Race Day: 5 Steps To Less Stress and Greater Performance
After all the training and preparation leading up to your mountain bike race, the last thing you want to do is make a silly mistake or two on the actual day of your event.
With all the stress and nervousness that comes with a race, it’s easy to let good habits slip or forget something important.
Here are 5 things that you can do (and that I do) to make race day run smoother and ultimately help give you the best chance of success.
1. Hydrate appropriately
Like many things in sports and performance, hydration can sometimes be over-complicated.
All you want to do is make sure you’re keeping your body topped up with fluid before you race, so that you’re hydrated to just the right amount when it’s time to compete.
This simply involves being disciplined enough to sip water on a regular basis from when you wake up until the start of your race.
If you’re particularly bad at drinking enough, set up some kind of alert or alarm on your phone to remind you.
Remember, you only need to take a few sips at a time, so it’s not too difficult as long as you’re consistent with it.
2. Torque up everything
If you can, always use a torque wrench like this awesome LifeLine Essential Torque Wrench Set that I use, to make sure everything is tight and at the correct tightness on your bike.
This will help you to avoid any stupid mechanicals that could ruin your race, yet be completely avoidable with due diligence.
Areas to focus on include stem bolts on both the steerer tube and the handlebar, your brake and shifter bolts, your seat post clamp and derailleurs.
Racing pushes your equipment to greater levels than regular riding, so any bolts that aren’t tightened are fairly likely to loosen in the heat of racing.
3. Time your pre-race meal correctly
This is quite an important one, and something which should be treated as a priority.
Always eat your main pre-race meal at least 3 hours before your start time.
Leaving major eating later than this will drop your blood sugar like a stone when it’s time to race, leaving you feeling tired and sluggish right when you need to be alert and firing on all cylinders.
Get most of your eating done 3-4 hours before your race, and take a gel or similar within 10 minutes to go, as this will kick in just after you start your race.
4. Write out a timeline of your tasks
Be clear on when to start getting changed, when to start your warm-up etc.
To come up with this schedule, work backwards from your race start time, and allocate a lenient amount of time for your key tasks.
Using a whiteboard that you can write the timeline on to (and easily modify if necessary) and putting it somewhere visible is a good way to go.
5. Visualise past successful workouts
Mental toughness plays a massive role in XC racing success, and many racers ‘choke’ when it comes time to perform.
Try to get yourself into a very positive mindset and be confident in your ability. It’s really easy to be intimidated and feel really under pressure.
Nerves are all part of a good performance, but keep them in check by constantly reminding yourself of how you succeeded in preparing for the event.
Try not to be distracted by what your competition looks like, is acting like or saying. Everyone has their own way of dealing with pre-race nerves, but staying confident and focused will be a great stepping stone to a good race.