Race Routine

It’s great when you can travel from home to a race, you have all the support and kit there to help set you up for a great day on the bike. But more often than not you have to travel, and as the adage goes, failing to prepare is preparing to fail, sorry, Boy Scout.

Preparing for a race covers a whole host of elements, from physical training and mental preparation, bike prep, nutrition through to travel and accomodation logistics to name but a few. In this post I’m going to cover the week running up to a big race, what I do to prepare and when, as well as outlining my race day routine running up to the start line.

7 Days to go

With 7 days to race day, chances are it is the weekend, you might want to get one last big training ride in before resting up over the coming week. Conveniently the weekend also gives you plenty of time to get your bike race ready, a good place to start is with my earlier post on race Bike prep.

Hopefully your bike received the all clear, however if anything has been flagged up as needing replaced then you have the time to order any new parts to get your steed back to full health before the race weekend.

On a side note, try not to stack it in the week running up to a race, just a suggestion.

Other things to do are to ensure any travel and accommodation arrangements are made and you know how to get there, you don’t want a stressful drive to ruin to start of your race experience, after all its meant to be fun!

3 Days to go

With 3 days to go your training should be in full taper mode, so instead of lounging on the sofa its time to pack your race kit. This is a basic list and should only be used as a starting point. It is always better to pack something and leave it in the car than have to scrounge around the carpark for a bottom bracket tool 30 minutes before the start of the race!

  • Bike (obviously)
  • Helmet
  • Knee pads and armour if it is a gravity race
  • Shoes
  • Socks
  • Gloves
  • Sunglasses
  • Jersey
  • Shorts and Bib if you are so inclined
  • Winter/rain clothes (being caught off-guard can make for a miserable race) including base layer, arm/leg warmers, etc.
  • Post-race, warm change of clothes (change out of chamois as soon as you can)
  • Back pack (if using one)
  • Bottles, use N+1 to work out how many you need
  • Heart rate strap (if you use one)
  • Race food
  • Post-race recovery drink/snack
  • Post race beer (if not driving)
  • Electrolyte drink or tabs
  • Plenty of water
  • Spare wheels ready to race
  • Cycling computer (if you use one)
  • Bike floor pump
  • Tools: Ensure you have tools for all parts of your bike, bare minimum take, Allen key multi-tool, flathead & Phillips screwdrivers, electrical tape
  • Spare tubes, tire levers & CO2

With your race kit packed its time to give the bike one last check. This is especially important if you needed to order any parts for your race bike after its thorough going over earlier in the week.

Night before

So you’ve traveled to the race venue and got your self settled into your dig’s, tomorrows the big race and its time for the race routine to kick in. Not staying at the race venue and traveling the morning of the race? No problem just just do the final count down at home.

10 under the ben campsite
Mountain Bikestock

If at the venue and its possible, go check out the course, if its a downhill, go walk the track, if its a XC race go walk or ride a lap.

carb loading
Two Teas McGhee

Time to eat, carb load like crazy, pasta and a lean protein like chicken or tuna is a great place to start. Don’t over do it and don’t eat anything that your not familiar with the last thing you need is stomach issues from a dodgy curry, keep simple and carb filled. Lay you race day kit out, pack your back pack if you are using one, set your bottles or hydration pack out, you know it’s all fine as you checked it when you packed it on day three but peace of mind leads to a good sleep and rest is important.

Race Day

Breakfast time! this meal sets you up for your race so make it count! A balanced mix of slow release carbs and some protein for the win. So a big bowl of porridge followed by a fruit salad with some greek yoghurt and coffee for me. Some people like eggs as well, but I’m not an egg guy.

Hydration before your race is just as important as during your race, make sure you include electrolyte drinks in your pre-race hydration especially if its a warm day.

Get to the race venue good and early with at least an hour to spare, as soon as you arrive get yourself registered and collect your race number.

Run through the final check list

  • Number pinned
  • Tires pumped and pressure checked
  • Computer on bike and HR monitor on
  • Full bottles
  • All the food you need
  • All multi tools and spares needed packed

Allow time for a proper warm up, stretch up slowly working through all the major muscle groups, a quality warm up should take at least 30 minutes. Do some sprints as well as some climbing where possible, the more intense the race is from the gun the more intense the warm up should be.

The hour before your start time have a final snack, a banana or a gel with caffeine is ideal.

Get yourself to the start line early and get a good position if its a mass start, if the race has a staggered start then be early for your start time.

And finally, have a good race.


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Comrie Cream O the Croft

Comrie Croft is a privately owned trail centre and campsite, with a focus on sustainability and serious green credentials, it is also the home of a surprisingly tough enduro.

The Cream O’ The Croft is a three day bike festival held over a weekend in June, the highlight being a 9 stage enduro race held on the Saturday. Muckmedden Events was the race organiser, their Fair City Enduro being such a fun event and with Comrie being two hours from me. Well, it would be rude not to race.

Arriving on site I was immediately struck by the atmosphere being more like a boutique festival than a mountain bike race. The camp site had as many families and kids running around as hardened racers and privateers. That isn’t to say that there wasn’t a stacked field in attendance, brought home to me as James Shirley’s Radon Factory Racing van parked next to me whilst getting the bike ready. This was going to be a serious day on the bikes.

Registration was a quick affair, no queues here, leaving plenty of time to take in the event village. The festival meant there was plenty of attractions for those not racing. Indoor and outdoor bouncy castles, face painting, Segways and a 60 foot slip and slide were just some of the family friendly attractions. This and the food and beer all added up to make the day a great one for little and big ones.

I was in the fourteenth wave which gave me plenty of time after the briefing to stretch off and warm up before my start time. The waves left like Swiss trains, and without delay we left the village and started up the climb to stage one.

wave set off

After a social climb stage one had the usual queue, people shifting and squeezing tyres. All whilst trying not to make it obvious that they were watching every rider leaving the gate to watch for the best line

Stage One

Starting from the highest point on the trails, and with a big audience watching, it was hard not to go full gas straight from the off. Large exposed slabs of rock were punctuated with water bars, loose rocks and punchy climbs. It was a long stage and the pace of the start was hard to maintain, I’m still not pacing properly on stages!

I made a few little mistakes and it wasn’t long before “RIDER” was being called from behind. Approaching a group of stationary riders and taping, I could let the acid in my legs ease as it was the end, or so I thought. The stage crossed the start of stage two, I was only half way through! Digging in I passed a few people on hardtails on the descent and made it finally to the end.

Stage 2 Enduro Comrie croft scotland

Stage Two

Making my way up to the start of stage two was a quick affair, were I found that I wasn’t the only one caught out by the physicality of the first stage. The banter was drowned out by people coughing loudly and producing substantial lung biscuits at regular intervals.

The second stage was the “XC Stage”, sharing much of the character of the first just with more climbs and prolonged pedaling. This stage had many man made rock gardens of the type that look like stepping stones, the kind specifically designed to rob you of momentum. Keeping light and popping over the water bars the fatigue started to build. I started relying on the bike more and more, and once more, “RIDER”. With a rabbit to chase more depth was found in the legs as I tried to keep him in view till the end of the stage, I failed but I found more speed for the last leg!

Crieff Comrie Croft Scotland Nature
Stunning views graced every climb.

Whilst the day started overcast the clouds soon boiled off and with the mercury rising, keeping fluids up was quickly becoming a priority.

Stage Three

This stage was the blue trail, flowing with small drops, berms and moguls to work through. It was a fast and fun stage, bone dry and easy to wash out in the dust if you let your concentration lapse. I had a clean stage except for one thing, the start. I fumble trying to clip in and took what felt like an age to hear that reassuring click and was finally able to get the power down.

My goals for the day were to focus on body position and ride clean, aiming to land in the top 50% overall. One thing however was becoming apparent, I need to work on my starts. I was losing to much time trying to dib in and get shifting, I was struggling to clip in and wasn’t getting any power down as I was trying not to slip a pedal. Not good, and definitely room for improvement.

Stage four

This was the climb stage, it was a single track slog that led to a fire road grind. It used the climb that was the spine of the days route and I cursed myself for not paying enough attention to where the stage actually ended. This resulted in me leaving to much in the tank, with the end of the stage coming up sooner than expected. Frustrating as climbing is usually a stronger area of my riding, live and learn.

Five and seven shared a starting point, one went left the other right. The site is compact for a trail centre with it making best use of the available hill, but this compact nature meant every stage had a queue. Not necessarily a bad thing as you had plenty time to recover, as long as you kept yourself stretched out.

Stage five

This was easily my best and favorite stage of the day, a sentiment echoed by many of the other riders. Starting in tight trees with narrow rooty and rocky trail with serrated rocky drops and chutes. Before breaking the treeline and opening up onto warp speed trails that scythed through the long grass the before dropping down the hillside to the shared end point with stage seven.

I finally got a good start, clipping in and getting good power down from the off. I went smooth but not full gas, as it was all to easy to clip a bar or get taken out by a sniper rock on the narrow rutted trail. Keeping momentum on the short climbs as the light started to grow, the trees thinned out and I let the bike run whilst cranking hard. The acceleration was immense, few trails combine tight technical terrain and high speed hill side, and this one was just immense.

Dibbing out, I was breathing hard and knew I’d done well (for me) and left little still on the hill, it was onwards and downwards to stage six.

Stage Six

This stage presented a total change of pace and a test of handling skill, a line of table tops joined a pump track. The stage was two laps of the pump track, you could pedal up to the first jump, then it was pump and jump for the two laps of the track. A 15 second time penalty for any pedaling after the first jump kept things interesting.

Stage 6 Pump Track Challenge

I (like a good number of riders) got a few laps in on the pump track before the race briefing, so I was confident that I would be able to make the two laps without penalty. Sprinting hard out the gate to get as much acceleration whilst I could, I was cleanly over the jumps and into the pump track. It went well but I lost some momentum towards the end of the second lap, still, no time penalties.

Blue Skys Comrie Crieff Scotland

By now the sky was a deep azure, with the thick heat and sound of crickets  chirping their song along every trail, you could swear we were racing on the continent. Back up the climb that was a recurring feature of the day and to decision rock.

Stage Seven

Whilst waiting my turn in the line, word came up that someone had crashed at the first feature, a rocky chute with drops almost immediately after the start. This prompted half the queue to go for a short track walk to see what the sapling trees were hiding from us. It was a nasty rock garden with the smoothest line ending on a massive awkward stump waiting to grab your front wheel. Forewarned is forearmed, so it was back to the line to await my turn.

The stage was similar in character to stage 5, it had a big unrollable drop half way in and some sharper climbs but a similar style and mix of trail. I got a good start again and made a clean job of the first few features, they were similar to my home trails and fun to ride. I made a total mess of the first sharp climb, losing all momentum and in a totally wrong gear it was faster to get off and run. Clipping back in for another rocky chute it had cost me time, placing 17th on stage 5 and 25th on the seventh. Still making mistakes that I don’t have time to claw back time on, it was over the drop across the hillside meadow before crossing a stream and over the line.

Stage Eight and Nine

The final two stages were two laps of a duel slalom course, swapping over so you raced both lanes. Randomly joining up in the queue with a female rider with a rather serious looking Giant I knew she’d be quick.

Stage 8 9 Comrie Enduro Duel Slalom

The start was like the run up to the pump track, flowing brakeless jumps, berms and moguls before a series of flat turns on freshly cut grass. I won the first round, it is probably fair to say she won the second but it was close racing both times.

James Shirley and Mike Clyne gave a lesson in dibbing out on the final stages and posted wins in their respective categories.

The party atmosphere was building in the event village with the beer flowing and the side “races” kicking off, like the kids granny ring drag race or the adults balance bike drag race. The weather had played ball and the organizers, sponsors and local producers had covered themselves in glory, top day.

With the racing over it was back to the registration desk to get my times and see where I currently stood. I’d landed at 33rd overall when I checked out, a time I wish I could pretend would stick. In the end I was 71st out of 172 overall.

I’d achieved my goal for the day of being in the top 50% overall and had improved on my previous enduro result. My other focus for the day will still need work, but with new things learned at every race there are always things to carry forward to the next one.

Next stop, Tour De Ben?


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Comrie Croft – Helmet Cams

Everyone loves a helmet cam video, great for reliving trails and for getting an idea of the terrain and features before racing blind.

Here we find six of the nine stages from Comrie Cream O the Croft 2016 for your enjoyment, and for familiarizing yourself with the stages for next time.

All videos are my own apart from stage five which is courtesy of Bob Millar.


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Fair City Enduro Racing

The Fair City Enduro offered a change of race discipline in a low pressure race to test myself again.

I haven’t raced this year, not properly, more important family matters where at the front of my mind with the arrival of my son. Once bitten by racing though its a tough itch to scratch, so a one day enduro an hour 30 from my house provided the right opportunity and hard to resist.

Having made it through the spring and summer with less riding and gym work than previous years, my fitness was a slight concern. I hadn’t gained weight but my base level was down on what I was used too so training would have to be tougher and concentrated to get me race ready.

Santa Cruz Heckler 5.0 Classic
Noble steed

This, thankfully, was enduro, so a new approach to training was on the cards anyway. With my weekends happily occupied by the wee man it was the gym at work, so short and regular sessions focusing on strength training and sprint intervals on the spin bike. Gone were long training rides at 3/4 gas in were brutal visits to the pain cave pushing 100%, why does everyday feel like leg day? reminding myself that it wasn’t meant to get easier I was meant to get better.

I was however, very aware that my pace would be down, I had been at skills coaching sessions at the start of the year and felt that my pace was up in the spring, but time off the bike I knew had dulled that edge, by how much we would find out. The night before the race brought on rain of biblical proportions, so as I loaded the bike up in the dark and dreich I like many of the riders was unsure of what conditions would await us on the hill.

as I loaded the bike up in the dark and dreich I like many of the riders was unsure of what conditions would await us on the hill.

Callum Kellie Fair City Enduro

The event was organised by Muckmedden Events, they put on a fun easy going race with an encouraged fancy dress dress code, apart from the usual bottle neck on the first lap/stage you always have with races with 300 + riders the event was well run and supported. With only the occasional issue with taping on transitions causing some pilot error on my part inbetween stages, I enjoyed cutting the tape and “enduro lines” that this race format can be infamous for being on the transitions rather than the stages.

The first stage had the usual nerves but I shook them off as there was long sight lines and the dibber was manned by a marshal so it was fast out the blocks. It was flat cornered and loose but not particularly steep, having been told this race hadn’t had much tech in past years I was expecting this sort of terrain. all was going well when on a soft going sprint section boosh, I slipped a pedal.  Struggling to keep momentum and clip back in at the same time I cursed at forgetting to adjust the spring tension on my new SPD’s and battered on to the finish. My prep had let me down showing how easy it is to loose significant time on a short stage due to the tiniest of things.

The climb up to stage two was a sociable affair which is probably why I didn’t notice how much height we had gained. Lulled into a false sense of security by stage one I dibbed in and sprinted hard out the start gate, keeping light on the bike and off the brakes hopping over roots and building speed when suddenly the trail flew into a tight left and into a steep loose chute, I was not expecting this.

If this were horse racing I believe the term is refusing the jump

I slipped out and essentially half tripod half slid down the chute, clipping back in I was well aware that this stage was done for me (as was the race) but I was determined not to be overtaken by the rider 30secs behind me. My expectations well and truly adjusted for the days trails I dropped into a bike park section with some berms and tabletops before drifting to the end of the stage.

Callum Kellie Fair City Enduro stage 2 StravaigingThat was fun but my race brain was still not thinking for Enduro, I reminded myself this was not a lapped course; this was not a point to point raced over hours and there simply was not the scope to gain back lost time, with this in mind I moved onto the next stage.

Stage three shared the same start point as stage two it was just the other side of the hill, spinning hard off the start popping over roots and working the bike to keep momentum I now knew if I couldn’t see the exit of the turn it was probably a drop and it was. Prepared for it this time I dropped in and down seeing a climb immediately after I smashed through the gears and kept my speed up the climb. I closed on the rider in front of me and made it past them during the climb, swooping into the downs again a marshal shouted “rider down”, I knew they were ahead of me but I didn’t know where.

Checking my speed but not wanting to lose too much when it was going so well, I kept on the gas feeling the acid build in my legs as the trails turned bone dry and dusty. I passed the downed rider on a flat sprint before dropping back into tight trails drifting the last few pine needle covered turns before dibbing out.

I was absolutely beat breathing hard with fire in my legs it had been an incredible stage, I was the last rider down before they closed the stage to clear to injured rider which gave me ample time to recover whilst waiting for my riding buddies.

Transition to stage 4 5 6 Fair City Enduro

The transition to stages four five and six was the longest and most scenic with the weather having a dramatic change of heart over the course of the day, with glorious sunshine breaking through the technicolour forest canopy, it was a great day to be on the bikes.

Transition to stage 4 5 6  Fair City Enduro

The top of stage four was open ground with some rock slabs before the tree line, the marshal said that there was a corner just as you entered the trees, it was flat, grassy and wet and everyone was sliding out on it so watch yourself. The open start gave lots of free speed which continued into the trees With the crash corner ahead I scrubbed my speed, swung my hips and carved perfectly round the turn. Letting loose the anchors I cranked hard enjoying the playful feel of this trail, as I braapped through a speed section before approaching another flat turn.

Scrub, Swing, Sideways, slide on my arse, the marshal hadn’t told me about this corner, but why should he this was blind racing after all! What had been perfect before led to me sliding out and tangling my foot in my chain. Starting from zero on a wet sprint I made it to the end without further incident.

Back up for stage 5 and to bit of a queue who were having a pow wow about how best to start this trail, on the right there was a smooth line to the right with zero tech, not particularly fast and a good bit longer than the main line. To the left was a greasy steep rock chute with plenty of scope to grab a wheel, this set up straight into a sweet speed section before you disappeared into the trees.

Stage 5 Rock chute  Fair City Enduro 2015

A number of riders wrote it off and went right thinking better of the slick rock, to be honest it wasn’t a particularly techy section and was very similar to parts of my favorite home trails.

I spotted my line clipped in hollered “ALLEZ” and with a few crank turns the rear wheel buzzing my shorts I was down and whooping through the trees. This was a fast trail with slick muddy grass everywhere, the flat turns of stage 4 fresh in my mind I scrubbed speed and drifted turns trying to not get too rowdy. At the bottom with a clean run I was happy but knew there was still one last stage and it was going to be a long one.

On the climb up to stage 6 I wound my Fox Talas down from 160 too 120 and powered my way up, the queue at the start was short so I started eyeing down the trail before it was my turn to drop in. Sprinting into the broom that flanked the narrow trail as it ran along the cliff Tops, with flashes of exposure to my left weaving through the trees the trail was fast, grippy and absolutely prime.

The first steep chute had a sweet catch berm at the bottom, getting over the back wheel flowing into the drop the front end was twitchy and vague as I wrestled the bike through the turn. The handling felt very odd just then but shaking it off as just loose dirt I cranked it as the trail started to climb and contour the cliffs. Another steep chute with a drop to pop off approached, pre-loading the bike the front end wandered understeering over the drop, this was getting strange.

My confidence in my usually unshakable steed well and truly shook I took the remaining trail with less commitment than was needed and less speed than previous stages, frustrating as the trail was amazing and the dirt prime.

Dibbing out I hung my head leaning over the bars, looking down I saw the cause of all my woes, my Talas was still set to 120mm. If the head angle was any steeper my bike would of fallen over, never mind robbing the fork of any hard charging abilities severe school boy error.

Severe school boy error.

Rolling back into town the bonus stage awaited us, stage seven consisted of a flat sprint course with wooden rollers and berms as obstacles, it was in the event village so the spectators where out in force as was the heckling from the commentator. Falling over the finish line in a surprising amount of oxygen dept I handed over my dibber to be given my stage times and a flapjack, I don’t even think I saw the flapjack it was eaten so quickly.

It had been a great day of racing but it had been a school day, I knew exactly where my pace was compared with myself earlier in the year, comparatively this was probably my worst placing within my category. But I knew a change of discipline would be a hard one to manage, with a few years of lapped and long races worth of training and strategy wired into the legs and mind the days results where always going to weaker than previous races. With a few key repeat offenders on my events to do list for 2016 I think there will be at least one enduro joining them.

Bring on next year and more Enduro.

Callum Kellie Fair City Enduro stage 7 Stravaiging


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