Cycling Tips » Mountain Bike Racing Strategies

When racing, it is helpful to make a strategy according to the length and style of the race (short sprinty, downhill, enduro). Strategies should be simple, and custom made for each race. Take into account: the terrain, weather, distance, your fitness, and your competitors. Your plan should be made early race day and at the site of the race. Having a bicycle computer is handy for making your plan more exact, but don't become predisposed with your speedo or you will hit a tree for sure. An example of a strategy I have used is :

"The ground is muddy and the track is hilly and long, so I should sprint at the beginning and get far ahead so I get a good spot in the single track and can relax for a bit."

In making YOUR plan sit by yourself for a few minutes (perhaps while stretching) feel the ground and look at the other riders around you.

  • Race Style -- If the race is all downhill, your strategy can be something extremely simple like: "Pedal as much as I can without hitting a tree." For short races, (for me under 15 km is short), you might try something like "Sprint the first 3km, and get ahead, then, keep the general pace while saving some energy for the end." For the longer Enduro style races, (about 25km and up) you might try something like this: "have a fast, but not exhausting start, and keep a pace slightly faster than everyone else, while trying to pass people at my strong points (uphills, downhills, double track, single track, whatever)."

  • Terrain -- Is the ground wet and muddy? Hard and rocky? Tune your suspension to suit the most common terrain and remember that a race on a mud track will be much more tiring than on a hard well beaten track.

  • Weather -- Is it going to rain? Should you take wind into account? For long rides, weather will also determine what kinds of food you will bring; hot days demand more liquids and easyily digested sport foods like high carb Gu. (see nutrition)

  • Distance -- How do you normally feel after biking the length of this race? Have you consumed enough calories for the races? Will you have time to pass people? Or should you make a point of being in the lead at the start?

  • Competitors -- Is there someone there who is just a bit better than you are? If there is and you are too lazy to make your own plan just follow right behind them for the whole race and then sprint past them at the end. (if you think they are slacking part way through by all means pass them!!!!)

  • Fitness -- Have you been training? Things like heart rate monitors, weight training and high carbohydrate diets can all make a big difference in your riding if combined with our tips on training.

  • Nutrition -- How long and hard is the ride? If you expect more than 2 hours of brisk riding or an hour of hammering, it's either bring food or lose.