spit out to the back of the pack again! Be ready to go when the pack does…anticipation helps your response time. Know what lap you are on and when a prime lap is. Good luck!!
No matter how well you do in your first race and every race thereafter, learn something from every race. If you keep getting dropped, then learn how to improve your drafting. Make it your goal to not be dropped by the pack, or not to finish ‘last’. Then, in your next race, make it your goal to ride in the front 1/3 of a race (because that’s where the winner is hanging out!). Then make a goal to get yourself in a break. If you find you can hang comfortably in the pack, but the field in the end passes you, then work on your sprint. If you find that you lack those fast twitch muscle fibers, then you must start attacking and try to do well that way. Or, work with teammates and see how you can compliment each other’s abilities. Keep at it and learning with every race, and you will improve quickly!