FIRST TO BREAK
It can be obvious to see standing trackside, it’s day one of a three-day event and people have started to throw themselves down the hill. Excitement levels have been steadily rising during the past month with each little milestone only adding the to the anticipation. Mum, Dad (or partner) says yes, leave from work gets approved after the following conversation with the boys “Yeah if they didn’t let me have time off I’d just quit”. Further group chats with the intention of sorting out accommodation have quickly descended into chaos and fear, anyone brave enough to ask a serious question in a not serious environment is roasted within seconds no matter the time, place or content. By the time it comes to packing the car, everyone has a mix of excitement and relief that the day has finally come, pranks have already begun and there is finally a sense of urgency that the only thing between getting away on a weekend of adventures and racing is our own procrastination. From this point onwards it can be difficult to keep on top of your energy levels, which is why we normally see most of the injuries at races happen within the first few hours as everyone tries to get up to speed just a bit too quickly. Time adds pressure, regardless of who you are or what you might do for a living, it’s inevitable you have suffered time constraints in many aspects of your life before challenging yourself in a bike race. It can be hard once you turn on race face to hold yourself back, some of us are like bulls to a red flag when we leave the start gate, even during practice. Now in the lead up to Australia’s National Downhill Series and Championships it’s the perfect time to attempt some form of preevent calming rituals for everyone that hasn’t yet felt the pain and humiliation of lying next to the track with a broken body on day one. It is funny that we turn time constraints during everyday life into a doomsday clock counting down to zero, even the morning rush to work or school feels like the countdown sequence before NASA used to launch the Space Shuttle. Standing trackside on a Downhill or Enduro stage during practice you can feel the same level of tension in the air as riders attempt to win practice and take bragging rights home with them for the evening. Nearly all the riders look like they are riding like they are late to a party, what they fail to realise is the party they’re rushing to get too is already happening around them. Everyone has been guilty of it, and recognizing you are doing it can be just as hard as altering it. I’m sure you might be disagreeing with me at this point, thinking that you are fully aware you are part of the party as you are racing down the hill, having gone through all the organising and travel to get there, but your actions speak louder than words. The first day or two of practice everything looks very rushed and forced, riders even speak in terms of saving time through line choice or pedalling, it’s like they are already behind before they begin and are looking to get back ahead. It’s normally fatigue and fitness that goes before poor line choice, or lack of practice during a race weekend. A run spent studying the course in detail to learn how it develops is worth three times as much as another attempt at a fast run early in the weekend. It becomes impossible to mentally build up to your race run if you have been peaking 3 days out. Switching off is just as important as switching on and building up speed over a weekend is much more critical to the final result than full noise on the first day, it will also mean you get there without having to make an unexpected trip to the Emergency Room, and that for many will likely result in another yes next time you go asking Mum for permission for a weekend away racing.