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Top Tips for Your First Cycling Race

Got your first cycling race?

It can be daunting experience and gives more than butterflies in your stomach. But a little preparation can go a long way, here’s a few tips to help you with your first bike race:

1.Group riding

Be sure to go in multiple group rides while training so you will be used to riding among other riders at high speeds and in tightly-packed groups. Group riding with a local club will teach you the benefits of drafting plus etiquette you’ll need to get around without incurring the wrath of other riders.

2.Be prepared

Always familiarize yourself with the course. Often race organizers will share a map of the route well in advance so you’ll have had a chance to check out the ride and perhaps ride sections, if not all of it beforehand and make preparations according to the terrain. Note all the potential hazards and danger points so you are well prepared.

3.Check your bike over

A day before the race, give your bike a thorough checking over. Don’t leave anything untested. Make sure nothing is loose and check your shifting and that your brakes are functioning properly. Give your chain and drive train a good cleaning and lubricate, and also check your tires over for any deep cuts or anything untoward.

4.Pack your gear

The night before your race pack everything you will need according to the expected weather. Have a checklist including cycling top, bib'shorts, socks, shoes, helmet, gloves, and items such as jacket/cape and overshoes if the weather is expected to be unfavorable.

Some races also require you to have race license so don’t forget to pack that too. Keep water bottles filled, energy bars too based on the length of the race. If you are racing for around an hour maximum then one bottle and gel will likely suffice. If you’re doing a longer event, then you need to try and eat and drink around 500 calories per hour after the first hour.

5.Eat normally

The night before a race is not the time to start experimenting with what you eat. Just eat the same kind of carbohydrate-rich meal that you would the evening prior to a training ride. Always eat breakfast at least two hours before your race. Have a combination carbohydrates and protein, that you usually eat for breakfast before a training ride. Also stay hydrated the day and morning before the race.

6.Gentle ride

Having fine-tuned your bike, it is worth having a gentle spin on the day before your race. Don’t go overboard, but just have a gentle spin to keep the body ticking over and fire up those muscles that you’ll be using in the race tomorrow. Remember, no race is won on the back of training the day before a race, but many have potentially been lost.

7.Arrive Early

This may seem likely the blindingly obvious, but it’s amazing how many people don’t know the exact location of their race start and then end up starting the race in a fluster, or even worse, late. Get all the start times, directions and maps for the race printed out and arrive early.

Register as soon as you arrive, get your race number pinned on, and take your final toilet break. You should even have time for a short warm-up so why not get your legs loose and check out the last kilometer of the race and look for any potential hazards.

8.Positioning is Key

Don’t spend all your time at the front as you’ll unnecessarily use up energy. Take the opportunity to draft behind other riders in order to save energy – do your best to stay with the pack. Be sure not to make any sudden moves. Signal your intention of moving out. If you are not a strong climber then make sure you’re the first to start the climb so that you don’t get dropped completely as the good climbers start to stream past on the ascent.

The target for your first race shouldn’t be to win or even be the front runner. Instead, aim at completing the race, gain experience and most importantly, have fun.

Really though, your first race should be about watching and learning that in future you’ll hopefully be able to use to win.