Originally written for Chrome Industries https://www.chromeindustries.com/chrome-blog/stories/blog-article-6429.html Race day is finally here! You have worked HARD for this, and now it’s finally time to strut your stuff.
Eat for sustained shredding
Have a light breakfast, but eat something sustaining. Try to eat something that’ll be easily digested and have you full until you get to the race course (oatmeal is a great option). You will be snacking before and after the qualifiers. It’s important to keep hydrating all day so you are in go mode when its time for the finale. Bring energy gels or some shot blox to chomp on right before you race to keep yourself from bonking.
Take a deep breath
When you get to the race course, shake off all your nerves. You’re here to have fun, you’re here to see your friends. Now time to get to business. Visualize your day going well, no if and or buts about it. We’re here to create some personal records, not to put yourself in danger. Evelyne Gangon reiterates the importance of riding the course before the race ‘You don’t want to be surprised during the race! If you can during the warm up, try to take corners at different speed and see how comfortable you are.’
One of the things that makes criterium racing exciting are the tight corners you will encounter on the course. Take a deep breath, you know how to handle these. Evelyne Gagnon wants to remind you that if you have to slow down, do it before the corner. Start ‘soft’ pedaling if you are on a fixed gear bike – DON’T skid (there is someone right behind you!). The line to take a corner should be outside-inside. As you enter the corner, look where you are going not at what you are about to run into – your bike will follow your eyes (trust me). Practice this during your pre-ride. During the race, focus on the cyclist just ahead of you (you ARE going to catch them) not the curb or the metal barrier. Tori Riemersma summed this all up succinctly in the oft heard phrase – ‘HOLD YOUR LINE!’
Look through the corners – your bike will naturally follow your eyesEvelyn lining up for qualifiers, with her race face ON
Create a pre race routine to keep your stress levels in check
Leave enough time to get everything set up before your first race – Chelsea recommends leaving at least an hour so you can begin stretching and warming up. Your helmet, gloves, glasses, socks and shoes should be in close proximity. Skinsuit and numbers should be on. This is also a time to eat a very light snack or energy bar, and get the bathroom line out of the way. With 45 minutes to go, hit the rollers with your full gear on. Start with a 20 minute warmup with gradual increase of cadence and heart rate to get the legs and lungs going, along with three- six second sprints mixed in and a cool down until it’s time to stage for the qualifiers.
If you leave enough time for warming up you will be as chill as Dazie
Maintain composure and focus on your own performance
Now it’s almost time for your big event. When it’s time to head to staging, start calming breathing techniques. Everyone’s heart rate naturally goes up due to the mixed emotions, but we want to make clear minded decisions – The rest is all mental! Try to keep your heart rate as calm as possible.
Keep your game face ON
Now we get to the tactical part of the event. You may not be the fastest racer, but you can be the smartest. Chelsea explains – ‘It’s all about being calm and collected and thinking strategically. If you know your weaknesses, you know your strengths even more. Use them to your advantage.’ Even if you are racing solo there are plenty of opportunities to work with other racers; If you feel yourself getting tired, draft and recover. Don’t take too long to recover on one person though, only a few seconds- then jump to the next wheel front and continue drafting. This way you can conserve your energy even as you move up in the race.
Drafting helps other racers conserve energy
Now you are in position to start controlling the pace of the race so it works for you. Most cyclists are either sprinters – who can put out short incredibly powerful efforts, or endurance racers who can hold a fast pace for a long time. If you are more of a sprinter, your goal should be to find a strong cyclist you can draft behind, and plan to sprint around them at the finish line. If you are an endurance racer, you can either to break away from the pack and maintain a higher pace for the remainder of the race, or attack repeatedly until all the sprinters are worn out. At Mission Crit, Dazie (an endurance racer) was able to lead out Evelyn (a sprinter). This way Evelyn saved her energy until it was time to sprint around Dazie and attack off the front, making use of both of their skills. ‘Attack like you mean it!’ says Britt Mason ‘Avoid attacking off the front or from the back. Attacking from somewhere in the top 10 positions is ideal.’ This is when you will have to really push yourself. ‘You need to attack when everyone is already in red zone (including you), attacking when it’s easy will rarely succeed.’ Says Evelyne Gagnon. It may seem counter intuitive to start sprinting when your legs are already screaming, but Tori Riemersma sums it up like this ‘Attack when it’s fast, sit in while it’s slow. If other people are relaxed from the pace, the likelihood of getting away is lower.’ Keep in mind your positioning, and always try to improve it – MOVE UP!
Keep an eye on other racers so you can intuit when they are about to attack
Always have a Plan B
Of course, sometimes things don’t go as planned. Having a secondary goal can help you keep pushing yourself and keep any self-doubt at bay. This can be something for the team, or something personal. During Mission Crit, Tori’s rear cog came loose during the qualifier event, and she had to start the main event from the rear of the pack. This ruined her chances of getting on the podium, so she turned her attention to helping our other team mates on the course. Kate shares an example from her racing career ‘I ended up getting dropped half way through the race. My nerves got the best of me and I was super stressed and panicking, but then I remembered my secondary goal- to just finish the race no matter what my position was… Having my secondary goal allowed me to regain my inner focus, calm my nerves, and lower my heart rate after being dropped. It was still a personal win for me because I actually finished.’ Most importantly, don’t be a jerk, and let some things roll off you. If you feel like you were cut off by another rider or that they were racing dangerously, remain focused on your own performance. If you feel inclined to discuss their behavior later, you can do so privately after the race.
Set yourself up for a strong finish
There’s a bell! That means it’s the last lap. Make sure you don’t get boxed in- being in the middle is fine during a race because you are sheltered from the wind, but you don’t want to get stuck behind riders that are slowing down if they did start to sprint early enough. Start setting yourself up for the final sprint – you want to be ready to MASH as you come around the last corner. This is where you let it ALL OUT. Just keep breathing …. focus on the finish line – YOU DID IT! I can’t wait to talk to you about everything you just achieved at the after party!
Evelyn says – Why wait till after to party?