All of your ride friends are signed up for the race… but you’re not so sure.
“What if I’m too slow?”
“What if I’m DFL (dead f*&^%ing last)?”
“What if I can’t?”
“What if I’m are holding everyone up? What if it’s too hard?”
Or perhaps you’ve tried racing. Riders passed you as if you were going backwards and you felt bad you were in the way. You barely finished within the time limit, or worse, you became so discouraged you DNF’d (Did Not Finish, or dropped out).
No doubt about it, mountain bike racing is a tough sport. But, because of its toughness, it’s highly rewarding. Finishing a mountain bike race is a gratifying accomplishment– whether it’s cross country, enduro or downhill. The beauty of the sport is there are no try outs, no coaches to “bench” you, but plenty of people to cheer you on, and a nice meal after you finish (because you’ve just burned an extraordinary amount of calories)! Here we address a couple of your concerns, because even the Pros have had these thoughts (you are not alone)!
No one wants to be last place. You’re the slowest person in the race. What could be worse? Plenty could be worse. The fact that you showed up to race means you’re already better than 99.9% of the population. Consider for just a moment how many people did not show up to race. Perhaps they woke up planning to race but decided to stay home in bed instead. You beat that person. Perhaps they quit riding bikes. You beat that person. Perhaps they bought a new TV instead of a new bike. Perhaps they haven’t even started riding bikes yet. And so on. You are already at the top of the food chain of mountain biking just by showing up.
The Tour de France used to give a prize for the Lanterne Rouge (red lantern/light), or the last placed rider in the pack. Here’s the deal: even if you’re the red light, you’re still an integral part of the race. The race cannot end without you.
What we’re saying is this:
First or DFL, you matter. Keep showing up!
Set a goal for yourself that is focused on your own performance, not the performances of others around you. You goal can be to finish in a certain time, to breathe correctly, to keep a certain cadence in your pedal stroke, or to focus on your personal mantra.
What if I am holding up other racers?
The first rule of the race is this: you paid to race, and you have every right to be on the track. In most mountain bike races, many categories are racing together, and each racer needs to be mindful of their own race as well as the races of others and try to not affect the outcome of another race. It’s a fine line. You have a right to be on the track, but you, as a good sport, have the obligation to be aware of those around you.
If you are a first-timer, or a Beginner racer riding in the same race as higher categories, this situation can blow up on you. You pull over to let a rider by and 15 people go by. You find yourself stopping more than actually riding. This deflates the race experience for you, the fun is let out.
First things first. Ride the course before the race. During your pre-ride, look for safe places to pull over without completely stopping to allow faster riders in other categories get around you. Conversely, look for places to make a pass yourself. This could be:
1. A fireroad, where you don’t even have to pull over, just simply ride on the right side of the track and allow riders through.
2. A second line on a descent. Look for double lines on descents. This is always the worst place for a rider to catch up to you, but it’s no one’s fault. Many descents will have more than one line, so when you hit that line, look for the slower line and as a rule, you can take that line during the entire race.
3. Take the outside line. In corners, the inside line is always faster. If a rider is approaching you, take the outermost line and call back to the rider “go inside”.
Which leads us to the next rule, communicate. Everyone is hypoxic, but without communication, people get hurt. If a rider comes up behind you, it’s their obligation to communicate with you. They should say “rider back” from at least 20 feet away. In this case, you have plenty of warning and can plan how you will act to allow the rider to pass. If you’ve scouted the track, you should have a good idea and can call back, “after this corner”!
We cannot control the behavior of other riders, only our own, so it’s important to maintain composure at all times. This means: don’t give up, don’t stop believing in yourself, and don’t take it personally.
Now go have some fun!
Mountain bike racing is fun. Make it fun. Set goals for yourself or just go out and ride. This is the only time you can go flat out on the trails without worrying about pedestrians. Take advantage of this!
See you at the races, and check out the MTBChick Lounge at select races, including the 2015 Mammoth Kamikaze Bike Games!