Race Prep: Cycling

Road cycling is incredibly popular in Salida, but races are some of the most underestimated events in the sports world. Many people can ride bicycles, and many of that subsection can ride quickly. However, training for a cycling race is an entirely different experience; more than a recreational hobby, it becomes difficult to keep up with elite teams, the expensive gear, long events, and hardcore training schedules. Though there are many beginner-friendly races available—especially in Salida–you should have an understanding of this type of competition before signing up for a race.  
The first step to preparing for a cycling race is simple: choose the right race. Salida has countless options—there are road races, mountain bike races, cyclocross, and even triathlons. Think about the type of biking you most enjoy and wouldn’t mind practicing for several hours every day. Then find the race that works for you. Once you’ve established the type of race you’d like to try, get the appropriate gear.  
Once you have your entry ticket and the correct equipment, you’re ready to start training. The most important aspect of cycling training is to build strength and skill. You’ll need to improve your overall fitness, but you should also work on mastering the sport itself. Of course, you already know how to ride a bike, but do you know how to pace yourself, gain speed on hills, and when to lift yourself off the seat? Probably not—yet. The best way to do this is to bike often. Top local riders will often train for 15 to 20 hours each week; do your best to fit in one hour each day, then gradually increase your speeds and distances.  
Bikers should also introduce tempo and interval workouts early on in their training. For tempo rides, increase your pace to a speed that feels uncomfortably fast, but remains sustainable for around fifteen minutes. Interval training will involve going all out for short segments, alternating with rest periods. If possible, squeeze in a few training sessions on the course you will eventually race, and if you’re doing a mountain or gravel race, be sure to do most of your training on the same or similar terrain.  
Preparing for a cycling race is a long game, and cramming a couple of weeks before the event will yield poor results. In the week before race day, reduce your training and cut back on total mileage. On the day before the race, do a short ride with small bursts of speed throughout. Don’t stress out, and don’t compare yourself to other bikers; just focus on the course and doing your personal best.