I am currently in final preparations to travel to Bright, Victoria for the 2019 National Championships for Cross-Country, Downhill and Trials. I am pumped to hit the Downhill track and compete against the best in Australia. Given the huge amount of work that has gone in to preparing for this event, I thought it might be helpful to share my thoughts on how I approach a race weekend for Downhill riding. Specifically, I’m going to refer to a standard 2-day race weekend which is more common.
Leading up to a race weekend I focus on a lot on making sure my bike is ready. I clean my bike extensively and give it a once over check. Often most problems are found while I’m riding, however there have been a few times when I’ve found something minor that needs fixing or something that needs tightening. I also check key areas of the bike that often wear. Tyres – check you have enough grip and they are in decent condition. Brake pads, do they need to be replaced? Check your chain and lubricate. A downhill race weekend is intensive on tyres and brakes so be prepared. I also take spare parts and tools to the race which I have listed below. This is a basic list only and would be a minimum.
Spare parts Tools
Spare tyre Allen keys
Tubeless sealant (for tubeless setup) Tyre leavers
Spare tube (downhill rate) Bike pump
Chain lube Needle nose plyers
Brake pads Shock pump
Derailleur hanger (if you have one)
Zip ties & duct tape
Cloths to clean the bike
With these parts and tools on hand, you can deal with the following issues:
Flat tyre. Damaged tyre. Replace brake pads. Replace a broken hanger on the derailleur (which is the most common damage to a derailleur). Tighten most loose bolts on the bike. Adjust your leavers. Adjust shock and fork pressures to suit track conditions. The principle is, consider what might break or need adjusting and make sure you take spare parts and the specific tools you need to do the repair.
I normally stock up on spare parts and tools roughly 2 weeks before a race. Pushys always have stock and are competitively priced.
My personal preparation
In the week leading up to the race I back off on my personal exercise program. I continue to exercise however not as hard. And I do a good warm down and lots of stretching. Eating a healthy diet is always important. The level of exertion on the 2 days of the weekend burns a lot of energy. I always eat a big breakfast on both days. And for lunch I take salad sandwiches. They are easy to eat and healthy. I also take snacks to munch on between practice runs. Drinks are also critical. I often take a couple of drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade, and I drink plenty of water. You can easily dehydrate on the Saturday practice day as you wait in the shuttle line in the sun and the constant practice runs. I stop and drink water between every practice run. Saturday night dinner eat up! I go for pasta with chicken, rice, potatoes. You need to replenish the energy from the Saturday practice runs and be ready for Sunday racing.
Practice and Race Day Strategy
A practice and race day strategy guides how you approach each day and what you’re hoping to achieve. While I don’t want to give away all my secrets, here is a fairly high-level summary that might be helpful. Also bare in mind that all strategies may need to be changed on the day. For example, if the shuttle service is very slow then you will have less practice runs. Also, if the weather is changing or if the track conditions are changing then you may need to be more cautious and observant of the track. Lots of riders are injured on practice day and some of those injuries could have been avoided, so be careful.
Practice day – First 2 runs – These are slow runs. Ride at a medium pace. Stop at difficult sections and get off your bike and scope the section and try and determine a good line through.
Practice day – next 3-5 runs. Fast pace. I use these runs to test my race lines and explore new approaches to difficult sections. I’m still stopping to watch how other riders complete those sections. Also monitor your bike. Do you need to lower your tyre pressure to increase grip? Do you need to adjust your suspension?
Practice day is a maximum of 7 runs usually. Even at 7 runs you burn a lot of energy and become tired and risk injury. You will also be tired on race day. I’ve had plenty of practice days where the shuttle queue is short, and you can have back to back runs. Its awesome! However, the next morning your muscles are tired and sore. And you have less energy because you didn’t remain hydrated. As a result, you practice less on race day and you’re tired for your race run. Don’t make the mistake of burning yourself out on practice day. Also find a shaded area to rest between practice runs.
Race day – Run 1- Warm up run. Medium to fast pace. Review the track, confirm your race lines. See how your bike feels and make necessary adjustments. Your bike should now be fully dialed in. I try and make no more changes from here on.
Race day – Run 2-3 – Fast pace. Always keeping an eye on the track conditions. Race day often has more riders and so the track will change. Corners may start to collapse for example.
Race day – Run 4 – Race speed (and your final run). On race day I cap at 4 runs with my final run at full race pace. Why do I wait until my last run to go full speed? Because the faster you go the higher the risk of coming off and breaking my bike or injuring myself.
There is often a long-time lag when practice finishes and before you can race. Find something to do that keeps your mind occupied and avoids worry and stress. Also give your bike a quick clean. Our bikes look awesome when they’re clean and I find that it lifts my spirits when I’m at the starting line on my awesome looking clean bike.
Race run – This is straight forward. Just do exactly what you did in practice. Ride the race lines that you practice. Go a full race pace. Be confident. And remember, smooth is fast. Do not try a new line that you haven’t practiced. Your adrenaline will kick in, so you have to battle the temptation to take risks.
I hope this guide has been helpful and I look forward to seeing you at the next event!
By Jordan Holzworth – Pushys sponsored athlete
Categories: Riding Tips