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    Tips for your first bike race

    Sophia Willmes
    Sophia Willmes
    Mar 4, 2024 6 min
    Tips for your first bike race

    What to do before the first big competition?

    It is cycling season and it's in full swing: many of us have been glued to our screens for weeks, following the Giro, Vlaanderen and of course the Tour de France. And some experienced cyclists will be able to empathize with the pained faces during long climbs and the euphoria on the podium. Others, however, who have never ridden a race before will be itching to experience this incomparable thrill. But where do you start? Which race should it be, with whom, where, and how do you best prepare for it? For all of you who are currently feeling the racing bug: these tips are for you.

    1. Find out your race type.

    There are many different types of bike races, and to make sure you have fun, it's important that you participate in the race that suits you best!

    Time trial: The name lives up to its promise. In these races, it's just you against the clock. If you don't dare to join a big peloton yet, this is ideal, because you start individually. On the other hand, tight turns at maximum speed are neither for the faint of heart nor for the less technically skilled.

    Road races: These races are between 50 and 100 km long and are more team-based, and in one you'll definitely have advantages. But you can also ride alone. Here there is the classic mass start, from which cyclists gradually fight their way to the front.

    Criterium: The more stressful, faster and more dangerous version of a road race. There are no aid zones or bathroom breaks here, in fact, the races are much shorter and the course is usually run several times. As a beginner:in this may not be the best choice....

    from left to right: time trial, criterium, road race

    Stage race: Here, different stages can mean different forms of racing. So you are likely to do time trial races, road races and criteriums one after the other. In multi-day races, one stage is completed each day. After each race your time is recorded and the rider with the lowest total time wins!

    2. Be used to group rides.

    In most races, hundreds of drivers take part. And not only do you all ride extremely fast, but you usually ride very close to and behind each other, and quite chaotically so. So if you take a couple laps with your cycling buddies before your first race, you will not only learn the rules of conduct that are indispensable when riding in a group, you will also learn how you can profit from the slipstream of others or how group dynamics change during longer distances and how you can best position yourself in them.

    3. Get familiar with the route.

    You should always get the best possible idea of what to expect during the race. Most events provide a map of their route that you can view at your leisure: This way you know exactly if and where it will be hilly, where there will be sprints or approximately how long a climbing session will be. This allows you to manage your energy wisely during the race and prepare for potential risks, such as when roads suddenly become very narrow or winding. A little trick is to write down important points on the route on a small cheat sheet and stick it on the top tube or put it in your jersey...

    Map of the ninth stage of the Tour de France 2023: You can clearly read distances, climbs and descents!

    And while you're reading through the event details, ideally you'll also find out all further helpful info: Where can you park nearby, when you have to be there, if there is a minimum speed, if you have to attend a race briefing or if is there a specific starting block for you. This way you can start the day of the race relaxed and prepared and save yourself unnecessary last-minute stress!

    4. Train in racing conditions.

    Choose tracks that are similar to the race course and ride them several times, preferably in a group. If it's going to be a longer race, you can work on your fitness and build up muscles for climbing units well ahead of time. It's best to already use the equipment on your training rides that you will use for the actual race too. This way you will find out early on if your pants cut in or if your helmet or your shoes are too small. And as far as nutrition is concerned: Same. Try and find out what works for you during the training period and then stick to it. For the actual race too. During your training period you can try out what gives you the most power on the bike , whether it's a banana, a power bar or gel or an isotonic drink. Cool side benefit? You get learn how to eat and drink at full speed.

    5. No experiments.

    Starting a whole new diet the week before a race will not only upset your stomach, but also your overall fitness. So stick to the power snacks that you know work for you. The same goes for equipment like jerseys, helmets or shoes.

    6. Have your equipment fit & ready.

    This includes one thing above all: check your bike. Check the air pressure of the tires how smooth the gear changes are, whether the brakes are working, whether your tires are free of cracks and finally clean and oil your chain. The evening before, prepare everything you need for the race. Get your top, shorts, socks, shoes, helmet and gloves ready, fill up your water bottle, pack a windbreaker overshoes, puncture kit and multitool in your saddle bag and remember to pack enough food and drink. If you are cycling for an hour, a bottle of water and a power gel should suffice.

    everything included: cycling clothes, water, puncture and first aid kit, powermeter and gloves

    7. Take it easy the night before.

    Try to sleep well and long enough in the week before the race. Seven hours minimum should be in there... Then, once you've checked your bike , you can do one last lap on it to relax. This also keeps your muscles on their toes and gently prepares them for the race.

    8. Eat breakfast. At any price.

    On the morning of the race, you're incredibly excited and nervous. That is normal! But even if that can be hard on the stomach: EAT SOMETHING. At least two hours before the race, you should have a breakfast that is as rich in protein and carbohydrates as possible. This sounds like a lot, but usually a porridge and toast with peanut butter will do. And don't forget to hydrate. Your body will thank you for it. Once you have arrived, picked up your race number and gone to the bathroom one last time, nothing can go wrong anymore. You are prepared, you have thought of everything: Let's ride.

    9. Position yourselves correctly.

    You've probably already learned this in your group rides, but rushing to get in the breakaway at the very start is not a good idea and only eats up energy unnecessarily. Stay in the peloton until the last part of the course, use the slipstream of other riders and stay below your anaerobic zone. If you are not a good climber, make sure to start the climbs relatively far in front so that you are not completely left behind. Towards the end of the race, you can then give your all!

    10. Have fun.

    Don't stress it. It's your very first race, no one is expecting you to be among the first across the finish line or even to win outright. As long as you had a smooth, safe, and not overly stressful race, you did everything right. Use this opportunity to learn from more experienced athletes and gain the important experience that will help you tremendously in each of your future races. Your first victory will come too... Until then, have fun and be proud of what you have achieved!

    If all you need now is the perfect bike for your first competition... we at buycycle are there for you. Of course: On our site you will find over 6,000 pre-owned road bikes for up to 70% cheaper. And if you have any questions about your perfect racing bike or your first race the blog is there for you, but also at any time our team. For now we wish you: Happy Tour-de-France-binging, happy buycycle-browsing and happy racing!