Pre Race Rituals

by Tonu Kallast
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Pre Race Rituals

Your heart is pumping. Adrenaline is coursing through your veins. Your thoughts run ahead to the moment the gate will drop and you get the holeshot. The sights, smells and sounds are a full-on assault on your senses. You can only be in one place: on the starting line.

Keeping calm and focused and staying in control in the emotional heat of the starting line can be tough. With so many races won or lost at the drop of the gate, it’s no surprise that many riders have pre-race rituals to manage their start line nerves and get off to a dream start.

Perfect Preparation

Of course, for some riders – both new and experienced – preparing their bike is a pre-race ritual in itself. David Knight is one of these. With two E3 World Championship titles under his belt, Knight says that preparing his bike and knowing it’s good enough to win on is his only pre-race ritual.

Follow him by investing some time into learning basic maintenance routines, and make sure you have great mechanic you can trust. Failing to prepare is a major cause of DNF, and these basic skills will pay dividends before, during and after racing.

Make sure your bike is clean and prepped, and don’t be tempted to make last-minute changes just before a race. Leave enough time for parts to arrive and adjustments to be tested, and carry out any more major tasks a week or so in advance of racing.

Find Focus

All riders have their own ways of finding focus on the start line. For Jesper Börjesson of the Husqvarna Factory Racing Team, finding focus is the only thing on his mind at the starting gates, while Bradley Cox, 5x South African Champion, uses music to calm his mind before riding. Music on the starting blocks is a method common for many athletes because it blocks out noise and allows for concentration on the race ahead. Choose something upbeat and pacy to get you in the mood.

Visualize The Race

Getting to know each and every test before riding is Swedish Enduro Champion Albin Elowson‘s pre-race ritual. From getting the holeshot at the drop of the starting gate to pinning it round every corner and taking every jump perfectly, many riders will have lived every race before even crossing the starting line. Their secret is visualizing the race before hitting the track.
Take time in advance of racing to mentally play through different race scenarios – some perfect and others not so. Knowing in advance how you plan to race a tough course or hit your personal race objectives is calming and builds confidence.

Have a Lucky Habit

Of course, for many riders – from the pros to the newbies – pre-race rituals involve superstitions and habits. 2x Enduro World Champion Pela Renet, for example, will shave on the Thursday before a race, while EWC Junior Champion Daniel McCanney insists on touching wood before racing – a habit he attributes to his Manx roots. Lucky pants, lucky socks, lucky habits and lucky personal grooming routines. Whatever works for you, keep on doing it!

Say a Prayer

And finally, there are those riders who choose to say a prayer on the start line. Zach Osborne, from the KTM Factory Racing Team is among them. Whatever higher power you choose to appeal to, racing is a tough gig and sometimes every little bit helps.

Pre-race rituals are diverse. While preparing the bike before a race might involve a similar routine for many riders, the habits used to calm and focus the mind at the starting gates are unique to the individual. Maybe you already have your own personal pre-race ritual that keeps you lucky.

Over to you. What are your pre-race rituals?

by Tonu Kallast


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