The day before the race you’d ideally drink plenty of fluids so that you’re well hydrated, eat a healthy high-carb evening meal such as pasta and perhaps lay-off the sauce (that’s beer not Bolognese!). You’ll feel much better for it when you’re riding…
Budget Tip: Stock-up on food and drink for the race beforehand. It’ll be cheaper and you’ll be able to choose from a wide range of stuff that will boost your energy levels and actually do you some good. Pack a Thermos - you’ll have a good supply of hot drink if it’s cold, and you can fill it with ice if it’s going to be scorching.
The Big Day
Most clubs will include directions to the venue in the regs or post them online. Traditionally there’ll be coloured arrows taped to lampposts or staked into roadside verges as you near the race too. Take note of the times that signing-on and scrutineering close, as even if you’re going to be one of the last riders to start you’ll need to get there in plenty of time. If you get lost, as a last resort follow the first beaten-up Vito with 18in rims that you see (though not one with 22in rims - they’ll be heading to a motocross!).
Once you’re arrived in the paddock, the first thing to do is sign-on with the organisers. They may also give you a lap-scoring transponder (often a wristband that you swipe against a reader at the end of each lap, which you’ll want to wear on your right wrist so that you can whip the clutch in with your left hand) or explain to you how they count your laps. If you don’t know, ask.
We’d then suggest getting your bike scrutineered before you get changed into your riding gear. Wheel it over to the scrutineers - riding in the paddock is often a no-no - and take along your crash helmet too. They’ll give your bike the once-over and, assuming it passes, you can then put it in the parc ferme area.
Parc ferme can be a simple holding area to park-up in, or it can be laid out so that you leave your bike alongside others in your class or with those who’ll be starting on the same minute. A piece of wood or a squashed Coke can comes in handy as a sidestand puck if the ground’s too soft for your sidestand.
Nerves kicking in? Stomach doing a ‘superman backflip?’ If you’re going to be visiting the portaloos might we suggest now’s a good time to do so. Once 200 other riders have sampled the dubious delights of Del’s Burger Wagon it, much like Del’s breakfast roll, will be a less-than-pleasant experience..! Speaking of sustenance, chomp down some of those bananas and cereal bars you bought beforehand and, again, keep your fluid levels topped up…
Take your fuel to the pits, along with anything else you think you might need mid-race such as some tools, food and spare gloves. Try to make your stuff stand out amongst the sea of green jerry cans and note where you’ve left it in relation to the pit entrance - it’ll save you time later.
If there’s time walk a little of the course. We’re not saying that you need to trudge around the ENTIRE lap, but you should at least look to see which way the first turn goes and if there’s any nasty surprises lurking just around it.
There’ll usually be a riders’ briefing 15-20 minutes before the start. The organisers will normally signal this by some means (shouting, sounding an airhorn etc) but look out for riders congregating together or wandering towards the start as this is a good indication of an impending meeting. Club regulars might treat the briefings like the safety announcement on an aeroplane - if you’ve heard it once you don’t pay attention ever again - however we’d suggest you listen-up, as they’ll let you know the format for the day, highlight any tricky bits out on the course, and generally arm you with the information you need. If you want to know something don’t be afraid to ask, or have a chat with some of the other riders.
One key piece of information you need to know if you want a good result is how the organisers ‘score’ the laps. For example, you may be awarded a number of points per lap, and then have points deducted if you finish your final lap outside of the time limit. How many points per lap you’re given, and how many they deduct per minute of lateness, is crucial. Because if you arrive at lap scoring with 15 minutes to go, and it’s a 25 minute lap, you need to know if it’s worth trying to squeeze in that extra circuit. Alternatively, the club may simply count the number of laps you complete, and as long as you start your final lap within the three hours then that counts towards your total. The results are then based upon who rode the most laps in the shortest time.