by ALP Cycles Coach Brianna Walle
It is officially the start of “Stage Racing “season and riders are priming their legs and lungs for the first set of performance(s). All the off-season training and preparation will be displayed as athletes anxiously await in the final countdown before “game time”. There are two aspects behind preparation for a Stage Race: the physical time and energy and the mental aspects. Physically, you’ve done your homework training and tapering for the event, but how does one cope with the anxiety and stress behind the mental preparation? Below are some of my personal tips on how to mentally get zoned in and equally zoned out for optimal performance.
Mental preparation: studying the courses
Once available, skim through the race bible, making a mental “map” of the general flow and rhythm or the race.
For me, it was helpful to draw a “map” of the stage and include visual cues to help digest the week ahead.
If a race bible isn’t available yet, use the previous year (s) bible as a guide. Make mental notes of adjustments to the courses and take in any “word of mouth” changes as well.
Take each stage one day at a time. Similar to chapters in a book, each with an individual theme with characteristics.
Note your strengths as a rider on particular days and hone in on those skills. Example: if one day is a “power climb” type of day, write “strength- power climbing!”.
Note challenges or struggles to keep in mind ie: longer hilltop climb finish days and historically going out too hard in the first half of the climb- include a cue such as “ride within, know thy zones” or a cue to remind yourself of your steady “pace” on that climb.
Maybe it’s even helpful to write “ride your guts out” or “beer on top!”. It is really anything motivating or distracting if the climb is daunting. (rider preference;-)) Point is to use your strengths and know your weaknesses.
“Maps” are especially helpful for Time-Trials. In my race career, I would draw out the race profile, with my own personal cues and notes to help me visualize the course. I would include my own notes from doing a course recon on the actual course. Basically, notes to help me pace my race.
Mental preparation: riding the courses
Once the theoretical studying of the courses has been completed, go out and ride the courses. We’re all visual learners- fill the gaps.
Take additional notes once you’re on course. I would bring my phone, sometime take videos or pictures of parts of the course and write notes in my phone or voice messages. Basically take in all and everything that you can.
Focus on lines (especially for TT’s), wind patterns, obstacles on the course and note areas where you think there may be break-away opportunities. In TT’s, I would note places on the course to go a specific zone or exertion, making notes of a physical cue ie: a BBQ stand on course
If you are not able to preview the race courses in person, use Google Maps (street view!) to virtually explore the course. Any preview is better than none.
Doing a recon will reduce your anxiety on race day
Mental Preparation: RELAXING HARD and good distractions
It’s super easy to get fixated on the racing- teammates are talking about it outside of “team meeting” timeframes, you’ve got a nervous roommate, etc…it’s equally as important to relax and let your mind flow onto other topics. Otherwise it could be detrimental to your race performance.
It’s ok to be focused, but it’s also important to sprinkle in the fun to keep you balanced- this keeps the anxiety levels lower and reduces “performance pressure”
I would always make sure that in the days leading into racing, I had time carved out for : pedicures, coffee, a nice lunch, etc. this is especially good to do with teammates to cultivate team-chemistry and enjoy some fun before it’s game time.
REST HARD between the Stages- feet up, take in your nutrition and watch a funny comedy, for example. Play cards, read, etc.
The day/evening before the next stage, briefly (10-15 mins) read through your “notes” and re-familiarize yourself with the day ahead. This can help alleviate the race day jitters…then, put your feet up, do something fun and later something relaxing before bed. Ie: bath or shower, meditate, read, some stretching, etc.
Remember, you’ve done your homework. Now it’s time to shine! Re-evaluate and revise your race goals daily, be flexible and most importantly HAVE FUN! If you have FUN, you actually go FASTER, and this is a FACT.