Cycling raceCompetitive cycling can be an intimidating sport to jump into. For you fledgling bikers out there, here are a few easy steps to prepare for your first race.

Step 1-Get a map of the course

Knowing the course will help you identify what kind of skills and physical fitness levels you will need. After looking at map, do some deeper research to determine how long the course took riders of similar skill levels, or how steep the grades of the hills will be.

Step 2- Practice riding in groups

Make sure your race is not your first experience riding in groups. Try to have experience with at least 10-15 groups rides. This will allow you to be comfortable riding in large groups at high speeds, and help familiarize yourself with group riding techniques, such as drafting and proper positioning.

Step 3-Ride the course

Nothing will prepare you for the course better than practicing the actual route you will run. Maintaining race day pace is not necessary, but it will give you a better idea of what you will be facing when you do compete. Make mental notes of terrain and difficult spots so you can augment your training to match. Again, use your heart rate monitor to watch your heart throughout the ride.

Step 4- Buy a bike trainer

A bike trainer will allow you to train on the actual bike you will be riding, in spite of weather conditions. Stationary bikes usually do not provide the same resistance, seat, handlebar set up, or pedals, and will prove a poor substitute.

Step 5- Exercise your legs

Strength training will allow you unlock more potential  as a cyclist. Deadlifts, squats, and leg presses are all excellent work outs to build the muscles you will use most. Don’t try to max out, focus on using 30 to 50 percent of your max, with 8 to 10 reps per set. In her book “The Triathlete’s Guide to Bike Training,” author Lynda Wallenfels, recommends using a calendar grid to manage and observe your training.

Step-6 Taper off

You’ve been training hard, but it is important to give your legs rest the week before a race. You will not be able to gain any usable fitness that last week anyways, so don’t be afraid to relax the final week. You might consider doing an hour or so the day before the race to make sure your muscles are warmed up and ready for the big day.

Step-7 Prepare by eating a good meal

A common pitfall for all athletes is the urban legend that you should eat a mountain of pasta right before you compete. Eat healthy the entire time you are training, and don’t ruin that by eating anything you aren’t accustomed to right before your race. Eat a normal sized meal you know you can handle filled with healthy options. Pasta, bread, and rice are good options in moderation. Good suggestions for entrees include fish or chicken with green veggies. It is also a good idea you drink plenty of water in the week leading up to the race and bring plenty on the day of.


Image courtesy of Sam Saunders