Here’s what a typical cyclocross race day looks like for me. I’ll use the Kinneil race as an example.
The night before: get everything ready. I use mesh bags to vaguely organise my stuff: one bag for race clothes, one bag for bad weather gear (spare race clothes, coat/trousers, gloves, shoes covers), one bag for warm after-race clothes and a towel. I chuck all that plus helmet/gloves and food/drinks into a big sports bag to make it easy to carry out to the car. I also take a toolkit, but 99% of the time I’m just using chain oil, tyre pressure gauge, pliers for shoe studs and allen keys for thru-axle wheels.
In the morning, I’ll have a big bowl of porridge for breakfast and I’ll make a peanut butter + jam bagel to eat in the car (and a second one to eat post-race). I have a rule: stop eating solid food 3h before the race – I learned this the hard way! Then chuck everything in the car and put the bike on its bike rack and start driving.
I usually aim to get to the race maybe an hour before sign-on opens so I can see some of the earlier races and get an idea of what the course is like. Once sign-on opens, I’ll get my rider pack and head back to the car to pin on the number and keep drinking liquids. I’ll usually have an energy gel about 30mins before the race and then do a bit of ad hoc warming up and check tyre pressures. Usually a practise lap or two is enough to get warmed up.
Staying warm during gridding is sometimes challenging. I’ll usually have my cycling jacket and maybe a hat in my pocket, and I’ll take a cheap drawstring bag so I can dump them at the side once the race is about to start. This also means I can grab them easily at the end of the race.
The race itself is always fun. I always want to go hard in the early laps, but know I’ll regret it later. I find it useful to divide up the course and decide which sections I can push hard on, and where I’ll recover. There’s a lot of psychology – it’s good to try and hang on to slightly faster riders as they pass you, but also know when to give up hanging on. It’s also worth being tactical – it’s worth pushing to get ahead before you enter a narrow technical section rather than being held up. In the first half of the race, the positions are still getting shaken out but in the second half it’s a much more gradual affair: you can see the guy just up the road who you might be able to reel in, and you know the group that’s just behind have you in their sights. Everyone pushes harder on the final lap – and there’s always places to be won and lost.
After my race, once I’ve regained my composure and gotten back up off the ground I’ll usually stick around to watch the senior/open race and consume some calories. Then it’s time to chuck the bike on the car and drive home. If it’s been a muddy race, I’ll power-wash the bike and my shoes outside and degrease the drivetrain (screwfix degreaser is awesome). If it’s been a REALLY muddy race I’ll chuck my race clothes in a bucket of water outside to remove some mud before they get near the washing machine. Then shower and eat more calories … and relax!