As we all know after this last race of the season, cornering was the deal breaker at the Gainesville College trails. I got the opportunity to play the role of roaming course marshal and had the chance to see what really challenged the racers. The Gainesville race was all about momentum, flow, and the ability to stay off the brakes. The smoother you are, the less speed you will have to make up on the straights and more energy you will have for the sprints. Here are some basic pointers to increase the exiting turn speed and overall energy conservation.
Look ahead and ride loose. Eyes where you want to go, and no death gripping the bars. Let the bike and tires do the work, you just want to guide it. Always looking ahead to plan for the next challenge.
Slow in, Fast out. Get most your braking in before the turn, once the bike is leaned over and body english is maxed a quick pull of the brakes can only mean washing out. One of my favorite ways to practice this is ride with someone faster then you and push your turn entering speed.
Body centered, outside pedal down. Too much weight on the front and the rear gets drifty, too much on the rear and the front gets light and washes. Elbows bent, head always looking forward, stay on top of the bike. Press your weight into your lowered outside pedal, it will drive the tires to dig and get the best hook up. Don’t be afraid to lean the bike over, all these tips still work. You have side knobs for a reason, look for nice ruts or berms to really press the bike into and lay it over and really increase your speed.
Apexing. The fastest way around a turn is start wide, shoot inside, then exit wide. But trail conditions typical don’t play nicely and this is mainly for wide open flying turns, aka grass fields or gravel roads.
These are just a few basic pointers that I believe will help racers of any skill take it to the next level. Go out there, play with speed, overshoot some turns, become a better mountain biker. Don’t skid! Not only is it inefficient but it tears up the trails and leaves super gross braking bumps. Nothing says beginner like skidding around trails.
Race Day Nutritional Practices
Mountain bike racing requires a lot of high intensity hard efforts and you don’t want to run out of energy too early in the race. One of the easiest ways to keep your energy levels up is to eat a high carbohydrate breakfast and to use carbohydrates before and during the race, too. Carbohydrates (or “carbs”) are the main source of energy that fuel you while you are mountain bike racing. When it’s time to ride harder or faster, you need carbs. Without enough of them you will feel tired, have to slow down, and might be at a higher risk of crashing and hurting yourself.
Your race-day breakfast should be high in carbs so you can start off the race with full energy stores. Some good pre-race breakfast ideas are:
- Pancakes or waffles with eggs
- Bagel with peanut butter and banana
- Oatmeal with raisins, walnuts, and maple syrup
After breakfast, you can sip on a bottle of a carbohydrate sports drink like any of these:
- PowerBar Perform
- Skratch Exercise Hydration Mix
- Gu Roctane Endurance Drink
- Clif Shot Electrolyte Hydration
Your pre-race warm-up is the perfect time to get one more shot of energy from carbs. A carbohydrate gel such as a PowerGel, Gu, or Clif Shot can be eaten during your warm-up, about 15 minutes before you race.
During the race you should be drinking a sports drink (see examples above) and you can also eat gels and carbohydrate chews (like Clif Bloks or Gu Chomps). Try to take a sip of your drink whenever you can on sections of the race course that are open, smooth, flat, or on gradual climbs. These are all good opportunities to eat a gel or chew also. Try to get about 150-250 calories during each hour of your race from carbs.
I’d recommend practicing your race-day nutrition plan at least once before the race to make sure it works for you. See you at the next race and good luck!
Namrita Kumar is a Registered Dietitian and sports nutrition expert with Peaks Coaching Group. She also helps athletes from the high school through professional-level to improve nutrition and performance. Namrita is also a competitive endurance mountain bike athlete and also enjoys off-road triathlon and running. For more information or questions you can reach her via email.