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Mountain Biking FAQ
Section - 4B. Race Tips

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See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
I do not have much to offer in this section, so I turned to Peter Greaves 
for help:
Peter Greaves [greaves@ccmail.ram.co.uk]
Subject: race tips for FAQ - long
here it is - from May this year
     1. INITIAL  MESSAGE
     
     me and a riding buddy are going for our first race on 23rd April, 
     and we'd appreciate some advice from the list.
     
     fyi, the race is 3 x 5 mile laps cross country - a good variety of 
     single track/short climbs/foresty bits etc.
     
     we're both pretty fit and not too bad technically but would like a 
     few tips on race preparation (us and our machines!) and racecraft.
     
     any advice gratefully received - we'll post our first race 
     experience to the list!
     
     peter "what? ride off THAT? are you MAD?" greaves
     
     2. REPLIES
     Just a few tips:
     
    -Pre-ride the course the weekend before, if you can.
    -Take it easy the two days before the race.  Save your best for the 
     race.
    -Start making your bike race-ready NOW.  Don't wait until the night 
     before the race to install that new chain or whatever.
    -Take an extra tube, chaintool, allen wrenches, pump (I use CO2 
     cartridges) and whatever else you think you'll need.  Just stuff 
     them in your jersey pockets. Funny things happen during races.
    -Always take more to drink than you think you'll need.  Camelbaks 
     work great in races.
    -Make sure you get to the race site with plenty of time to register, 
     get your stuff, put your number on, and warm up properly.  Two hours 
     before start time isn't too far ahead.  You don't want to be rushing 
     around just trying to get to the start line.
    -This is your first race.  You probably won't win, so don't worry too 
     much about your start position.  Just try to line up in the middle 
     somewhere.  Be patient at the start.  As you roll off the line leave 
     about a wheel-length between you and the rider ahead.  That will 
     give you enough room to manuver when he and the guy next to him 
     lock bar-ends and crash in front of you.
    -Don't kill yourself in the first mile.  It's a lot more rewarding to 
     pick off people throughout the race who have blown up than to start 
     fast, die, get passed by everyone and then barf at the finish.  The 
     winner won't kill himself in the first mile either.  He'll feel 
     great.  (Hope that's you).  Everyone else will die trying to stay 
     with him.
    -If someone is following you on singletrack and you can't shake 
     them, ask if you're holding them up.  Likewise, if you can't get by 
     somebody, and the riders ahead are pulling away, don't start 
     screaming at him.  Just say "Hey dude, can you give me a line when 
     you get a chance?"  (This doesn't work in Sport class, just Beginner 
     and Expert) ;-)
    -If this is a Beginner race, people will be crashing all over.  They 
     get all excited and try to ride above their ability.  Don't crash. 
     You can break your bike or yourself and DNF.  When in doubt, run a 
     technical section.  You won't lose time running a technical 
     section.
    -Nothing is more disheartening than a DNF.  Do everything you can to 
     be prepared so you can finish, whatever happens.
    -Most importantly: Have fun!
     
     Mark Tatum
     [tatum.mark@tcinc.com]
     "Colorado Mountain Bike Racing" 
     http://www.tcinc.com/mtbike/co_mtb.html
     
     First of all, the note posted by Mark was excellent.  My brother & I 
     have been racing for awhile and all his advice works.  One thing I 
     would like to add: In regards to arriving early to the race, take 
     enough time to warm-up properly.  It is critical to get your lungs 
     and legs "worked-in".  You'll notice the people that haven't 
     warmed-up will bonk after hammering full out for the first mile. 
     Then valuable time will be lost recovering during the next two 
     miles.  Since this is your first time, you may be hurting during the 
     event, but will be exhilarated when you finish! (Hhhmm - sounds 
     familiar).
     Good luck, but more important have fun!
     
     From: Tatum.Mark@tcinc.com
     Let's see what comes to my mind....
     
     *  Drink, drink, drink, eat, eat, eat (*before* you get 
     thirsty/hungry)
     *  Don't get caught in the back of the pack (I tend to be over - 
     cautious)
     *  Lube it, tune your brakes well (I tuned mine too tight once, so I 
     could hardly grab the levers on a rough DH, unsusp.me !)
     *  Hows about your bottle cage ( I noticed quite a number of lost 
     bottles on the first DH section) ?
     
     My first mtb race was about a year ago, 60 kms. Was on the verge of 
     cramping after half distance. Having a blast, though !
     
     Enjoy it !

     As for the warming up, any suggestions for that, other than "ride 
     around for awhile" which is what I do?  I always feel like crap on 
     the first climb of the race despite this.
     
     As an aside, in West Virginia they tend to start the races with a 
     nice, long climb to let the pack shake itself out before it hits 
     the singletrack.  Is this pretty much standard operating procedure?
	  
     Other tips:
     If you're out of contention - not that I'd know what this was like 
     ;) , be a nice guy/girl and stop to help those who were too lazy to 
     bring a pump - just make sure you tell them (in a nice way) that 
     they screwed up.
     
     Have food/water for after race consumption.  Some races provide 
     this, but there's almost never enough.
    
     ] As an aside, in West Virginia they tend to start the races with a
     ] nice, long climb to let the pack shake itself out before it hits 
     ] the singletrack.  Is this pretty much standard operating 
     ] procedure?
     
     It seems to be that way here in Georgia also.....
     
     ] Other tips:
     ] If you're out of contention - not that I'd know what this was like
     ] ;) , be a nice guy/girl and stop to help those who were too lazy to
     ] bring a pump - just make sure you tell them (in a nice way) that they
     ] screwed up.
     
     Be careful with this....I think it is a violation of NORBA rules to 
     help another racer.
     c'ya
     
     3. FINAL MESSAGE BACK TO THE LIST
     
     hiya list!!
     
     a couple of weeks back i wrote for some advice from the list for me 
     and a pal who were going for our first (Novice class!) race.   we'd 
     like to say that the stuff was really helpful, and thanks to all of 
     you.
     
     Someone suggested a racing technique FAQ - this would be a great 
     idea.
     
     * the most useful stuff from the posts
     
     1. pre-riding the course. it enables you to pace yourself properly 
     on the first lap as well as suss out the obstacles etc.
     
     2. getting your bike prepped up early.  don't leave it to the day 
     to find out your spare tube is kaput. (i did - thanks to the LBS 
     guys to sort me out with a spare)  also having a second tyre set 
     would have been useful - my Panaracers were a bit sluggish in the 
     sandy soil
     
     3. keep out of trouble at the start.  don't go off in the crush and 
     risk a spill/DNF.  it's better to catch and pass the guys on lap 3 
     - much more satisfying!
     
     * some things we discovered in addition to the useful posts:
     
     1. talk to other riders before the race about the course - but 
     don't let them wind you up about "12 ft drop-offs with broken 
     bottles and hungry wolves at the bottom". pre-ride the thing. make 
     your decisions about which bits to ride, and which bits to run, and 
     stick to them.
     
     2. don't be freaked out by the tricknology on show.  ultimately, 
     it's not the bike's name that gets the good spot on the results 
     sheet, it's the rider's.  we saw loadsa bikes much better than ours 
     in the fun race, and we got beaten by guys on lesser steeds than 
     ours in our own! and good for them!
     
     3. if you're coming up to a single-rider technical section, and 
     you've got slower riders to pass, either pass them early or hang 
     off.  there were a couple of accidents where faster guys were 
     brought down by accidents to slower riders in front because they'd 
     not left enough air for emergencies.  also the slower riders would 
     spill because of the faster guy being too close!
     
     4. don't take unnecessary risks in the last lap and ruin all your 
     good work!
     
     5. camelbaks not bottles
     
     6. this course was about ten big climbs and descents with three 
     wooded technical sections.  we thought the best plan was climb in 
     the granny and use the rear cassette to find your best speed - not 
     try to middle-ring everything and blow up. plus, if you've got a 
     bit in reserve, you can power over the top of the hill, crank up 
     your big ring "widowmaker" and get away fast.  we noticed that 
     people take breathers at the tops of hills and lose the advantage 
     they had from middle-ringing it!
     
     7. ask people pushing their bikes up hills to let you have the 
     best line if you're still riding - they usually will
     
     All-in-all we had a great time - racing really is the thing to put 
     some variety into your rides, sharpen up your reflexes, test your 
     real fitness level.  i wouldn't do it every week, but then i 
     wouldn't ride the same singletrack every week either!
    
     4. HOPE THIS HELPS!
     
     peter

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