This past weekend I rode the San Diego International Triathlon course to better prepare myself for race day. I have done this race many times before, but I always ride the course before each race. Here is one good reason why. I was descending on the downhill portion of the course when I encountered a new and very significant pothole that nearly took me out. It was less visible because the shadows on the road. Note: I was on the course at the same time of day I will be during the race. The race officials may mark this particular pothole and the three others I came upon, but we should never depend on it.
Below is a checklist that may better prepare you for the bike portion of your race.
#1) Check your bike at least two days before the race, so if there is any problems, you can take it to your local bike shop. You want to pay special attention to your breaks, break pads and tires. I like to check all the bolts to make sure they are tight and secure. Check the cables and housing and make sure they are running smooth. Check your chain to make sure you don’t have any bad links. If your not comfortable performing a bike check on your own, bring it in to your local bike shop, and have them do a race tune up. If you bought your bike from a bike shop, they may have included a free lifetime tune up. I always wash my bike and lube my chain before the race.
#2) Read the bike rules to refresh your memory. Check to see if the officials are enforcing certain regulations specific to the race, such as no passing zones.
#3) Ride the course. It is very important to ride the entire course to check for bumps or holes in the road. It also helps you see the level of difficulty of the course. Take note of the start of the bike course. Do you climb out of transition to start the bike portion, or do you have a sharp turn right off the bat? Take note because you will want to put your bike in the appropriate gear before the race. As you come out of T1, you won’t have to mess with the gears or worse, fall on the hill. During the training ride, take note of the gear your in at each portion, especially the hills. Time the climbs, or if you have a computer, log the distance and grade of the climb if you have those features. I like to count my revolutions up a hill to get an idea of how long it is, when I can start to push the climb or get out of the saddle. I like to find landmarks along the climb to help determine when I should be at a moderate to hard effort and when I can attack and hit the crest without too much fatigue. You may find your own system that works best for you. Keep in mind, the better you know the course, the better your performance and the more fun you will have.
#4) Never do anything new on race day. We here that all the time, right? Practicing skills before a race and executing them the best you can on race day is key to a successful and enjoyable day.