DECOSTER: RACE WITH YOUR HEAD

HAVE A PLAN A & PLANS B THROUGH Z

Of all types of racing, motocross is fairly pure. The gate drops, and the guy who goes the fastest wins. Other forms of racing, like enduro timekeeping, are more strategy than speed. Some types of bicycle racing are a virtual chess match, and NASCAR is a war won with smart pit stops and tire selection. Even in motocross, though, you can’t just twist the throttle and hope for the best. Here are some tips for a smart race. 

  • Eat a good breakfast. Okay, it doesn’t take a genius to figure this one out. If you are going to be at the track all day, you want to start off with a belly of good food, consisting of complex carbohydrates, like whole wheat cereal and fruit. 
  • Walk the track. Even if you have been around that track a zillion times, you can still learn something–in fact, especially if you have been around that track a zillion times. Sometimes you automatically exclude a perfectly good line just because it didn’t work three weeks ago. Look at it like it’s an all-new track. 
  • Don’t be first out. In general you should let the other riders soak up the mud before you go out. This certainly isn’t an absolute rule, though. If you need practice in mud, then by all means, go out early and slide around to your heart’s content. If it’s an unfamiliar track, get in as much riding time as you can before the race starts. 
  • Don’t try to win practice. Try to spend your practice time attempting different lines, watching other riders and paying attention to your bike. 
  • Go to the riders meeting. Some riders think they are too cool for the riders meeting. I remember one year at the Luxembourg GP, a rider threw away a perfectly good start by riding a section that they had cut out. It was a change announced at the riders meeting, but he wasn’t there. 
  • Watch earlier starts. Don’t be surprised by an unusual starting procedure. At many local tracks, the two-minute sign has nothing to do with two minutes; they just hold up the sign by force of habit. Remember which positions the good starts and the bad starts come from. 
  • If you get a good start, don’t worry about the riders behind you. If you think someone is going to hit your rear wheel, let him. Chances are he will go down and you won’t budge. 
  • Don’t take chances with a lead. When pulling away, keep doing what you are doing. If you are pulling away, how do you know it? You need a smart person giving you signals; then you know how hard you need to ride. 
  • Keep concentrating! Motos where you lead from the start can seem to go on forever. You can’t let your concentration slip. Also, don’t try to deliberately slow down if you have a big lead-that can trigger a pointless crash. Just concentrate. 
  • Don’t look back. If someone is catching you, you will know it soon enough. If you look back, he will know you’re scared, and the process of turning your head can and will cost you a fraction of a second. 
  • Don’t deliberately block. There’s nothing wrong with hogging the best line on the track. There’s nothing wrong with sticking to the inside line and not letting a front wheel underneath. There is something wrong with crossing the track to deliberately block someone else–it doesn’t work. That means the rider behind you is choosing your lines for you. He will pass you sooner than ever. 
  • Don’t worry about being passed. If someone dives for the inside line, and there are still a few laps to go, let him have it. Then watch and learn from him. If he shows you all his tricks, then pass him back late in the race and don’t give him time to retaliate. 
  • Ride clean. Whenever you put another rider into a “let me by or we both crash” situation, you are playing with fire. Eventually you run into the rider who chooses the “we both crash” option. Likewise, don’t cross the track while airborne. It’s only a race. 
  • After a bad start, try to use first turn confusion to your advantage. Remember, when riders tangle, they drift to the outside of the turn. Aim for the inside and you can pass several riders at a time.
  • If someone is going out of his way to block you, outsmart him. Try the outside line two or three turns in a row. Then fake to the outside and cut to the inside. If he goes for the bait, he will move out and leave the track wide open. 

There are a million ways to pass. Unfortunately, there also are a million ways to be passed. You can’t always be on the winning end of it, but one thing is certain: the rider who thinks while he rides is going to win more than the rider who does not. 

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