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How to race your best MTB Stage Race

For some people, stage races are bike vacations. For others, stage racing is an intense week of racing. I’ve done it both ways and I’m not sure which was more fun! Whichever end of the spectrum you are on, nailing your race goal (finishing with a good experience or placing) takes some planning and care.


Here is what a typical stage race day looks like:

  • Eat or drink breakfast
  • Check over bike
  • Prepare race fuel and fluids for the day
  • Dress in team kit
  • Warm up
  • Race
  • Finish and immediately have a recovery drink.
  • Do a short cool down spin
  • Sit in a cold river or ice bath for 5-10 mins
  • Clean bike
  • Clean self
  • Snack
  • Gentle stretch while still warm from the shower
  • 30-60 min nap
  • Massage or 30 min Elevated Legs compression recovery
  • Fix any mechanicals and tune up bike for the next day
  • Snack
  • Relax
  • Dinner
  • Review next stage profile and make race strategy
  • Podium ceremony, day review, photos and movies
  • Bed to sleep for 8 hours


The trick to nailing a stage race is turning it around and doing it over again at the same pace the next day. Pacing, fueling and hydrating during each stage, along with recovery after stages, are the keys to rolling strong for the whole race.



Getting to the finish line the fastest with the least impact on your body is the plan for every stage but the last. On the final stage, go for broke and empty the tank!

Start each stage with your body well hydrated, and keep up the fluid intake all the way to the finish line. Performance is reduced with dehydration. In a stage race, you will feel the deep impact of dehydration on the following day. The fastest way to return from a bad dehydration experience is an IV. IV’s are currently classified as a prohibited method of doping by the USADA (US Anti-Doping Agency) except in an acute medical situation. In Canada at BCBR and Trans Rockies, IV’s are used liberally by the medical staff. Make your own decision on your best plan. The best plan is to stay hydrated in the first place.

To go the fastest in each stage with the least impact on your body, start each stage with your liver and muscle glycogen stores fully topped off, and fuel through to the finish line. Bonking during a stage (and digging deep into your muscle stores or even metabolizing the muscle itself) will grind you down, making the next day particularly hard.

The accurate pacing plan depends on your goals and your training. Regardless, you should hold energy in reserve during the earlier stages and only empty the tank on the final stage.



Following each stage, focus on recovery. Getting your body back up to race shape by next day’s start is your highest priority.

Consume a recovery drink immediately upon finishing -this means within minutes of finishing. Chug it down even if you feel like a Fear Factor contestant. Stage races usually have lots of carbohydrates to offer at the finish line such as carb-drinks, cookies and fruit. However, protein sources can be scarce. If you do not have a support crew to hand you a recovery drink at the finish line, carry a Ziploc bag in your pocket during the stage with recovery drink powder and mix it up yourself immediately after finishing.

If you are using the meal plan at the stage race, be first in line at breakfast and dinner. In my experience the meals are great but food snafus do happen. Food runs out and sometimes there is less than adequate seating . That kind of stuff is tough to handle when you are tired and hungry. If you are coffee dependent, have your own caffeine source to fall back on if there is no coffee at breakfast. Racing in a caffeine depleted state is an ugly situation for some athletes.

Take it very lightly on the junk food that is available post- race (like cookies, chips and yummy deserts at dinner time). The problem here is that junk food slows down your GI and over the course of a week can really stop you up. Racing with a full colon makes you slow.

Sleep, stretching, ice baths and Elevated Legs compression recovery or massage will speed up the recovery process. Read through our Tools to Speed Recovery page and use every technique available.

By Lynda Wallenfels Google+

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