Editor’s Note: This article is part of Mtbr.com’s inside-the-race series, where we examine a facet of the ongoing Trans-Sylvania Epic currently happening near State College, Pennsylvania. To learn more about the race, visit TSEpic.com. For race reports and results head to outdoorexperience.org/tse/live-coverage. This article is written by Karen Brooks.
Luck plays a crucial role in mountain bike racing. But as we know, you often make your own good luck via good preparation, especially in a multi-day race such as the NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic currently happening near State College, Pennsylvania. Besides the obvious steps, like checking tire pressure or washing your kit (or not), some people develop extra special preparations — let’s call them rituals — all their own. We talked to some racers to find out more about their pre-race rituals.
Justin Lindine (Competitive Cyclist)
“I used to have more when I first started racing — these are my lucky gloves, these are my lucky socks. But I had a lot of socks and gloves, and some got lost. So at that point I thought maybe I should stop being so weird about these things. I do like to make sure my bike is clean, which is not completely necessary, but sort of an OCD tic. Detailing the bike before the race is what I do to keep myself occupied if I’m feeling nervous.”
Cleaning to the level of “detailing” might be OCD, but it’s actually a good way to uncover mechanical issues before they get critical.
Sue Haywood (NoTubes Elite Women’s Team)
Haywood has a very grounded philosophy about extra preparation.
“I know it’s going to hurt! But there’s that balance — that doesn’t mean it’s a deal-breaker. But I don’t have any superstitions, the lucky earring or whatever. I would just say coffee in the morning.”
Crystal Anthony (Riverside Racing)
“You should talk to some Belgians. They are the most superstitious bike racers ever. You can’t eat warm bread before a race, and you have to take a shower before you eat… you can’t shave your legs the day before a race because that will rob your body of energy it takes to grow hair.”
What?!? Really? (Justin Lindine confirms this.)
Vanessa McCaffery (Stan’s NoTubes/Corning)
“My pre-race ritual does not involve finding out that my back brake is totally non-functional. Granted, some people would argue this would improve my riding.”
On the serious side, McCaffery is allergic to bee stings, so she always keeps a medical kit ready and in her pocket. And she always wears a certain silver bracelet, kind of like Wonder Woman’s metal cuffs.
Bryna Blanchard (North American Velo)
“I have a certain bread that I bake to travel with to races, and I have two loaves of it here — peanut butter banana bread with chocolate chips.”
Sounds like a winning strategy!
Selene Yeager (Rare Disease Cycling)
Yeager is another seasoned pro who has learned to go with the flow.
“I try not to get hung up on that stuff — you have to be flexible. You never know what’s going to happen.”
She does wear her jewelry in races (although she says if a necklace flew off it wouldn’t bother her), and also says a simple prayer at the start — “Just let me ride my ride.” But ultimately, she keeps things in perspective. “If I blow up, I still have my friends and family.”
Ultimately, it seems that mountain bike racers (at least in the U.S.) are not as obsessive with good luck rituals or charms as some other athletes, such as hockey or tennis players. This may be because they have enough things to take care of, between maintaining bikes and bodies, without the benefits of a large support staff. The upside is that taking care of all those details helps racers feel in control of their own destiny.