One week to go before that big race. It’s a landmark in time when you’re preparing for something that you care about, something that scares you, something new or a mixture of the three. There’s no going back, but it’s also too late to make any massive changes and this only adds to the tension. This is the time that shows up any true racer against a rank amateur.
There’s nothing wrong with being an amateur, but this is the moment at which the pro relaxes whilst the rookie panics. To the elite rider it’s just another race, just another drive or flight, just another bag of clean clothes and the same old race bike. To the weekend warrior it’s the big day, a trip of a lifetime, a suitcase packed with their finest kit and their finely fettled steed.
I sometimes miss the tension and the butterflies that I had when I started racing. I remember training for months for a specific event and at the time I’d only ever entertain the idea of doing three or four races in a year. Now I barely unpack my bag. My life is in a constant state of flux as I trek from one end of the country to the other in chase of a podium or two.
For the few days a week that I spend at home I have to achieve everything that normal people get done in a whole week as well as the weekend – Suddenly the simple tasks of washing and drying clothes, meeting friends, eating well, working, housework and gardening become a finely balanced act and if one part goes wrong the whole house of cards comes falling down around you.
On top of that you have to find a gap for training and servicing you bikes! I once tried to plan my week by the hour and with various commitments, work, sleep, training and racing I worked out that on average I could allow myself 8 hours in the week to relax – one per day with a bonus one on Sunday!
But you don’t put yourself on that kind of crazy schedule unless you love what you’re doing. I’m lucky to be able to race my bike as much as I do – I love the scene, I love the campsites, I love the preparation, I love the racing, I love the satisfaction of doing well and I even love the times when you realise that you’ve been beaten by a stronger/smarter rider.
Racing has also taken me to some truly amazing corners of the world and our own little island. I always try to make time to ride the local trails or bridleways as well as racing and I’ve spent many a happy holiday revisiting a place that a race has introduced me to.
In truth the butterflies still flutter nervously in your stomach the week/day/hour before a race. I think the difference is that you get to know those butterflies over the years a little better. They become like old friends and I’d miss them if they weren’t there. So whether you’re a seasoned pro or someone slightly greener, embrace the nerves, fix the things you can fix, and don’t worry about the things you can’t!
If racing has taught me anything over the years it’s that with one week to go, you may as well concentrate on getting lots of sleep and eating lots of cake.
THE.ÆIGHT.BICYCLE.CØMPANY proudly use Kona™ Framesets, Fox™ Suspension, Rohloff™ Transmissions, Shimano™ and Ritchey™ Components, Schwalbe Tyres, Exposure lights™, adidas™ Eyewear, Clothing and torq™ Performance Nutrition. We also buy additional gear from Cotswold Outdoor to support our riders at races. We’re not sponsored by these brands, but we wouldn’t use any other equipment.
“83.R”, “THE.8.RAC3R” and “THE.ÆIGHT.BICYCLE.CØMPANY” all appear courtesy of, and belong to, Glen Whittington.