2012, in terms of racing, pretty much wrapped up last weekend for me at the SRAM Singletrack Mind Race at Awaba. This was not a race I entered to contest, just one to race with some friends. As for races that I was aiming to contest, that all finished up almost three weeks ago, at the 100 mile event in the Briar’s Highland Fling. Although there is still a month to go for the year, I don’t expect to be turning a pedal in anger (or feigned anger) before 2013.
Looking back, 2012 was the 6th year in a row that I have travelled around the country or globe to take part in Marathon MTB races and MTB Stage races. And while this has erred more towards participation than success, I have picked up a few ‘skills’ and insights along the way. Additionally, I have made some friends for life.
These are 10 fairly standard ones that help me get by.
1. Always get an idea of the terrain you are racing over. Anticipating three big climbs in the Alps, when in fact there are four – is disheartening. Blowing up hard and hunger flatting on an unanticipated climb sets you back for quite a while.
2. Stage racing in a two person team, or as part of a team, helps get you through the low points. Everyone has good days and bad – hopefully they fit together well so one of you can get the other through.
3. Eat more during racing, and less when you’re not. You can’t always bank on there being a food station. But a couple of extra gels doesn’t weigh too much, compared to the time lost by pedalling in squares for an hour.
4. Stage Race ‘Camp’ accommodation does let you budget to do another race compared to the costs of hotels. But it does catch up with you on the bike when you’re never truly rested. Camp wisely, and know when you need to stay somewhere better.
5. A big ride through Eastern Switzerland and Northern Italy can cure most problems. Take a high mountain area, add historical trails, some Hans Rey Flow Country, coffee, cake, big climbs, a few borders, and finish with chocolate milk. Life is good again.
6. Always take a jacket. Even in summer. And enough Euro’s, dollars, rand, Pounds or Francs to buy your way to climatic safety.
7. Know your bike, and the tools and service it requires. If possible, be able to rebuild your bike with a multitool, some chainlube, and a hand towel borrowed from the last hotel you stayed in.
8. 2 x10 Drivetrains are great, but sometimes a triple chain ring will keep you rolling in long stage races. Cumulative fatigue catches up with you. Depending on the twin chain ring pairing you choose – a triple may be a better choice. It’s good to have the choice.
9. Be nice to event volunteers, whether they are in a feed zone, at registration or marshalling. Or just playing Drum and Bass in the middle of a field. None of this would be possible without people volunteering their time and resources.
10. Jet washing saves time. Use the jet wash sensibly – there’s no need to worry about your bearings when jet washing cow poo off the underside of your down tube, or shoes, or wherever else it may be.