How To Start Racing: Chapter Five - Prep

We were 30 minutes into the race, over the first climb, and I already had 3 minutes. After pushing the pace up the first climb and getting a small gap, I attacked viciously on the ridge blowing the gap out to minutes. Down into the first descent I dove, ripping through the loamy single track. Then it happened. Exactly what you don’t want to ever happen when you’re leading a race. I flatted.

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Stan’s sealant was spraying everywhere and I couldn’t get it to plug. I reached for my tire plugs only to find I had left them at home in a different flat kit. I fumbled with a tube but the damage was done. I erased my heard earned gap and just like that was now fighting for placings.

When it comes to racing, we spend countless hours training, studying the course and visualizing our success, but often times amidst that, we forget to simply prepare the basics.

Step 1 – Bike

This is almost too obvious, though every race has someone on the side of the course fiddling with something that isn’t quite right on their bike. Check over everything. Is the chain lubed? Are your pedals tight? Is your suspension working appropriately? Are your tires in good condition with fresh sealant? Is the bike shifting well? Tighten bolts, look at everything closely. You don’t want to travel, spend money and then have a mechanical issue on the trail that is completely avoidable.

Step 2 – Gear

Make sure you bring extra gear for the race. Maybe that’s a flat kit, different tires if the conditions are unknown, a bike pump, or tools. Think about everything you will need while you are at the race before, during and after the race. How are you going to clean up after the race? Is it possible you could be on the podium? Bring an extra jersey for a picture. Will you be sitting around at all? Chairs are great to have!

Step 3 – Kit

Don’t forget your shoes and helmet! It happens to the best of us, but is incredibly frustrating. Make sure you think through everything you’re going to need while on the bike. I literally stand up and think through each part of my body to make sure I have something for it, or two.

Head – helmet, lights?

Face – Sunglasses, extra lenses

Chest – HR strap, jersey

Legs – Bibs

Feet – Socks, shoes

When I’m confident I have something for every situation, I know I’m ready.

Step 4 – Nutrition

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Unless it’s a cyclocross race, you’re going to need nutrition during the race. Forgetting this is a failure to launch of potentially epic proportions. Again think through what you’ll eat before, during and after the race. Sometimes you might need to eat on the way to the race. Don’t stop and get some junk or crappy food! Pack something healthy and nutritious to eat before racing. Your body and stomach will thank you with a good performance. After the race I find I’m in different moods depending on the day. Sometimes I’m ravenously hungry. Other times I don’t want to eat or just can’t. Plan for both scenarios, and bring something even if the promotor is advertising free food after the race (sometimes it’s all gone, or NOT agreeable with your post-race stomach!).

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Whatever you do, don’t wait till race morning to think through prepping what you need to race and race well. Bring something for each scenario before, during and after the race. Your performance will be majorly impacted by your forward thinking!

My pre-race checklist:

  • clean bike
  • tighten PEDALS
  • bring chain link
  • tire plugs
  • chain lube
  • tire pump
  • bring 2 extra tubes
  • 2 co2 canisters
  • inflator head
  • tire lever
  • 8 bottles infinit gofar
  • 3 - 1 gallon bags
  • gel flask
  • Garmin
  • gloves
  • heart rate monitor
  • socks
  • Sunglasses
  • bibs/jersey
  • helmet
  • pre ride bibs/jersey
  • post ride bibs/jersey
  • ls jersey
  • arm warmers
  • leg warmers
  • warm gloves
  • ear warmers
  • base layer
  • casual clothes
  • pre race/post race food
  • tool