Tips for MTB stage races?
June 18, 2008 2:41 PM   Subscribe

I'm doing the Trans Rockies Challenge (a 5-day mountain bike stage race) in August and am looking for any tips and tricks people may have for doing something like this.

Specifically, what kinds of gotchas should I be looking out for, what pieces of gear will make me more comfortable, and so on.

(I'll be riding an Ellsworth Truth with SRAM X.0 bits if that matters)

I'm in pretty good shape (regularly finish on the podium in 24-hour - and longer - adventure races) but have never done anything this long before and am not sure what to expect.
posted by dolface to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Will you be doing a little training at higher altitudes? The race doesn't go really high, but it will be high enough to make you feel off if you are used to riding near sea level. Spend some time riding in the area ahead of time if possible.
posted by ssg at 3:34 PM on June 18, 2008

Response by poster: I'm going to try to get some time in Tahoe. I live in San Francisco so altitude will definitely be an issue.

Thanks for the tip!
posted by dolface at 3:42 PM on June 18, 2008

dolface -- my experience is sort of on the opposite end of the endurance cycling spectrum, but from the few adventure racers that I've met, I think that an adventure racing background can provide you with a lot of good prep for something like TransRockies.

Basically, from my experience, food and nutrition is always important in endurance events, and if you've already been competing in 24 hour events, then you should be familiar with this already. Know your body well enough to know when you're getting dehydrated, when your electrolytes are depleted, when you need more protein, etc. When you flatline on calories, your morale collapses, your judgement suffers and overall success is threatened. The only event DNFs that I've experienced have been partially the result of carrying insufficient supplies. With checkpoints every 20 miles, the likelihood of running out of supplies diminishes, but it's still important to know your body so that when you do get to the checkpoint, you know what food will help you at that particular time and what will just load you down.

On that additional note, if you're currently used to training and performing with 'real' food, then great. If you're using a supplement/liquid diet like Sustained Energy or Perpetuem, then confirm with race organizers whether or not you can have drop bags with your supplements placed at each of the control points. DO NOT rely on the event having Cytomax or Sustained Energy or WhateverExoticWeirdMagicPotion in catering table. If you can't buy it at a supermarket, either bring your own supplies to the event or train on something else that is available.

Equipment is also important. I can't provide you with feedback on what constitutes a proper fitting cross country mountain bike. That's barely even a bike to me. What I can say, though, is that you should be comfortable with repairing everything on the bike. If you can't repair it, have spares. If you can't afford spares or repair it, use something else. Do all of your training rides with the gear that you plan on using during your event, so you become familiar with it and have it debugged before event day. Again, hopefully, you should know this from racing.

Aside from that, the only other thing I can give advice on is day-to-day recovery. Be sure to eat something as soon as you're done with a day's stage. Your body has a very short window for optimal recovery of spent calories and protein, and that window is only about an hour wide. So, yeah, if possible -- finish, eat, stretch, shower, sleep in that order. Don't wait until after your shower to have your recovery meal. Do incorporate a full stretching regimen for your legs and back. It makes the next day that much easier.
posted by bl1nk at 3:53 PM on June 18, 2008

First - great choice of bike. I've got a similarly set up Truth and I couldn't imagine doing that sort of event on anything else. If you're running any superlight components, it might be wise to swap them out for slightly more durable, slightly heavier ones. Even a simple 'off' can damage things like bars and seatposts...

In terms of bike prep, obviously you'll want to check brake pads, hydraulic fluid etc. I would recommend having the fork and rear shock overhauled - new seals etc - about a month before the event. Don't leave that sort of thing to the last minute, as if anything goes wrong as a result of the overhaul you'll be screwed. Prepare a simple spares kit. Definitely make sure you have spare chain links (I assume you're running a SRAM chain). Put new grips on the night before. New grips, like new bartape on road bikes, makes bikes faster.

I race 6 - 24 hour enduros on a mix of carbohydrate gels and a 4:1 carb:protein drink. Like many enduro racers in Australia I use Endura products, mainly because they're locally made and readily available. Hammer products are probably the closest. You could do a lot worse than using Hammer gel (available in bulk, so you can re-pack it in a flask) and Perpetuem.

Whatever you decide to use for food, GET USED TO IT BEFORE THE RACE! There is a temptation to go out and buy they new wonder-energy-bar the night before an event in the hope that it will be the magical boost you need, but if it cramps your stomach and gives you squirty shits, then it's a bit late to back out. Good luck!
posted by tim_in_oz at 5:08 PM on June 18, 2008

Response by poster: I think my response got eaten, apologies if this shows up twice.

Thanks for all the great responses!

I think I've got the nutrition bit nailed (mostly real food supplemented with bars, Hammer e-tabs, Conquest drink).

I came to adventure racing from ultra marathons and worked out the eating kinks there. I'm blessed with a dispose-all stomach; octopus tacos, Pringles, fruit cups and a warm Coke were the perfect meal 2 days into a 3.5 day race.

I'm building the bike now, so it should be be broken in and solid by August, and given that I weigh 130 lbs (59kg) I'm not too worried about hurting it.

My teammate and I are riding identical bikes (well, hers is pink) and I'm a decent wrench, so I think we're good there.

The one thing I don't know anything about is the staged part. I'm fine going for a few days without any rest; you pace yourself accordingly. What I don't know anything about is racing balls-out for 3 - 8 hours, then having to get up and doing it again for days in a row.

bl1nk's tip about eating first is great, that's the kind of stuff I'm looking for, ditto on the new grips the day before!
posted by dolface at 7:07 PM on June 18, 2008

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