This year my son is very excited about competing in some road and mountain bike races. He’s been racing for a few years but mostly only when we happen to be near a race for other reasons or we discover a race is going on locally. This year we have a few events planned, like the Colorado Mini Classic, and he is getting just a tad serious about wanting to be prepared and do his best.
So here are some tips on preparing kids on race day. Use as you see fit and be sure to comment with your experiences and ideas. Above all else, encourage your kids to have fun, stay calm and focus on themselves and their best effort. I’ve seen way too many stressed out kids on the start line and that only ends in two things – tears and disappointment.
Depending on where they race it could be cold before the race so you need to think about bringing the right clothing. As a minimum bring:
Long sleeved jersey or wind jacket
Race jersey and bike shorts
Bike shoes and helmet and sunglasses
Shoes for before/after the race ( don’t walk in cleats!)
Clothes for before/after the race
Pack a race bag the night before with everything you will need.
Pre Race Food:
Kids should try and have breakfast at least 2hrs before you race. So if the race starts at 9am, make sure they get up by 7am and eat breakfast. If you have to travel to the race and eat breakfast before that time, remember to pack snacks to eat closer to the race start.
- Scrambled Eggs
- Toast with jam
- All of the above in some form. You can find great recipes in the Feed Zone Cookbook
For a longer road or mountain bike race, it’s often a good idea to have a pre-race snack before the race. Have them eat something easy to digest about 30 mins before the race or just before they warm up. If the race is 1-2 hours and they only eat breakfast, they will run out of energy before the race ends.
- Energy bars such as Clif Bars, Honey Stinger Waffles or better yet homemade energy bars with lower sugar content
- Almond or peanut butter with bread or fruit
- Basically something that is easy to digest and provides a slower release of energy. (low GI foods).
Do not have them eat chocolate, candy, chips or soda before the race. All that stuff has too much sugar in it. It will give them an instant surge for about 10mins and then they will ‘crash.’
Race Food and Hydration:
For a time trial, crit or short mountain bike race:
- ½ bottle of water (no speciality drinks, gels, energy bars or any food needed during the race).
For a longer mountain bike or road race:
- For races of 20 miles or shorter they probably don’t need food, just one large water bottle will do. Ideally add an electrolyte mix like Skratch Labs.
- For races over 20 miles – two bottles (one with water and one with an electrolyte drink). They should also carry food in their jersey pocket such as energy bars, gels or chews
Important things to do when you arrive:
- Collect race number and attach to jersey and/or bike
- Find out if there are any changes to the information previously received
- Check the bike (tires, chain, brakes etc…)
- Check the course
- Warm up (see below)
- Go to the toilet!
Racers should warm up for 15-30mins. Also make sure they are organized about an hour before the race.
Example for a 10:30am race start:
9.00am: Go to registration get your numbers and the program with start times in it
9.30am: Pin numbers on jersey, put bike clothes on. Check bike and place bottles in bottle cages
9.45am: Eat pre-race snack
9.55am: Start a 15-30min warm up. Come back, go to the toilet, etc and get ready to race
10.20am: Get to the start line. Have them line up with a warm jacket or arm warmers on if needed. Take the jacket or arm warmers from them before they start.
10.30am: Race start
The Role of Parents:
Note: your role is not event director or telling the event director what to do! But here are some things to keep you calm and help your child:
- Drive them to race
- Support them
- Take Photos
- Hold their jacket
- Ensure they eat a proper breakfast and have snacks and water bottles
- Make sure they have their licence with them
- Coach them (if that is a role you have)
Whether your child is doing a fun non-competitive race or is looking to pedal to the podium have a fun and safe season!