What does a downhill or enduro race weekend really look like?

30 Mar
10 MIN

You may watch pro enduro or downhill on TV, and while it looks like it would be a ton of fun (except for those huge crashes), there’s a lot going on that you don’t see in those highlight reels. So, what does a downhill or enduro race weekend really look like? It’s not all about sending it. There’s a ton of work (and pedaling) happening behind the scenes. Here, we asked Jukebox Cycling’s Rachel Pageau to walk us through a race weekend. She recently raced enduro and downhill in Tennessee as her season opener, placing second and fourth overall respectively. It’s a solid start to the season after a tough 2022!

Overall, how was the enduro weekend?

It was really fun. But it was so hectic. It was four massive days: Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, all starting at 8am at the bike park and then not getting home before 6 PM, then having an hour or two of cleanup, because the next morning it would start all over again. And I had to make time for eating, meal prepping and of course, Instagram posts about the riding! I was also giving lessons to a younger girl. I knew I didn't really have time, but I was like, ‘If she comes to the bike park and she rides by herself, she's gonna hate it.’ So, I'm glad I made the time.

How much riding do you do for enduro races?

On Thursday, I was on the bike for eight hours, probably pedaling for 6.5 hours of that. On Friday, I had the lesson in the morning for two and a half hours. Then in the afternoon I pedaled for three hours. Then Saturday was the big race, so I was on the bike to get my chip at 9am and I got off the bike at 5:15PM with very few breaks in there.

How do you go from day to day without getting exhausted?

Honestly, I've been having a hard time going to sleep early. And obviously if you're waking up at seven  on the bike for eight hours, you want a lot of sleep or at least as much sleep as you can get. When I get nervous, I can't sleep. And the evening goes by so fast.

Walk us through the evenings before races.

You get home and clean your bikes, then it seems like the next minute you're making dinner but it’s already 9PM and you haven’t even showered. Plus, I’m making dinner AND meal prepping for the next day, making a PB and J and then making a smoothie and making a little frozen pizza that I was going to have for lunch because I know that eating 10 bars in a day gets old and you just won’t eat enough. I’m also trying to wash kit and get all my gear ready for the next day, not just the bike. It’s so much prep work! I try to get as many things prepared as possible at night to make the morning a little less stressful, and so that I can go to bed with as little things in my head as possible, because I know I already have a hard time sleeping.

Run us through the gear list—it’s not just a bike, right?

Luckily, I have a big van, so I can load it up with everything I might need. My bikes are ready the night before and they’re loaded. I check my shoes, helmet and kit and make sure everything is clean. My meal prep is in the fridge in little piles. And I have a backpack with the other little stuff that I'll bring on the day. When I wake up in the morning, it takes me 45 minutes to get ready. But then I'll give myself like an hour or so, just to have extra time. This weekend was nice because I live close to this bike park, so the drive was short. But I like having longer drives, since it gives me time to drink coffee, listen to music and wake up.

And what did race day look like?

This race weekend was wild because it was really extreme weather. It was super cold, especially at the top of the hill. It was 22 degrees Fahrenheit up there! There was a bit of snow, and the mud was super slick because of some ice. It was so crazy. Your fingers are frozen, so you can’t really tell if you’re grabbing the brakes! It was memorable, though. Racing on home trails is always a blessing and a curse—on one hand, you know them really well. But on the other, you have high expectations, so if you mess something up, you can really get inside your head. That’s what happened to me after I had a small crash—I just kept messing after that. You just gets so inside your head and you're like, 'you've never messed this section up, so you don't mess it up now. And then of course, you mess it up.

How do you recover from those moments?

There’s always another race—you just have to remember that. I’ve struggled with this in the last couple years, though. There have been so many ups and downs, and it’s been a while since I really felt like I was truly in race mode. Right now, because it’s so early in the season, I’m looking at these races as practice. But at the same time, I’m not trying to let myself have any excuses for performance. So it’s a delicate balance!