13 Tips To Ace Your Next Stage Race
Stage races have been part of the South African mountain biking landscape for more than a decade and thousands of riders take part in them each year. The Old Mutual joBerg2c is one of the highlights of the local stage racing calendar, not only because it takes you right across South Africa’s beautiful countryside, but also because it provides a challenge like no other event.
The Old Mutual joBerg2c is a nine-day ride that requires you to master every aspect of the bike, it is also very likely the next stage race in your MTB race calendar. To get from Joburg to Scottburgh you need to a well-balanced cyclist. Here’s how…
Train. And train some more. But don’t be silly and burn yourself out: ideally, try to put in two big weeks and then have a rest week of shorter rides and lower intensity. Bear in mind that you will have some tough climbs and will need to turn on the power to get up steep slopes: get out on your local hills and do some intervals too (ideally, as you get closer to the race and are not putting in the big hours).
Test your equipment during training and stick to what you are comfortable with. New shoes, saddles, pants, bike or tyres can cause untold pain if your body isn’t suited or conditioned to them.
Get a stage race checklist from an experienced rider or check out the joBerg2c packing list. Between you and your partner you should be riding with: bombs and adaptor; plugs and tools to plug punctures; tyre levers; a hand pump (in case you run out of bombs); spare tubes (in case you can’t sort the puncture with plugs and bomb); a gator (to cover a ripped section of tyre before putting a tube in); a chain breaker; super links (make sure you have the right size for your chains); multi-tool (some of which have a chain breaker on them); spare brake pads; a spare tubeless tyre valve. It might also be handy to roll some duct tape around your seat post or somewhere on the bike.
Make sure you pack clothing for all types of weather, both for riding and chilling at the race villages. A good raincoat and sleevies are a must. A decent base layer could also save you from a very cold day on the bike.
Prepare. If you are not the organised type, pack your clothing for each day in separate plastic bags.
Ride with a well-matched partner. There is not much that is more frustrating than having to wait for somebody at the top of each climb for nine days in a row. There are obvious exceptions when, for example, an experienced rider decides to show a novice the ropes, but then they know what they are getting in for. The worst might be when you have a perfectly capable partner but he or she decided to scrimp on the training. Don’t be the one scrimping on the training.
Communicate. If you are having a bad day let your partner know, and vice versa. It is pointless killing yourself to stay with him/her and then having nothing left for the next day and the one after that.
Keep your sense of humour. There will be times when you feel tired and ratty and tempted to snap at your partner or other riders: it serves no purpose. And be prepared to tolerate macho-fuelled riders who insist on beating you into singletrack sections and then hanging onto their brakes. Or shout at you when they are tired and ratty. Laugh at them. And if you are one of the slower riders on singletrack, let the faster ones get past as soon as there is a gap.
Learn how to vasbyt. There will inevitably be times on any long ride where you are below par physically and you inevitably get through them. The secret is to know the latter when you are confronted by the former: in other words, you will get through the bad patch if you hang in for a while.
Prepare again. Get your admin out the way a week before the event so you don’t get distracted and waste your energy running around buying ear plugs or spare tubes or having your bike serviced or whatever.
Take ear plugs: snoring from a tent away can ruin the experience, as can inconsiderate neighbours who feel like conversing the night away.
Eat well and sleep well. It is sometimes joked that top riders can win races in their sleep – a reference to the fact that recovery is critical to performance. Eat well and healthily after your ride, rehydrate properly and try to get a solid night’s sleep.
Have your bike serviced by a reliable mechanic. Nine days of riding in the African countryside is a challenge for both rider and equipment: neither should go into it under-prepared.
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