RACING Guide part 3
Tips to prepare you for racing
1) Drinking from your bottle
Ask yourself a question – when you decide that you want a drink whilst out on your bike, what do you do? Do you stop, unclip and then reach down and grab your bottle? If so, the first thing you need to practise is reaching for your bottle whilst on the move, taking a drink and then putting it back, whilst still moving.
This may seem really simple to some people, but the point is that if you don’t put your bottle back in the cage correctly and you subsequently hit a pot hole, I have seen so many bottles take flight, which then means that you have either inadvertently caused a crash behind you, as people swerve to avoid your bottle, or you have to complete the race without any drink – not the best idea!
Whilst I am on bottles, please do not throw your bottle away unless you need to in order to take another bottle on board. And if you absolutely have to throw your bottle, be careful where you throw it as again it could end up in the middle of the bunch, with possible crashes as a result. Carrying an empty bottle won’t make that much difference to the weight of your bike, and unless you are lucky enough to get an unlimited supply of free bottles, if you lose a bottle every race, the cost of replacing them soon adds up, AND you become a litter lout too, so don’t do it.
2) “Clipping in”
So you are on the start line, and the flag is waved to start the race. You look down, check where your feet are and push off, again looking down to clip your other foot in. When you look up again, the rest of the riders have already entered the first bend and you face a chase to get back in contention. And it’s only the first lap.
Again, this might seem simple, but a race can be won or lost, or points gained or lost, on your ability to “clip in” to your pedals quickly. It is easy to practise, and your riding will benefit from it as you will get used to clipping in and out easily, so there’s no more worries then about stopping at junctions, etc. Plus, why use extra energy chasing to get back in the race when you could be up there from the start? It’s a no-brainer for me.
3) Eating on the move
This doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) be a problem if you are doing a 30 or 40 minute circuit race as you should be able to survive on a gel just before the start and a bottle with energy drink in it, however, for anybody looking at doing road races, you need to be able to take food on board in order to replenish your energy reserves BEFORE they get depleted.
There are many ways to do this, and you should try different types of food to see what suits you best – some people will tell you to use energy gels, other people will say bananas, others will say sweets or chocolate. Remember that energy foods can prove quite expensive and sometimes just toast and jam will do (that’s what I used to use in the 1990s!).
My advice would be to shop around, try different things and stick with what works for you, which may not be what your mates tell you! Practise taking them out of your pocket, eating them and putting the wrapper back in your pocket – again no litter bug antics please!
Hmm, now this is something I can tell you about from experience! This can be a bone of contention at ANY race – circuit or road! The first thing you need to practise is adjusting your speed going into the bend/corner – far too many people go into a bend at full pelt, only to realise on the apex of the bend that they have totally miscalculated their speed and brake to avoid going completely out of control - not at all helpful for the people who are unfortunate enough to be following that person’s wheel.
When approaching the corner, look beyond the bend to see where you are going – do NOT look down at the ground. If you look at where you are going, this will help you to hold your line (which I will explain in a minute).
If you lean in to go around the corner, this helps with fluidity and momentum, make sure you keep your inside pedal (in the UK this will mainly be your left pedal) up, which means that your opposite foot should be at the bottom, with your outside leg straight and your inside leg bent. Also, keep relaxed to help you “flow” around the corner.
When you approach the bend, look first to see where you are going to exit the corner, brake as you approach the bend to reduce your speed, and keep your head up to see where you are going. As you come out of the bend, do not drift to the other side (for example if you are going around a left hand bend do not drift to the right) – this is called “holding your line” – you must bear in mind that you will hopefully be in the middle of a group of riders at this point and any movements that riders to either side of you or behind you aren’t expecting could potentially cause a collision. Even if you think you are on your own, hold your line as there may be other riders coming up behind you.
I think the key to cornering in a group is respect other riders – give them space (not too much though!) and keep an eye on what is ahead.
5) Mutual Respect
One thing you will notice in a race is that people can get a bit annoyed if you do something that they don’t agree with – rightly or wrongly – and it will also get on your nerves if somebody does something to annoy you. But that is a part of racing – it is emotional whether you like it or not, and you are competing for the win essentially. Respect your fellow riders, give them the space that you would expect but don’t let them walk all over you!
So, if somebody else who is nothing to do with you, shouts at you to do some work, think about whether it would be of benefit to YOU to work - if you are in a bunch, and your strength lies in sprinting at the end of the race, why would you do any work to help other people who aren’t on your team (you wouldn’t see Mark Cavendish riding at the head of the pro peloton on the last stage of the Tour de France if he thinks he is going to win, would you?)?
On the other hand, if you are not a sprinter but would prefer to get in a break and win that way, then it might work in your favour to put the hammer down. Far too often I have seen riders do what their rivals (on a different team) tell them to. But why would you do that? Remember that you are competing – don’t be overwhelmed by riders who are supposedly better than you on paper – you have entered the race for a reason.