Racing your bike for the first time is exhilarating but knowing where to start and how to prepare can be an intimidating prospect. We’re here to help you break it down into easy tasks so you can be safe, ready, and confident during your first cycling race.
Protect Yourself & Your Bicycle
When preparing for their first race, many people forget to look into protecting themselves and their bikes against every eventuality with insurance. Having a cyclist insurance policy in place before you race is a must to cover any accidents or kit damage you might incur yourself or for any collisions with competitors. Velosurance is a fantastic company to look into before you race as they offer completely customizable cover for every need.
Set Your Targets
Your goal for your first race should not be to win or even be amongst the front runners at the end of the race. Instead, you should be aiming to gain race experience by having fun and finishing the race. Remember to be kind to yourself in your first race, and just do your best. In future races, the more experience you have, the better chances you will have to win.
Get Accustomed To Riding In Groups
Join a local club to get some valuable practice of riding in tightly packed groups at high speeds. Group riding will also help you learn the benefits of drafting and how to do it, as well as what acceptable behaviors you’ll need to understand so you can get around the race without angering the other riders.
Prepare For The Course
Race organizers will share a map of the route in advance to give you a chance to familiarize yourself with the course. Prepare by making a note of any potential hazards or danger points on the race’s route and practice the course as part of your training. Pay special attention to the more difficult sections of the race, like hilly areas with a lot of rough climbing needed, or you run out of energy very early in the race a may not be able to finish.
Check Out The Competition
As this is your first competition, you might be unsure of what to wear or what the conditions are going to be like. Take your lead from the other competitors and contact the organizers for more information on what you should expect from the conditions.
Get Your Bike Serviced
Checking over your bike is vital. You can do this yourself if you know what you’re doing, or you can hire a professional to make sure everything is in order before you race.
Even after you service your bike, give it another check the day before the race. Give it a good clean to check for any damage, especially in the tires, that might have happened since your service, and lubricate the chain and drivetrain.
The Day Before
After checking over your bike and giving it a good clean the day before the race, take it out for a gentle ride. Don’t overdo it; a gentle spin will warm up your muscles and give you a good stretch before the race without tiring you out.
The Night Before
Create a checklist of the gear you need to take and pack everything the night before. Check the weather forecast to give you an idea of an extra gear you might need to prepare if the conditions are set to be harsh. Don’t forget your food or drink either, such as water bottles and energy bars. The length of the race will dictate how much food and water you need to bring, as race organizers recommend consuming 500 calories per hour after the first hour of racing.
Finally, eat how you would normally before a training ride. If you generally eat a mountain of chicken or pasta, then stick to that the night before your race and keep yourself hydrated.
About 2 hours before your race, make sure you have a good breakfast. Something that is heavy on carbohydrates and protein will be the best option before a race, but it doesn’t have to be a huge meal. Many racers stick to peanut butter on toast, applesauce, and porridge for their pre-race breakfast.
Get There Early!
It might sound obvious to get there early, but many people don’t check where the race will start and arrive stressed out or late. Getting there early allows you to get a good warm-up in before the race, but the first thing you should do when you arrive is getting your race number and taking your last bathroom break.
During the Race
Don’t spend all your time at the front; use what you learned in the cycling club and draft behind other riders to save energy, and don’t forget to have fun.