You just started Mountain Biking when somebody mentions a MTB competition. You start sweating and in a panicking voice you answer “NO. No way, I am not ready….
Calm down! Mountain bike races have categories for all. A rookie will never compete against an experienced biker. There will always be a category where you fit in and be competitive with the rest of the group. Just take a change!
The hardest part of mountain bike competition is not going fast, racing through curves, climbing slopes, riding single tracks or pass obstacles…… The hardest thing is to control the anxiety that you will feel from the moment you pin on your number and take your place at the starting line. The nerves will settle a bit once you are racing and will make place for total happiness as soon as you cross the finish line. The golden advice is “calm down”. Enjoy this experience, it is special, enjoy the environment, the nature, all different kind of people but all MTB lovers…..this all makes it different and an amazing experience.
Knowing what’s coming, can relax a bit more these nerves that make you cringe before a competition. This is why we have prepared some tips to avoid having to learn it the hard way.
SOME WEEKS BEFORE THE COMPETITION
• Try to register with some friends, it is always great to have some support. Inform your family and friends so they can motivate you and it is great to have people cheering you on from the side lines
• Register soon, this way you help the organization to plan all organizational expenses and you will feel more committed to the competition
• Choose the correct category, Do not expect to “feel ready” for a category that presents more challenge …, you never feel ready for that. Choose a category where your fitness and technique allow you to be competitive. Win easily without effort does not have great merit. It is much more fun and rewarding to compete with bikers at your level giving it their all!.
• Try to arrange shared transportation with several competitors. This way you can motivate each other, chat, tell jokes and feel more relaxed. Eliminate a bit the stress before the competition.
• If possible try to visit the track a few times before the competition. Make some practice rounds. Check out the obstacles such as rocks, roots, holes and see how to avoid them…
• Take note of such as unusual trees, rocks, curves or whatever in the last 1 or 2 miles before the finish line. This way you will now when you are getting close and can give everything that you have left.
• Try to find a point about 200 meters from the finish line, so you know when to start your finishing sprint.
THE NIGHT BEFORE
• Pack everything you need the night before the competition.
• Be prepared for all-weather (hot, sunny or raining)
• Make sure you have ready your:
Hydro-bag or amphorae
Your proof of registration or your number
• Do not forget clean and dry clothes for after the race.
• Bring a towel
• Resist the urge to want to make repairs and improvements to your bike last-minute unless absolutely necessary
• Have a good dinner, but no so that you feel bloated and heavy the next day
• Do not worry if you can’t sleep from the nerves and excitement. Tomorrow you will have a lot of adrenaline running around your body anyway. Just try to get some rest.
FINALLY IT IS THE DAY
• Plan to arrive at least 1.30 hours before your competition (avoid the stress of running late)
• Only breakfast carbohydrates (bread, oatmeal, muffins, etc). No fibre breakfast, this is not the time to improve your intestinal movements
• Do not eat a “big breakfast” at least two hours before competition
• A mountain biking tip; “Never miss a chance to go to the bathroom”. Many people have lost the opportunity to warm up because the line for the bathroom is eternal …. make a pit stop before reaching the site of the competition, that way you can register and get your number immediately.
• Put on your biking outfit (if you haven’t arrived in it), prepare your bike, attach your number, prepare your water bottle, your food….everything to be ready for the race
• Your number has to be well tied, if loose, it will be moving a lot and will distract you during the competition
• Have several water bottles prepared in a cooler. If you have family or friends at the side line they can have a new bottle prepared for you when you pass by
• Take enough time to warm up
• Only cross the finish line when finishing. Do not cross when the competition is in progress. Do not cross it twice because your friends want to take an extra picture of your arrival….This annoys officers and may even disqualify you from the competition.
• Finish your warm up 15 minutes before your start. Get rid of everything that does not serve you
• Go to the starting line 10 minutes before the start of your category, stretch a little
• Drink lots and lots of water (especially if it is hot)
• Pay close attention to the advice given before the competition. It gives a lot of information on the route, where there are judges are etc
• Remember that different categories start with a few minutes differences. Don’t start with the wrong category
• In XC racing it is important to start as much as possible at the front, and try to make a flying start! If not, you can get stuck in the bundle of cyclists
• Remember that no one but you must keep accounts of the number of laps you are doing according to your category
• Final instructions will be given. Do not be afraid to ask any questions
• The start of a competition seems ridiculously fast. Do not panic, the pace will go down entering the first single track. Just remember to get stuck behind a slower competitor in the single tracks, is not good.
DURING THE COMPETITION
• Drink plenty of water, especially if the competition lasts over an hour. There is a rule that says, taking a sip every 15 minutes and try to drink 500ml per hour. Obviously drink a lot more if it is hot
• If you do more than 3 laps make sure the judges see your number when you pass by
• During the first round, competitors which cannot keep up will be left behind, it is very important to stay in the lead group and be careful passing the ones who stay behind.
• If more than 100mts separate you, do not worry, in the skills of mountain biking, anything can happen … even though you’re the fastest, the most experienced, a flat tire, or a mechanical problem may set back the leaders
• If you are going to pass somebody, let them know. Shout if you are passing right or left. But friendly, not because he/she is slower you have to be aggressive or pushy
• If someone screams at you, left or right, it means that a faster biker is reaching you and wants to pass you. Kindly let them pass, especially because there may be categories much faster than yours on the track
• If you go on a single track and want to pass … DO NOT DESPAIR there is always a point in the road where you can overtake and it is easier than you think
• If you have a mechanical problem or a puncture. Fix it, DO NOT GIVE UP, if it happened to you, there is a big change that it happens to other competitors as well, particularly if it is a demanding circuit
• In mountain biking competitions usual if you can’t repair a mechanical failure, run with your bike to reach the finish
• And if you are tired….Remember … THERE IS NO “I CAN NOT” … just cross that damn finish line!
YOU MADE IT
• During the competition, keep an eye on the miles so you have a good idea of how much longer to the finish and to know when to give it all you have and make your final closing sprint
• If you use energy gels, take one the last 2 miles, this will give you a boost for the last bit
• Beware of slower competitors when making your final sprint to the finish
• Resist the need to embrace friends and family before crossing the finish, just get over that finish line first
• At the end of your competition, eat all you can, drink all you can and talk talk talk about your experience with your friends, family and other competitors.
• And. .. how did I do? Did you stay behind or did you fall?…. welcome to the club! That’s very normal in mountain bike races. Even for professional competitors and more experienced riders. They became professionals because that kept on going, despite of everything!. From every competition you learn something.
• If you competed in intermediate or novice categories, stay to watch the fastest competition categories, think about how was your race and try to see what they do differently. Listen to feedback from more experienced competitors and feel free to ask, experienced competitors will always be more than willing to help newbies.
• The most important of all … no matter your position in your first race, go ahead and participate in the next. Gradually you’ll get stronger and smarter. You will see how you dramatically improve if you continue competing. Most people see an incredible progress after several seasons.
REMEMBER, THE POWER OF MTB AND ALL TERRAIN BIKING IS TO HAVE FUN, TO ENJOY, TO BE PROUD OF YOURSELF, OF YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENT…YOU DID IT! COMPETING IN A NATURAL SETTING WITH ALL KIND OF OBSTACLES. DO NOT GO GRAZY, DO NOT GET MAD, DO NOT THROW A TANTRUM…..BIKING IS MADE TO BE ENJOYED!