My recent experience at a 24 Hour races with seasoned bikers was something of a farce. Our team first realised we were in trouble when rego shut before we’d signed on. We’d been chatting outside the rego tent for a couple of hours by this point, we’d just forgotten to go inside. Some time later, still chatting, the conversation turned to how nice it was that everyone was there. It was midday and the race was about to start. “Hang on…if we’re all here,” someone asked, “Then who’s in the start chute?”
When 24 Hour racing was shiny and new, magazines ran more how-to stories than any given rider could read. But it’s been a long time since that flurry of features. A lot of new riders have gotten into the sport and some of the more experienced ones have gotten complacent and need a shake.
This article runs through some hints and tips about what to think about during lead up to a 24. If you have a good groove going with your team before the event begins the racing will become infinitely easier. You’ll also be less likely to miss rego because you’re so excited to finally catch up.
Entering and the early days
You can’t race a team event with out a good crew, so the first item on your checklist should be finding some people to race with. With categories ranging from two riders to ten have a think about how much you want ride versus how much you want to hang out at the team camp and chat. Get your entry in to secure a place, but be aware that you can change team members, or team numbers, closer to the day if your best plans go awry. Given the propensity of work, kids, viruses and injuries to impact on ride time, chances are even the most committed teammate may not make it to the show. Keep an ear out for any other mates keen to ride just in case someone in your possie pulls out the week before the event. And be open to riding a little extra if you shrink your team number to fit a different category.
Next up, you’ll need to train. If you’ve signed up as a team of six riders, for instance, this means everyone will do about four hours, or two hours per day, over the full weekend of racing. Some two or three hour rides are good prep to get used to the feeling of that much pedalling. Longer rides will be beneficial if you’re planning on doing extra laps. If you have a commute to work or school that’s about 45 minutes to 1:15 long this is a nice way to get your body used to the rhythm of a single race lap. Spend some time on the trails as well. Your upper body can take a hammering during a mountain bike race if your regular riding is on the road.
Riding in the lead up to a big event is also an important time to get to know your bike. How does it handle different trails? What are its quirks? How far can you lean it over in a corner before you take a slide? Is it comfortable or does something need some tweaking? How are your skills? Use these rides to have some fun and build confidence between you, your bike and the trails.
Stay in contact with your teammates in the lead up to the event as well. A bit of banter over email or heckling on social rides is a great way to share the hype in the lead up to the big 24. Good morale makes for good motivation. It also makes a heavy sleeper less likely to hit you when you wake them up at 2am.
Two weeks ‘til take off
As the race gets closer, and the anticipation jitters get jittery-er, use the fortnight before the event to cut down on any last minute stress.
If your bike needs servicing or any new parts, now is the time to book it in. Not only does this give your bike shop time to take a thorough look, but it also gives you the chance to troubleshoot, wear in or simply get used to any add-ons.
Stock up on race food too. Things like gels, bars, energy drinks – those non-perishable items that are the difference between a hunger flat out on the course and an extra burst of speed just when you need it most. If you’re keen to try a brand you haven’t used before, experiment with it on social rides so your stomach is familiar with it when it counts.
Look after your body, especially as the event draws close. If the training time has been adding up consider booking a massage a few days out from the race so your legs feel flushed and fresh. If you have any joint or muscle niggles while riding, see a health professional and sort it out so it doesn’t effect you and your team while you’re working as a unit.
Topping up on sleep – or at the very least avoiding unnecessary sleep debt – is definitely worthwhile, too. Saving a good night’s slumber for the night before the race doesn’t always work out, so book one in for a couple of nights beforehand when fewer race nerves mean it’s easier to catch some zzzs.
The secret to a good event is good preparation. If your bike and body are in good working order before the start gun fires, you’ll enjoy the event a hundred times more than if you turn up hoping to manage everything on the fly. Good prep does wonders for race nerves as well. This this in mind, we’ll post a second article covering race weekend strategies soon as the Scott 24 Hour in Canberra draws near.