We are all excited about racing at the moment, having just returned from the WHPVA world championships, so I thought a few race preparation or fast ride related tips would be topical.
Train for it.
If you are new to racing, you should start preparing your body as soon as possible, at least 12 weeks prior to your event is advisable. Get a map of the course so that you can determine what type of riding you'll be doing, and physical fitness you'll need. See if you can determine how much of the course is uphill, how much is downhill and what the grades are.
Set a mileage goal for each week prior to the race. Increase your mileage gradually over a number of weeks. This helps to avoid injury, over-fatigue and burnout. Add in more hills to challenge your body and build endurance, or add some interval training where you increase your pace on flat roads for timed intervals. For example, pedal fast for two minutes, then recover with a comfortable pace for three minutes and then repeat. I have found this is a good way to push yourself harder in training than you otherwise would just through steady pedalling and it should improve your ability to perform longer at varying intensities.
In the last week before the race give yourself more time to rest to give your body a chance so to recover energy level fully. Eat the correct foods for your training and racing. During your muscle-building period, eat more lean protein. During your aerobic training, eat more complex carbohydrates.
Ride with others. Get used to riding close to other riders at speed. Practice drafting, this is riding close behind another rider so as to take advantage of the slipstream. The key here, whether in front or behind is not to behave unpredictably. Do not make any sharp braking or steering movements. Practice cornering at speed, lean well into corners, as you lean tip your head backwards. This will help to move your centre of gravity backwards and reduce the sideways scrub on the wheels.
Prepare your trike.
The exact setup will of course depend on the route and conditions, but generally you will need your race machine to be both as light and aerodynamic as possible. Remove anything that is not absolutely necessary. In my case this meant mudguards/fenders, racks and various mounting brackets, lights and chain tubes. Set your trike up the way you will ride it during your race and give yourself time to get used to it in that configuration. Adjust the seat to the most reclined position you can stand and adjust the handlebars so that your arms hang close to your body and your forearms are fairly horizontal. Wind resistance makes a big difference. Check the rules to see if there are particular things you will need to do to be allowed to participate such as fitting a chain guard or providing places to display race numbers.
Give yourself time to give your race machine a pre-race check over. Check that all bolts are tight, that your gears are indexing correctly, that your tires are clean and undamaged etc. A simple mechanical failure that prevents you from finishing or causes you to lose significant amount of time could mean that all your effort was for nothing. Check your tire pressures. Generally harder tires will be faster, you may still need to adjust for road surface. Don’t forget to lubricate your chain.
Before you race eat a light meal. Include carbohydrate-rich foods such as fruit, bread and cereals to maintain your energy levels. Bike Radar suggests that you time your pre-race meal to occur about three hours before the race starts.
Warm up for 30 minutes (or 45 if you can) before the race. Pedal in a low gear for the first 15 minutes then start incorporating harder intervals. Stay loose after the warm-up by moving and walking around before the race starts.
Staying hydrated is essential the body needs enough liquid to cover what is being lost through sweat and the extra exertion of your ride., choose sports drinks or just plain water, take gels and energy bars to replace carbohydrates, as well as sodium, potassium and electrolytes.
And most importantly have fun!