Racing on a new course without pre-ride

There is a race tomorrow at the local trail, ~35 miles over three laps. I know this trail extremely well, but it’s going to be run clockwise, and no one has ever ridden it that direction. Should I expect a bloodbath of danger? I’m worried about getting hurt and missing a business trip on Monday and also worried about being so slow that I hold up everyone and eventually get lapped, hold them up, and then get pulled. Thoughts?

I have to do this all the time in my area. There’s a few races on private land which means there’s only a short window to pre-ride (usually the day before). My general rule is to race the first lap hard and take any available b-line while checking out the a-line as I pass it.

If you know the course well enough in one direction, I think you’ll be in good shape. On the plus side you’ll have it nailed right as the race wraps up :slight_smile:

On getting hurt, that’s always part of the game. My only advice is don’t fall!

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I’m usually faster on a trail I’ve never rode. Ymmv


It’s an “open” race so I’m thinking I’ll grid DFL, go extremely slow the first two laps and then on the third I’ll step it up assuming a considerable number of people will blow-up. Is this a foolish assumption?

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If you know the course, I bet you can visualize the places that are going to be a bit more technical this go round. I’d first try that perhaps and then I bet after one full loop too you’ll recognize the critical spots rather than planning to be super slow on 2/3 of the course. If you’re really planning to go “extremely slow” the first two laps then I wouldn’t count on people blowing up hard enough for you to pass later, and on top of that your goal for the race might just be to have fun versus anticipating trying to pass people that blow up later on. Nothing wrong with that either if you’re nervous.

Rather than trying to go slow enough to avoid everyone, try to stick onto the back of group if you can so you have an opportunity to see their line choices and have time to react.

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People race all the time without pre-riding a course in any manner…you have at least ridden it in the opposite direction.

Don’t overthink it…just go race. :sunglasses:


I’ve done entire mountain bike seasons on trails I’ve never ridden. It’s definitely challenging, but doable. Instead of riding at 100% race pace, just dial it back a little to allow yourself time to react to the unexpected. If you’re lucky, you might be able to fall in behind someone who knows their way around.


I have a tendency to ride more aggressive on trails that I have never been on before because Im more concentrated on the trail than anything around me.

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I would strongly recommend going off the front, lapping the field, and winning.


You have an edge since you know it one direction.

Follow someone and you will learn more of the trail. Or at least have an idea of what is coming up. (If they disappear, chances are there is a dip or downhill up ahead!)

Interestingly, no one has ever ridden the trail this direction. It’s a special time in our lives tomorrow.

Tail gunning the first lap and then ratcheting up for the second and third seems like a good strategy.

Totally depends on the trails. I used live in the Chicago area. The trails there are very rideable at race pace even if you’ve never ridden them.

I rode the Grand Junction off-road last year in CO. Definitely some spots there where it’s helpful to know the trail so you don’t bomb into a 3ft drop. Even then, you can usually spot something ahead needs extra care, and you slow down.

That was a pretty great race, lol. I enjoyed the unknown aspect of it, finished 22nd out of 75 so I can’t really complain. I should have sprinted harder at the start, should have stepped it up faster on the 2nd lap because I’m not tired after the 33-mile race but my lower back is ruined.


Sweet! How did the course ride “the other way”?

You can definitely see why it normally runs the other direction due to the tire-cutters and a few ghastly rocky and rooted climbs. Glad I did it, for sure. I dig marathon MTB, pretty happy doing that and CX.