Knowledge Level: Intermediate
Whether you’re looking to top the podium at a World Championships, achieve a gold standard ride at the Étape du Tour or set a PB at your local club 10-mile time trial, pre-event preparation is key. In these series of articles, we find out how the best riders across a range of disciplines prepare for their big events, their race day routines and get their top tips that you can apply to your own riding
When do you typically travel to the venue?
Normally I’d travel on the Friday of the race but sometimes, like the World Champs in Tabor, it was a really long 10-hour drive and, as it was likely to be snowy and icy, I needed to make sure I had plenty of opportunity to practice riding in those conditions.
What do you look for in pre-event accommodation?
If it is longer than one night, I will always try and find somewhere with a kitchen. It is so much safer to prepare your own food than to eat hotel or restaurant food and risk getting ill. At the Koksijde World Cup half the team went down with bad stomachs after a hotel meal. We have a motorhome so I can pack my food in the fridge and that way I know the meat and other food that I’m cooking is safe and good quality. At the Worlds I will be at my absolute peak and being in that form is like walking a tightrope, it is so easy to get sick. You avoid touching people, even friends with children so, making sure you don’t pick up something from some food just makes sense.
Are there any times when you have got your accommodation wrong?
I always like to book my own accommodation and, before one World Cup race, I turned up at 17.00 the day before the event. I went into the hotel to check in, but there was no record of my reservation. It turned out I had booked for November rather than December. Stefan (partner and coach), had to go to the managers’ meeting and provide the UCI with details of where we were staying so it was a bit of a panic. I got on the internet, found another hotel but an 80€ night turned into a 300€ night, it was a lovely hotel though. The lesson to learn is check, check and check again.
What advice would you give for travelling to events?
If it is a long way, look at it as a travel day, don’t stress about not riding your bike and factor it into your training plan. You could get up early in the morning to ride but you aren’t really going to gain anything and you will probably just make yourself sick. Pack some decent food for the journey as petrol station food might not be the best, apart from in Italy where it is amazing.
What do you typically do the day before a race?
I will ride the course, trying to make sure it is a similar time of day to which I will be racing. This is really important as conditions can change massively. Last year in the Czech Republic for the Women’s race at 11.00 it was frozen solid but, for the Men’s race at 14.00, it was really muddy. You have got to practice in the conditions you are likely to race in. I will then go back to where we are staying and just chill out and relax.
What do you eat the night before a big race?
I don’t have one meal that I always have before races. It could be spaghetti bolognese, risotto, basically carbs and a bit of protein. It just has to be something simple that’s quick and easy to cook. Eating before a race is just a function, it is no time for fancy foods.
Describe race day
My World Championship race will start at 14.00 so, I will get up at about 08.30 and have some porridge or muesli for breakfast. I will then have another snack at about 11.00. This will be something like scrambled eggs or spaghetti hoops on toast, smaller but a definite second meal that will see me through the race. I will get on the course for a final practice ride at about 12.00, this might only be a lap but, with the ride the day before, all equipment and line decisions will have been made. Then it is back to the motorhome. 45 minutes before the start I will get on the turbo and do my 30-minute warm-up and we are on the grid 6-7 minutes before the start. After the race, if it all goes to plan, I will have the podium presentation. I will have left a special bag with my soigneur that will contain clean clothes, a towel and a recovery drink. It is then onto a press conference, doping control, where you will be behind all the riders who weren’t on the podium, and finally you will be able to leave. It is usually well past 17.00 by then and I then head out for a meal with some friends. If I still have races left in the seaon, I won't be able to go mad, maybe one rum and coke and then I head back to where we are staying, answer tweets and finally go to bed around midnight.
How much post-race analysis do you do?
I don’t like to talk about a race straight away. I like some time to think about it and don’t take critique well straight afterwards. It is usually on the drive home that we will discuss it. I work with Stefan and a sports scientist and we will use a number of sports analysis tools to gauge and monitor my performance through the season. At the end of the season we will have a proper performance analysis of the whole season and use the information from that to work out what we can do better the following year.