One of the easiest ways for cyclists to prepare for race day is to have a routine. There is nothing that will ruin a race day faster than running around like a headless chicken trying to get the final preparations completed. You need to have all your organization down beforehand, and a routine will make that easier.
A routine will bring you a great feeling of control, as simply you can use a routine to create the knowledge that you have done everything you possibly can for that day's race. Your mind will then be as relaxed as possible, so make it easy on your head and create a system.
Having a few nerves is nothing to be worried about and is only natural. What you don’t want, though is enough nerves to spoil the day. The kind of nerves where you end up stuck in bed, hiding or feeling a loss of control is not what you need on the day of a race.
We get nerves because we are thinking about our race. It is only natural, and we’ll have certain natural reactions, regardless of what other people tell you they will be going through similar feelings. Your heart rate monitor will pick up that your heart rate is elevated; you’ll be needing the toilet a lot more, and you’ll have a rush of adrenaline.
These feelings are caused because your body has sensed a threat, it might be more existential than a physical one, but it is there none the less. Your flight or fight systems are kicking in. What we need to do is bring them down a notch, which is easier said than done, but one of the best ways is to prepare is to have a pre-race routine.
Why is routine great for cyclists?
The reason for routine is great before a race is that it focuses you. It is easy to get caught up in other issues and let our minds wander. We need to direct our attention to what is happening in the present and not wander off into possible future situations that might never happen. The routine then is to keep your nerves dampened, keep at anxiety at bay, and set you up for as great a performance as possible.
A quick note, a routine will not feel as successful on its first try. You need to use the routine you create repeatedly, and it has to suit you and not what your friends/the internet say. The more you use your routine, the more successful it’ll become.
A guideline for race preparation
Race preparation depends on the race tour riding. A track sprint event will require less equipment preparation than a transcontinental race. Think about what you’ll need to complete your race successfully. To help ease the pressure and keep yourself calm on race day, there are a few things you can do to make yourself feel better.
- Have a training plan. How else will you be fit for the race if you don’t train? Knowing you’ve trained well is a huge relief come race day.
- Bike and kit. Have your bike serviced in advance, don’t wait till the day before. Have your kit organized and packed as early as possible.
- How are you getting to the race? Have you made sure there are no roadworks, and you’ve given yourself plenty of travel time?
- Have you eaten well on the lead up to the race? There is no point in only planning your race day feeding. Eating well will make sure you're able to go flat out.
- Have a playlist of music planned for your warmup. It can get you focused as much as the warming up of your muscles can. Make sure your warmup is plausible and tailored to your event.
- Post-race. How are you getting home? Do you have recovery drinks for after the race?
- Practice these skills, and you’ll find the race day much easier to deal with and if not exactly stress-free at least a lot happier.
Now all you need to do is check your race schedule and start planning your preparation. As we said earlier, it might not be all work at first but slowly work towards the goal of arriving at races well rested and relaxed, and you’ll naturally see your performance improve.