You don’t want to race on a full stomach – but you don’t want to race when you’re starving either. Have a carbohydrate-rich snack, like a banana sandwich, three to four hours before the event, and drink plenty of water.
Most local events require that you arrive at least 15 minutes before the start. Build in some spare time. You’ll probably sign on for the race with the timekeeper beside a car boot. The timekeeper will then hand out race numbers. These are safety-pinned to the back of your jersey, right at the bottom not high up on the back. Ask someone to pin yours on for you.
As you’ll be one of the first riders off, double check with the timekeeper how-much time you’ve got before you start and exactly where the start is. If you’ve got time to spare, ride down the road a bit to warm up. Riding out to the event can be a useful warm up if it’s local enough, but remember you’ll have to ride home, too!
Get to the start with a couple of minutes to spare. At one minute to go, you’ll get in position. Make sure you’re in a gear you can accelerate away in. At 30 seconds, the starter will – if you wish -hold you up. Take some deep breaths, clip into and orient your pedals.
Don’t slaughter yourself in the first few miles. You need to get into the ride – find a rhythm for your breathing and pedalling that’s hard but sustainable. Try not to let your mind wander. Keep half an eye on your heart rate monitor or bike computer, or count your pedal strokes for one leg (one, two, three, four) and then the other, and repeat.
Other riders will come past you. Don’t worry about it. When you can see the finish, give it everything. Keep riding straight past the finish. When it’s safe to do so, do a U-turn and return to where you met up before the race – not the start. Don’t hang around the timekeeper or try to talk to him. He’ll be over with the results shortly.
Have a drink. Get your breath back. And when the timekeeper reappears, go and find out your time. It doesn’t matter what time anyone else got – first and foremost, you’re racing against yourself – the following week you can have a go at bettering your time, and you will.
Text courtesy Cycling Plus and Dan Joyce 2007