How to Perfect Your Race Morning + Start with Alexey Vermeulen

2 Nov
10 MIN

After finishing second in the inaugural Life Time Grand Prix Series, one thing is clear: Alexey Vermeulen understands how to prepare for a great race day. Here, we're chatting through his morning routine. In this case, we talked about how he scheduled the morning of Big Sugar gravel, a 100-mile race that started at 7:30AM and was around 55 degrees at the start.

The alarm is set for 4:45 AM to allow plenty of time to eat and digest ahead of the race. When it goes off, breakfast is the top priority. ""I like the three hour or two and a half hour rule for eating. So I'll probably get up ahead of five, which is rough. But that's how the racing goes. I'm super simple on race morning," he says. "I eat white rice and scrambled eggs." (To make it even simpler, he uses the pre-cooked cups of Minute Rice, available at any grocery store, since they can warm up in the pan with the eggs in minutes.)

"I want to be able to continue eating all the way up to the race, because it's hard to ever fuel enough when you're racing hard," he adds.

He doesn't rush breakfast, but has some quiet time to relax (and OK, look at his phone!) before starting to get kitted up.

"For a 7:30 start, I'll leave with plenty of time to get to the start, just so I'm not stressed at all," he says. "That means I'll roll out at 6:30 to get to the start line. I'll just be there and relax in the car if I want to, but that way I know I'm there, I have all my stuff and I'm ready to go."

Before he heads out, bottles and pack get filled, fuel in the pack is checked, tire pressure is rechecked from the night before, and he's fully dressed to race.

"At 15 minutes before the start, I'll be there on the line," he says. "I don't want to feel any stress or rush, or risk getting caught behind for no reason," he says. "And then, for me, at five seconds to go, I tell myself, 'No more thoughts.' Three seconds to go, I take a big deep breath and make sure I'm clipped in. And then, it's on."

What does he think about early in the race?

"It's thoughts like staying in the front group, but not burning energy during the neutral start. Pay attention to how guys are reacting: you learn really quickly how everyone is feeling, if you look for it. Everyone throws a piece of their hand down. So you can see how people feel on the day, on that course. I'm most relieved when I get 15 to 20 miles in and everything finally relaxes a little bit. That's when you know, 'OK, this is a full-out race all day' or 'OK, this is going to be a slow burn.'"

Molly Hurford

Author for the Jukebox Cycling Team