XC Race Day Prep

Wondering if anyone can school me on actual race day prep for an XC race series I am doing. I haven’t raced bikes with any level of seriousness for about 20 years and I am a little rusty to say the least. I have signed up for an 8 race weekly series beginning end of April. My Master’s LV XCO plan has me doing “Pahrah” the day before all my races, an easy endurance 2 days after my races and an anaerobic 4 days after each race (or 3 days before, depending on how you see it).

Can anyone walk me through any race day tips or items I should bring that wouldn’t automatically come to mind (i.e., other than nutrition, tools, pump, kit, etc.)? Any thoughts on warm-up day of or whether different workouts may be more helpful during these 8 weeks?

Warm up is very personal. I usually do a pre-ride lap (about 5-6 miles) and push a few hills or do some accelerations (3-4 for 10-20 seconds). For me, a warm up is to prime the body to race without inducing fatigue. That said I’ve seen some high school teams do all out sprints, 5 min reps at threshold, etc.

There’s an old thread here on openers. Reading through you can see that everyone is a bit different:

As for what to bring… if you’re traveling to these races don’t forget dry clothes, snacks and maybe a towel for after the race.

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Thank you for the help.

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Don’t forget your gear. I’ve done it.
-Food of your choice for before, during and after.
-Eat that food.
-Check the bike over before race morning (don’t forget about sealant).
-Set pressures when you get there (suspension and tires), lube chain, etc.
-Check in, do your registration crap. Check the starting line out so you know where to stage.
-Warm up is up to you. I like to ride as much of the course as I can more just to adjust to riding that bike and feel the course out. Warm ups don’t help or hurt me.
-Stage your water bottles if needed during your preride.
-If DNF isn’t an option, have your repair stuff set up either in the pits or on you (I personally DNF for local events, but it’s extremely rare).

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Any chance you’re in Socal? Sounds like OTH or Quick N Dirty.

If so, those are Tuesday night races at the end of a work day, which has its own set of issues.

I am indeed in SoCal and you guessed right, it’s OTH. I was thinking of adding Rim Nordic at the end of those 8 races as well.

Work is definitely a consideration but I generally finish work by noon T-F. Im more worried about the previous couple days of work which are generally relatively long days. I try to get good sleep but it’s still a bit rough.

I love OTH. Hope to get back into it next year.

The races are about an hour long in the Sport and Supersport categories. 40ish minutes for the Beginner and Intermediate categories. Either way, fueling is going to be minimal and limited to liquids.

Ideally, I’d have a small meal about 3 hours before the race. Warm up a full lap at Z1 and have a gel or two in the start corral. Mix in the bottle, but don’t count on that since you might not have that many drinking opportunities.

The race is full gas start to finish. VO2max over-unders like Mitchell will prepare you best. Specificity matters. Two seasons ago, I trained primarily for the BWR Dubbel and didn’t do so well at OTH.

Pahrah’s a good opener.

If you feel good 2 days after each race, I’d swap the easy endurance for at least a 1 hour sweet spot, possibly an over-under.

OTH races are hard, but they’re also short, so they’re easy to recover from. Keeping the blade sharp throughout the series will give you the best results.


Lots said already so I’ll just add.

If you have enough time I would preride the whole course but ride the descents fast to give you an idea as things that you hit at caterpillar pace can be very different to at warp speed with no brains.

I honestly think pre ride sprints just tire you out for the race. People think they’re going to somehow be ‘ready’ and avoid the pain of the first x minutes, but you’re going into the hurt locker from the gun until the first constriction or descent - just accept it.

I would do all bike maintainance the day before - just check tyre pressures in AM and then once ridden the warmup you can adjust up or down depending on grip levels.

Arrive with time to put mud tyres on if you have misunderstood the conditions or you will have a bad time.

Bring mud tyres with you. Even if it’s sunny.

Said already but

Your bag
The day
Do not
Your shoes / helmet / sunnies.

Bring stuff to warm up in. You’ll be going a lot slower. Cyclo-cross zip off pants are ideal for this.


Do you actually swap tires just before a race? Seems like it might be pushing the time unless you’re deft at making the swap. Will take your advice but I’m skeptical I could get it done in time for a race start.

I feel like I could swap the easy endurance days even now but this is the most consistent I’ve been able to follow a plan in some time and don’t want to jinx myself.

Why not do OTH this year instead of waiting another year? What category were you in?

Lots of good advice though. Thank you.

Haven’t been riding much since early 2023. These days I’m lucky to get a single ride in per week.

I’m in Sport 40-49.

It’s normally shoving in a mud front tyre but I always have one with me. Probably takes five mins without an insert to do neatly - scoop the sealant from one into another.

I’ve done it before when it was sunny but turned out it pissed with rain for 3 days there before and the racekings would have ben suicide.

Do it! Wonderful course.

Also look at Southridge. Personally I have zero interest in OTH.

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I will check out Southridge.

Why don’t you like OTH?

This is the first time in a very long time I am riding consistently. At one point I thought I was done with bikes completely. Working 7 days a week and three kids was not conducive to caring about much else beyond sleep. I got lucky with a job change and working less so I have time to train again. It’s been nice. I hope you get some time and get back on the bike.

Eh, no matter how I phrase it, it’ll come out wrong. So…

I’m not interested in racing a course where you can show up on a gravel bike.

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Haha. I get it. My LBS is heavily involved in it so its more a social thing and easy way to get back in the mindset of racing. TBH, I havent raced in a little over 20 years so Im not underestimating how sadly difficult this will be for me. Im hoping its a stepping stone to more racing.

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A little update and another question. I managed to win my division this past week after being sick for a couple weeks and missing training and the first race of the series. I have Trainerroad to thank for my fitness.

I had a question about the remainder of the 6 races. I am on the low volume XCO masters plan. The plan has an endurance ride scheduled for today and Coronet (Coronet consists of 4 sets of 5x30-second anaerobic repeats at 150% FTP followed by a much longer 4.5-minute effort between 86-88% FTP. Recoveries between each set of intervals last 6 minutes and 30 seconds each.) scheduled for Saturday.

Someone recommended swapping a sweet spot ride for the endurance, which I will do. Any thoughts on the utility of the anaerobic ride? These rides tend to just leave me with knee pain even though I switch to resistance mode and don’t leave me too tired. Coronet has the 86-88% 4.5 minute efforts so maybe it’ll be better but I’m wondering if there’s something better.

During the race itself, I did two laps at 19:03 and 20min but felt like I blew up near the end of lap one. I used the downhills and straights to rest on lap two but felt pretty done in spite of this. I’d like to race one more in this bracket and then move up to the next bracket.

Congrats on the W.

I’ve been racing OTH for a couple years- it’s a fun little series and I don’t mind it being on Tuesday nights. Nice way to break up the week.

What previous posters said about specific training is right, I don’t work my top end very much as I’m focused on longer races and I really pay the price at OTH. It’s full gas from the start and your positioning can really matter.

In terms of prep- similar to what others said I try to pack everything the night before or morning of and only need to check my tire pressure when I arrive. I’ll usually bring a cooler to keep bottles cold, some of the summer races can get pretty toasty up there. 45 min easy warmup with some short efforts at the end. Swap bottles, one gel, and then hit the corral as late as possible to start.

You won’t need to bring extra tires for this race btw, if it’s wet at all they will cancel the day before. The winter series was canceled after 1 race due to the rain.

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Appreciate the post. I took everyone’s advice about packing the day before but still ended forgetting to bring zipties for my race number. Fortunately, they had some on site. I was just glad I didn’t forget my helmet.

I felt the absolute high end power was good but wished I could have sustained it more consistently throughout the whole race. Pacing and bike handling are part of that but I also definitely felt like I couldnt hold those numbers for the entire 40 minutes.