Hannah Payton: my race day
19 October 2013
Nineteen year old Hannah Payton has been Junior National Cyclocross Champion, the overall women’s winner of the National Trophy, and she rides at international level representing Great Britain. We asked her to share her cyclocross race day routine with us to help young riders tackle their own races as well as possible.
The Night Before
My preparation for a race always starts the night before. I find it is very important to eat a well prepared meal which includes carbohydrate and protein. Chilli con carne and rice is a pre-race favourite! I also drink lots of water to keep hydrated and fit in some stretching using my foam roller. I then make sure I have a good night’s sleep.
On race day I have my porridge and banana for breakfast. This is really important and as a youth I always struggled to eat a big breakfast. When you’re nervous it’s hard to eat, but it’s so important!
I always pre-ride the course to understand the technical sections and work out my lines in the bends. When I was younger I used to go round the course but I never appreciated how much time could be lost or gained. I have since learnt that cyclocross is all about marginal gains. Every second that can be made in a bend can equate to minutes by the end of the race. I spend as much time as possible rehearsing the course.
In training I do at least one skills session a week where I purely focus on practicing hurdles, starts, off camber sections, cornering, steep banks, run ups and pit changes. Some of these skills can also be practiced out on the road when I’m training. Every time I get on and off a bike I make sure I mount and dismount properly and every time I have to stop at traffic lights I practice my starts. When I get back from a training ride, before I put my bike back in the garage, I pick it up 10 times as though I’m hurdling to strengthen my arm. All these things are very easily done and don’t take up any more time and they make a real difference!
A warm-up is also really important. I personally warm up on a turbo but some people prefer rollers. I start my 20 minute warm-up with lots of layers on and by the end I am in short sleeves. When I was younger, I struggled to understand why I should put so much effort into a warm-up and found it hard to get to this state in the half an hour before a big race but it is super important and makes a big difference to your race. You want to be able to give it everything from the gun, not take half of the race to get going. I aim to finish my warm-up 15 minutes before the start. Once I get to the start I ride up and down the start straight until we are called for gridding. I keep all of my clothes on until a few minutes before the start to keep as warm as possible for as long as possible.
After a race, whether it is an international race, a national or a local race, I always look back at what I did well and the mistakes I made, why I made them and what I should have done differently. No one ever rides a perfect cross race so there are always areas to improve on. Sometimes it could be how I paced myself through the race, sometimes it could be a skills area or a certain section of the course that I didn’t do particularly well. Other times it could just be lack of concentration or that I’m tired from a hard week’s training. I know I’ll only get better if I practice what I am not so good at.
It is impossible to go well at every race you do. Sometimes I’ll have a bad race and I don’t know why.
Finally, I try to remember that this is for fun and so even on a bad day I still try to celebrate that I was there, that I enjoyed the spirit of the event and that there will always be another race to look forward to.