GNCC Racing Tips

Ride Technique — on April 1, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Cross-country races are often run in challenging conditions, from extreme dust and mud to challenging rocky hill climbs. With such a long season, you must be prepared for any weather and every trail condition imaginable. I always have my riding gear and myself prepared ahead of time. These tips should make you more successful, too.

1. Second Gear
Plan ahead of time what gear you will wear by laying it all on the floor or a bed. Decide how many spare items you’ll need and which things to replace.
Typical replacement items are goggle lenses, torn gloves, boot straps, etc. Obviously, spare gloves and goggles are critical items to have for any race. I usually separate them in Ziploc baggies when I pack my bags for the race/ride.

2. Select Comfort
Always select comfort over fashion. It’s better to be comfortable and in control than to look pretty. For example, you don’t want to discover your new boots don’t flex and make you miss shifts. A helmet too large can push down on your goggles, make them pinch your nose and restrict your breathing.

3. Name Game
If several riders pit in the same spot, write your name in large letters on your replacement supplies (baggies), so you get the right items. Small gloves will not work for a dude with large paws.

4. Lid Tricks
Buy the best helmet you can afford, but don’t select on price alone. Factor in safety features, weight and comfort. Look for features like venting, washable inner liners and a sizeable eye port.
For me, helmet tear-offs have proved beneficial in the mud. You can make your own out of plastic or buy them. Tracks with clay in the soil can create problems when it rains. Mud sticks to the helmet visor and makes the helmet heavy and come down over your eyes. Helmet tear-offs let you pull the mud off without getting your gloves too muddy.

5. Enduro Jackets
Enduro jackets can make a miserable race seem like a trail ride. Zip-off arms are nice in case you start to overheat. If you‘re warm standing around, skip the jacket. However, GNCC races usually have creek crossings and muddy sections so a waterproof but breathable (zippered vents) jacket could keep you dry.

6. Gloves Under Gloves
Glove liners can be good for long rides because they prevent blisters. The key is to find a comfortable pair for your hand. They come with or without fingers. Find a size that can’t bunch up (create seams) under your glove. Also, I usually sprinkle baby powder in them prior to sliding them on.

7. Camel Hump
Staying hydrated is key for racers. Your body will thank you with less cramping and post-race fatigue. There are lots of choices for hydration packs. It’s your call on what size you run. However, if you wear a chest protector, be sure your hydration pack fits comfortably over or under it.
What you put in the hydration system can also offer benefits. Water is best for me, but some riders mix a sports drink (Gatorade) with water, say a 25/75 mixture. Just beware of adding too much sugar.

8. Improved Sight
Most cross-country and trail riders prefer some sort of roll-off or tear-off goggle system. You need to select a brand and style the best fits your helmet and your budget. Roll-offs and tear-offs are most critical for the starting line and in muddy areas where roost flies and blackens everything.

9. Boot Hill
Good boots are paramount to a nice ride. Make sure they are the right size, comfortable and broken in. Waterproofing them is a good idea for the mud races. This usually has something to do with adding a marine-grade silicone around the sole stitching and duct taping the seam near the buckles.

10. B.O. Defense
I don’t wear deodorant on ride or race days. Sweat is good. Don’t restrict your body’s natural ability to cool down in these extreme situations. If anything, choose only a deodorant, not an antiperspirant, to mask the body odor.

11. Behind Behavior
There’s nothing worse than a bad case of monkey butt (rash). Riding shorts usually cost a lot more than boxer shorts but they have special materials to improve comfort and resist rash. A good dosing of baby powder (or a similar product) prior to an event is a good preventative maintenance. I use Desitin baby rash lotion prior to long rides or races. You can tough it out and go without, but remember it’s your A#%!

12. Diet Right
When you prepare for woods racing, meals are as important as selecting boots. The best meals for cross-country racers are those with large amounts of carbohydrates and low fat and protein levels. You want to eat them the night before an event. In the morning of the race, though, keep it light with fruits, vegetables and things like bread and granola bars. I also try to avoid as much sugar as possible. It’s best to consult a nutritionist to determine what foods work best for you.

13. Machine Evaluation
Like your riding gear, your quad needs to be ready for any condition. I evaluate my quad prior to each race and after each ride. Proper maintenance and machine prep is key to having success in off-road racing. Make a checklist.
Accessories can change from race to race depending on the weather. For example, in a muddier race, you may want different tires. Maybe you want larger handguards or improved water and mud protection.

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