A Cyclist’s Guide to Race Day Prep

A Cyclist’s Guide to Race Day Prep

Stay organized and mentally sharp on race day with these tips from expert cycling coach Taylor Thomas.

Co-authored with cycling Coach Taylor Thomas

Proper preparation prevents poor performance. Did anyone else just get chills from their high school coach telling you this on day one of practice? That’s because these are words to live by. You wouldn’t hop on a start line without training, so don’t leave the other elements of race day prep — like gear and logistics — to chance. 

I interviewed Taylor Thomas, Head Coach and Owner of Thomas Endurance Coaching, to find out what’s most important for cyclists to remember in the days leading to your big race. Here are Taylor’s top five tips for successful race day preparation. 

Warm-Up by Simulating Race Conditions

Get in your pre-race shakeout no later than 12 hours before the start. Work in a few efforts at race pace to wake things up and cue your mind to what tomorrow will feel like. If possible, do this on the first few miles of the racecourse. Make a mental map of any key terrain features, obstacles, and how you’d like to position yourself for the start. 

Assemble Your Gear Early

Have everything you need from a logistics perspective ready to go and prepared 12 hours out. That includes gear, mechanical inspection, race check-in, food preparation, bottles/bladders filled, etc. The goal here is to be able to put this out of your mind and focus on decompression and relaxation prior to the race. Try to avoid the late-night frantic preparation. That makes for a hectic environment and leaves things to chance. 

Don’t Eat Anything New Before Your Race

The temptation is to “carbo-load” and to find the perfect pre-race meal. I like to stick to what works and what I’d normally eat. What worked before your big race-prep workouts? Eat that. Also, your body can only store so much glycogen, so carbo-loading isn’t useful. Make sure you get a balanced meal of all of your macros — fat, protein, carbs — and call it good. Don’t stress about this part. 

Stay On Top of Hydration

Start the day before and make sure you’re drinking to thirst. If it’s going to be a hot race, add electrolytes  — like magnesium, potassium, sodium, and calcium — to your water leading up to the race. On the morning of your race, drink 16-20 ounces of fluids along with your breakfast. Don’t feel the need to force hydration. The best thing you can do is to come into your race hydrated, so start early and don’t drink so much that you’re up all night using the restroom. 

Prepare Mentally

You’ve already completed your physical race preparation, so take some time to prepare mentally and emotionally. Set aside some quiet time to visualize the day, how you’d like it to go, and what that will feel like. This is also the time to set expectations for the day. How will you respond to challenges and feedback from your body? What will you do when you have to adjust your race plan? It’s best to visualize these things beforehand so that you’re not derailed if and when they happen. 

Andrew Simmons

Andrew Simmons is a USATF Level 2 and TrainingPeaks Level 2 certified coach and the founder/head coach of Lifelong Endurance. Athletes who want to improve their race times in distance running have found major success with his Individual Coaching and Training Plans. Andrew resides in Denver, Colo., where he still trains as a competitive amateur. Follow Coach Andrew on Facebook , Instagram, and Twitter.