From the Tour de France to the Vuelta a España to the San Diego Triathlon Classic, bike racing is a rich tradition that has roots that date back to the late 1860s. Bike races are the perfect display of human endurance, fortitude, and slick equipment, and while you may not be participating in the Tour de France soon, you may feel the urge to challenge yourself with a bike race at some point. When that time comes, here are some tips to get you prepared.
Take part in a few group rides before you attempt your first full race. The more riders, the better. This will get you accustomed to riding in close proximity and at top speeds with several other cyclists. You’ll learn about positioning, drafting, maneuvering, and, most importantly, safety.
While it’s generally based on personal preference, triathlon bikes are built specifically for triathlons. Unless you’re a veteran rider or taking part in a triathlon, ride on a good road bike.
If possible, practice riding the actual race route or, at least, something similar. Familiarize yourself with the course, taking note of turns, inclines, climbs, and danger spots. Consider riding the course with an experienced rider to get an idea of what speeds you should be traveling during the race. Knowing how to race is often more important than specific training.
At the same time, make sure you keep your endurance up. Go on longer-than-usual rides. Concentrate on exercises that allow you to work for extended periods of time, instead of short sprints of high-intensity cycling. Build leg muscles with deadlifts, leg presses, and squats.
Make sure you eat the right foods. During muscle-building, eat lean proteins. During aerobic training, eat more complex carbs.
During the training period, set up your bike the same way that you would during the race. Adjust the seat, handlebars, and pedals so that you are comfortable but efficient whether you’re sitting, standing, sprinting, or power stroking.
Make sure your bike is completely maintained the day before the race. Don’t leave anything untested. Clean the chain, check the tires, and wipe your bike down. If you need anything from bicycle shops in San Diego, the day before the race is the absolute last opportunity.
Lay out all your equipment for race day, including filled water bottles, energy foods, and gels the night before the race. Get everything ready so that you’re not stressing on race day.
On race day, make sure you get a good breakfast in your stomach about three hours before the race. Breakfast should include some toast or oatmeal along with fruit, juice, and protein.
Arrive early, sign in, and find a good position for starting.
Try to drink about a bottle of water every hour.
For your first race, don’t worry so much about winning. Watch and learn from the veteran riders. The goal is to gain experience, make friends, and have fun!
Hopefully with these tips, you’ll have a fun and safe first race.