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Racing...what happens on race day before the race?

I have friends who ask me what they should remember in preparation for races, particularly on race day so I thought I'd write up a typical race day based on my own experience to give people who've never been to a race before an idea of what's involved.

Get up, you got all of you stuff ready last night so you should be ready to have breakfast, load the car and hit the road...remember these things:

  • Bike (obviously)
  • Helmet (you can't race without one)
  • Shoes (ditto)
  • Gloves
  • Racing clothing if not already wearing it
  • Recovery drink
  • Lots of water (most sites do not have a stand pipe, tanker, etc)
  • Spare bog roll
  • Towel
  • Change of clothes
  • Tools
  • Pump
  • Spare tyre(s) and tube(s) (mud tyres also maybe)
  • Big warm waterproof jacket (especially for long events where you may be in a team and therefore stood around a lot)
  • Numberplate (if it's a series)
  • Some spare cash, loose change
  • Credit card (in case you need some emergency kit from the trade stands, like a Cannondale Scalpel)
  • Glasses
  • Food
  • Fully charged phone
  • Directions (yeah, left these at home before)

Eat something like porridge with figs, raisins and honey for breakfast with some juice. Take 1st bottle of energy drink for the car to help load up on carbs plus some pasta or a sandwich for around two hours before the race, depending on your journey time.

Set off.

2 minutes down the road whilst you are running through your checklist in your head realise that you forgot your wallet\phone\shoes which you thought you'd packed, pass directly to Go, do not collect £200.

Set off.

Drive ridiculous distance in a car for a race which will probably last a fraction of the actual total journey time.

Arrive at the race around an hour before it starts ideally. Drive past people getting changed and setting bikes up...amateurs...parking so far away. Park up as near to the trade stands etc as a few hundred yards in reverse past the people getting changed and setting up their bikes as there is no room to turn round and the car park is heaving. Get parked.

It's been a long journey, you're well hydrated. Better go and take a pee.

Keep an eye on the time, the final hour before the race will be gone in no time.

Get changed into your racing kit, wear extra layers if it's cold to keep yourself warm whilst you hang about. Ditch them after your warm up when you're heading for the start line.

Walk to registration, past the people getting changed and setting their bikes up who are now looking at you with a distinct air of smugness and a look of 'what an amateur' on their faces. Ignore them.

Find the registration forms, chat to the pretty ladies on registration, take advantage of any freebies. Pick up your race number and some ties if you need them. Check out your competition on the start lists, anyone there you know might give you a race today? Note their race number.

Check out the trade stands. Get anything you need. End up buying something expensive on 'special' as you're at a race, you're paranoid something will break, feel like you deserve it, are a salesmans wet dream or all of the above.

If you decide now is a good time to make sure you don't need to go during the race, better queue for the toilets. Better doing this now then when you're bike is ready to go as if you're on your own you will have to leave your pride and joy lying around. Bikes get stolen at bike races, not often, but it happens every now and again.

If you have taken your race number into the toilet, do not drop it into the toilet. Yeah, I laughed too. If this happens to you, DO NOT GO TO THE REGISTRATION TENT TO GET A NEW NUMBER WHEN THE COMMENTATOR IS STOOD IN THE REGISTRATION TENT...PA systems in the early morning are particularly clear!

Go get you and the bike finally ready back at the car.

Load up with tools, gels, bars and a fresh bottle on the bike. Where are you going to stash your car keys? Put them in the saddle bag.

Do some simple stretches for five minutes to warm up your body. Hold each stretch for a good thirty seconds.

Set off for a warm up ride...suddenly realise that you are wearing your really comfy trainers and not your riding shoes. Get your keys out, change your shoes, stash keys again.

Go for a ride for 10 or 15 minutes. If you've got new brake pads in then bed them in now otherwise they'll last a fraction of the time. Don't go so far that you get lost.

Getting back to the car realise that you are wearing far too much clothing. Get the keys out again and strip down to your racing kit. Stash the keys.

Head for the start line. You left your bottles for the feed zone in the car, get the goddam car keys out again and grab your bottles...think about throwing the sodding car keys into the forest.

Head to the feed zone and drop off your bottles somewhere where you can easily get to them. If you have a pit bitch then let them know where they are otherwise they will stand around drinking beer and eating pancakes for the first couple of hours until you tell them where they are when you see them for the first time on lap 3.

If you need the loo now the queue will be massive. Races start with people still in the loo's believe it or not.

Get to the start line and check out the competition. Spot any numbers of competitive riders who may give you a hard time. Note their clothing and bikes...lots of people will be dressed similarly so you need to know who is who, particularly as you'll be in front of them and glancing over your shoulder...right?

If you're feeling particularly friendly\confident\mean...go over and say hi\check them out silently giving them "the look"\talk some trash to them...trash lines such as "Are you ok, you look tired?", "Wow, that looks like a really light bike, you must be unbelievably quick on that thing" and "I hope I'm ready for this, it's my first race since my accident\flu\triple heart bypass". Make sure the trash you talk can be backed up....otherwise you will look an idiot...use it wisely, it's a powerful weapon and should be treated with respect!

The race is about to start, the rest is up to you.

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