Summer may have reached the halfway point, but there’s still time to sign up for your first cycling race. Committing to your first cycling race is often the hardest part. Here are a few tips to help you reach the finish line.
At least a month before the race:
Find a local club or group to train with. Group rides will teach you how to draft and react in a pack, and some will include sprint or king of the mountain points to simulate a race. Riding with a group is also a great way to find more experienced cyclists who can provide tips and mentor you. They’ll also direct you to the best races for beginners. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The more information you have going into the race, the more confident you will feel. Make sure you have as many group rides as possible under your belt before race day. Read our blog on Group Cycling Etiquette to get more comfortable with common group expectations.
The week of:
Tune up your bike. Check your shifting and perform your own bike tune-up. Be sure your brakes are functioning properly, that there are no nicks in your tires and that all your bolts are tight.
Avoid last minute tweaks. If you need to swap to a different saddle or stem, do it as soon as possible. The night before a race is not the time to fix your bike position or install new cables.
The night before:
Pack everything you will need. Check the weather and pack accordingly. Be sure you have shoes, helmet and gloves. If you have a bike race license, you must have it with you in order to race. If you don’t, be sure to bring enough money to purchase a day license at the bike race. Bring a change of clothes and a towel or baby wipes. Also be sure you have good directions and know your start time.
Set out your food. Decide what your energy needs will be ahead of time and stick with foods you’ve previously eaten with no trouble during training. To avoid possible gastrointestinal distress, don’t test out a new food on race day. The same goes for the night before. If you’ve never experimented with carb loading, this is not the time sit down to a giant pile of pasta.
The day of:
Eat breakfast at least two to three hours before. Consume carbohydrates and some protein. Eat foods you know you can tolerate before riding. Focus on staying hydrated and leave a bottle of water in your car to sip on the way to the race.
Arrive two hours early. This gives you enough time if you have to wait in line for registration or bathrooms. Register when you first arrive. Then pin your number on tightly and warm up, either on or near the course or on a trainer. One benefit to warming up on the course is that you can scan for potential hazards like gravel or potholes and also scope out the finish line.
Finish your warm up 15 minutes before the cycling race. The goal is to keep your legs loose and feeling fresh. After you finish your warm up, take one last bathroom break and then head to the start line.
View the cycling race as a learning experience. It takes most racers a long time to reach the podium. Focus on staying with the pack and watch what’s going on around you. Don’t make any sudden moves and stay alert so you don’t get tangled up in a crash. Most importantly, have fun!