How do I race better?

So, I have this feeling that I’m missing something from my races. I train heavily (I’m coached) with good nutrition and some good outputs from that. I also appreciate genes play a part in what I’m about to say but…

I’m firmly top 3rd of any 4-12th mtb race probably further up the longer it goes. I’m targeting the correct races based on my learned physiology - endurance more than power- but I’m often amazed at how on the last laps people appear to be wizzing past me with enthusiasm and pace after 4 hours of a 4 race when I’m deep in the trenches and dropping places.

Therefore, and although I have power / HR based strategies e.g. not going in the red on climbs etc I’m wondering whether by going around and around on RPE I’m missing something within myself that my coach can’t give me. I’m happy to be told that as long as I’ve measured my effort over the distance and am pretty much done on the line well, that’s all I can do but… have I missed something?

I’d be grateful for any advice!

Sounds like nutrition if it’s a last lap thing after 4 hours. How many carbs are you taking in per hour? I’d shoot for at least 40 per hour on the bike for a race that long, in addition to a lot the morning of.

Well, its not just he last lap I’m talking about its the overall speed which leaves me in a situation to be lapped in the first place…

To answer the question I’m using 1x Beta Fuel - which I’ve great results with and 1 x Torq gel, so about 100g Carbs?

Edit: to be clear my question is about whether I’m applying myself in the right way.

1 Beta Fuel and 1 gel per hour should be enough fuel on board.

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With proper training and nutrition all things are great, but you have to have the will power and grit to push harder. Sometimes we just get beat simply because someone is better prepared to endure pain than we are…

You shouldn’t even need a gel with beta fuel should you?

Are your splits negative or positive?

Negative splits - interested as to why you are asking?

Corner speed.

Pacing strategy comes more into play for individual TT events.

If your racing others for results you will usually have to throw power and HR strategies out the window at some point in every race.
Not many people win against even competition without going into the red for extended periods when others are no longer willing to.
Matt Fitzgeralds book “How Bad Do You Want It?” might be worth a read. I believe its on Coach Chads reading list for good reason. I certainly found some useful insights and strategies in it.


Ok thanks - I’ve seen that booked referenced before so will have a look for it.

I posted by phone yesterday so waited until I’m at a keyboard to write this.

This January I’ve done two training races in my base block. Before these my FTP rose by 4% and 1 hour power by 6%. The first race was just about getting back into the race scene and 4hrs of z3 measured by RPE and HR. The second though, I had a crack, and ended up just outside the top 10 (UK regional).

Now it’s what happened in the race which is important. I found myself about 15th at a guess after the start and lapping decently and consistently. On laps 3 & 4 I found myself on the wheel of the - I didn’t know at the time - 2nd place women’s 4h. As I came around the start loop, I realised I might be able to squeeze in a 6th lap and move up the rankings by getting that last one in. Because this race lap had to finish within the time limit, I pushed very hard - it ended up as my fastest lap of the race. Expressed I’m minutes my laps were 38, 40, 40, 40, 39 and 36.

I learned that I don’t think I’m trusting my fitness to carry me through - I think I’ve been riding defensively, and not “pushing” hard enough. That last lap shows - although I was hanging over the bars when finished - I had power and pace left in me.

So overall I think this shows that while I’ve grown in strength, fitness and endurance, in my head I’m not applying myself with the confidence that I can and am able to perform well. I’m probably so used to being mid pack that my brain just accepts that’s how I should ride. Does that make sense? I know it’s sounds bizarre for a competitive person to say that.

Makes total sense. Do you do any shorter races? I think it could be worth going out and smashing a shorter B or C race that you don’t care about too much, go out harder than you think you can sustain and see what happens! Might find you can dig deeper than you thought, and if you blow up then at least you learned a bit more about where your limits are.


It’s a good point. I do race a local series sping/summer for intensity but I’m not a “crit” rider as I’m a bit low on power. Or so I think. I’m wondering whether I need to find in-race targets - staying with a rider, fastest lap, creating a gap - to motivate myself and avoid “settling in”.

So here’s a thing - I just read the first chapter in Matt Fitzgeralds book as recommended, within which the following words appear:

“…If the athletes physical capability increased but her relationship with the perception of effort did not change accordingly her race times would not get any better…”

Thats me, right there. Now to read on through the examples and see what connects with me to open that door!

Thank you!


Even pacing reduces the risk of blowing up, but takes away the possibility of a breakthrough performance. By racing aggressively you have a chance of hitting one out of the park. Instead of a consistent string of pretty good performances (top third) you opt for a few great ones mixed in with some undeniable poor performances.

Also, work on your mental game. Meditation was a game changer for me. I recommend the Headspace app.

Sounds like a plan. Key thing is taking yourself out of your comfort zone. Bit of a red flag that you say you don’t have the power to be a crit racer - need to change that mindset!

I actually find my best training for this sort of stuff is a midweek group ride that involves quite a few local racers, and has a ~20km section where basically anything goes, followed by a regroup. It’s kind of like a sandbox for crit racing, you can try some stuff out, blow yourself up, have some fun, and nobody cares too much. Worth seeing if there is anything like that in your area. I found it useful not just in figuring out my own limits, strengths and weaknesses, but those of some of the other riders that show up as well.