Racing is fun but it can be stressful, argues Andrew Neethling. Here are Needles’ top five tips for doing well and having fun.
The thrill of pitting your skills against the clock – there’s nothing quite like it. But take it from an expert, a little preparation goes a long way. So if you’ve got some racing planned, and you want to elevate your game, here’s some advice from a pro. First things first, have you got the best mountain bike for the job? Right, now you’re going to need to know how to race…
1. Prep, prep and more prep
The more you are prepared the better. Yes, the best racers in the world have a whole team to help with this but that does not mean you can’t prepare too. Get your bike checked and serviced leading up to the race. Have a quick look at the weather for practice and race day, this can help you pack the appropriate kit and tires.
2. Practice… but not too much
Practice is like the homework you do for a test. The better your homework, the easier the test. The test is the race of course. A big mistake I see from a ton of riders is being over-excited and doing too much practice, as well as going too fast before they know the track.
The best thing you can do is ease into it. The race run is where you want to go fast, not the first practice run. Force yourself to do some slow, easy runs to get to know the track. I would break the track into a few sections.
Even when you are practising I would advise you not to ride too fast down the whole course all at once. Get to know the track and then pick a few sections to try to ride a little faster to see how it feels. This will help you conserve energy and avoid unnecessary crashes. You need that energy for your race.
Remember to enjoy it!
Near the end of practice, you may want to try a full run to see how it all feels in one go, if you have lots of energy.
Remember to hydrate and eat throughout the practice day. Many new riders are too focused on riding and forget to eat and drink.
3. Feel the fear and visualise it anyway
Race day is when the nerves may start creeping in. Embrace it and understand everyone feels it. The night before is a good time to go through the race run in your head. Visualise how you want the run to go and this can include where you want to brake for corners or shift gears.
4. Eat, even if you’re not hungry
Make sure you have a good breakfast on race day even if you don’t feel like eating. If the race is later in the day try to eat lunch two hours before so your body has time to digest it all. Some clean carbs and a tiny bit of protein are a good idea. Keep it simple and don’t eat or drink things you are not used to.
5. Be early
The time has come and your race is here. Try and arrive early for your practice and definitely for your race run. The last thing you want to feel is rushed on race day. Get ready with lots of time to spare. Triple check you have all your gear ready. Give your bike a little once over and check tyre pressure. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the top for a downhill race or to get to the start line of an enduro.
Visualise the course again and ride around to keep your body warm. Relax a bit as you have done what you can to prepare. Couple of nice deep breaths before your run, and remember to enjoy it!