Racing Tips from 3 Top Gravel Pros

12 Feb
15 MIN

With racing starting at MidSouth in a month, plenty of people are starting to have race day on the brain. Last month, Jukebox Cycling’s Alexey Vermeulen, Adam Roberge and Dylan Johnson sat down and chatted with us about how they’re heading into gravel racing season. You can watch the full video below, or just read their best advice for racing smart, or you can read more about gravel nutrition here, and training ahead of the season here.

Make some lists

Alexey lives and dies by lists written on legal pads. He makes packing lists, the schedule for the day, nutrition plans, everything. No matter how many races you've done in the past, it's always worth rewriting or at least reviewing your lists. (Pro tip: Use an app like Notes or Evernote to save lists that recur, like your packing list for gravel races, or your grocery list for a race weekend, so you don't have to re-think it every time.)

Know what the schedule of the day is + race details

Does the race offer neutral support? What's offered at aid stations? How many people are in your wave? Knowing details can help you adjust your plans, from what you carry to how early you get to the course. Just like road racing, knowing the schedule and start time is important. And in gravel, where events are often mass start and chaotic at the beginning, it's even more important to know when and where you can line up for the best possible start to your race. Pay attention to the details—and if you nervous about the start, check it out the day before so you know exactly where to park, ride and line up.

Be prepared to be your own mechanic

Both on course and pre-race! That means traveling with things like allen keys, a good pump, plus all the tools you may need on course to fix flats or make quick adjustments to handlebars that have loosened after 100 miles of bumpy gravel. Don't rely on neutral support, aid stations, or your fellow racers to have the tools you'll need. And the night before your race, give your bike a once-over to make sure that brakes are working, tire pressure is dialed, everything is tightened appropriately, and shifting is smooth. Don't wait until race morning to check!

Being nervous is OK

Start line jitters are completely normal—and the good news (according to these three riders, anyway) is that as soon as you're a minute into the race, those nerves fade completely and you're just focused on the task at hand.

Have a nutrition plan

While each rider will have different specific eating/drinking plans, having some kind of plan is critical. Don't wait until race day (or even the day before) to decide what you'll eat... and definitely don't try anything new on race day (not even that tempting new gel they gave you at packet pickup!) Not sure what to eat or drink? Read more about gravel nutrition here!

Read some race reports or watch some videos

The best way to prep for a race is to know what to expect on the course. For instance, in Belgian Waffle Ride San Diego, the course goes from a huge road to a section of singletrack, making positioning in that moment incredibly important. Having a sense of what to expect on course also helps you know what tire pressure to run, and how to pace yourself for the day. Look at maps and elevation profiles as well, but the more footage you can watch, the better. (For a lot of great race recaps, check out Dylan's YouTube or Adam's YouTube for great course intel!) Bonus: Watching these videos will get you excited for race day!

Watch the whole gravel chat video here:

Stay tuned to find out how each rider fuels for gravel racing, as well as their top tips for race day prep, dialing in tire pressure, and adding strength training to a training calendar throughout the year.

Feature Photo by Joana Abreu on Unsplash