How to warm-up for a race | Clancy Briggs Academy

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The ultimate race warmup guide?

We all know the feeling when you jump on a bike, pedal hard and immediately feel like your legs have turned to jelly – in a race this can mean game over!
How can you prevent this? Well, we’ve spoken to our coaches and asked them how they warm-up for a bike race, read on to find out what they had to say & what we think makes the perfect pre-race warmup routine.

Ali Slater

I like to have a go-to warmup that I can use every time before a race, although I’m a big believer in adjusting it if I feel I need to. For example, if I feel more tired than usual I’ll bring the intensity down a little bit or if I’m super fresh I might spend a bit longer on the warmup.

By having my set routine, it helps me focus on the event and deal with any pre-race nerves. It also gives me something consistent to use to measure how I’m feeling, I’ve done it so many times that I know exactly how things should feel and it helps me know whether I’m on a good or an average day.

My set routine is as follows…

·        5mins easy riding

·        8mins progressive ramped effort, starting super easy and finishing with a hard (9/10 intensity) last min.

·        3mins super easy spinning

·        3mins including 3x6s flat out sprints

·        10mins steady riding to finish.

Occasionally I’ll warmup out on the road or on the race circuit itself, in these cases my warmup isn’t quite as structured but I’ll still keep in mind what I’m trying to achieve, I’ll make sure I get nice and warm & include some intensity to ensure I go through my zones and open up.
Organisation is important, so I always make sure before I start my warm-up I’ve got all my race kit ready and know how long it’s going to take me to get to the race start. This way I can finish my warmup close to the start time, put my helmet & race gear on and head straight there without too much waiting around. This way I don’t have time to get cold (or nervous).

Graham Briggs

I’m a man of routine and I like to follow the same structured warmup for everything, cx, road or mtb. I’ve used the same warmup now for years, know it inside and out & exactly how I should feel during it.

My standard warmup is as follows…

·        10mins really easy spinning.

·        A ramped effort, starting at 200w and progressively increasing 20w each min until I reach threshold (around 360w).

·        5 mins easy spinning.

·        2x1 min hard efforts (400w) with 2 mins recovery riding in-between.

·        5 mins easy riding.

·        Straight to the start line.

These days I use a power-meter to help pace my warmups and keep them super consistent but if I didn’t have one or if it was broken I’d use my gears to help pace my ramped effort. I’d start in a small gear and build up by dropping down a gear each min until I felt like I was riding quite hard. My final tip is that I like to get organised before my warmup. I have everything ready to go, A towel to dry off with, my race kit, helmet, gloves & nutrition/bottles ready. This way I’m not stressing or searching for anything, as soon as I’m off the turbo I can head to the start.

Ed Clancy

Before the warmup even starts I like to make a schedule of what the day looks like, so I know the timings. This means I know what time I need to start my warmup, what time I need to get off and where I need to be going once I’ve finished my warmup. If it’s a track race I’d usually finish my warmup late & go straight to the start line. But if it’s a circuit race like a Tour Series round, then I might need a bit more time to get a practice lap of the circuit in, or get to the start area early to ensure I get a good position on the start grid. I also like to make list of all the things I’m going to need e.g. bottle of water, towel, headphones, playlist, etc…

Firstly, I like to get on the bike early so I’m ready to go 5mins before I actually need to start my warmup, so I can relax beforehand.

Then I follow a pretty standard BC style warmup….

·        Approx. 5 mins settling in and getting comfortable pedalling easy.

·        Progressive 7/8min ramped effort going up through the zones finishing at a solid tempo – I always make sure I do this in position, so if it’s before as pursuit, I’ll be down in race position on my aero bars or if it’s a circuit race I’ll be on my road bike in the drops. I think this is really important because it makes sure I’m warming up the specific muscles I’m going to be using.

·        Next, I go straight into a short hard effort, around 30s really quite hard – so I really open up the legs and lungs.

·        I’ll then cruise along for a 2 or 3 mins nice and easy.

·        Finally, I include 1 maybe 2 really short sprints. Before spinning the legs out for a few more mins.

My last tip is to make sure whatever time you finish your warmup, that you make sure you stay as warm as possible ahead of your race start, there’s no point in going to all that effort of getting warm if you let your muscles cool down again before the start.

Joey Walker

First things first the warmup below depends on what type of event I am about to start. If say it’s a circuit race I’ll do this warm up and not change a thing. However, if I’m doing a road race for example, I will rarely do a warmup. Unless in a team meeting before we are expecting a hard start (uphill) or my job is to make the breakaway, I will warm up on the turbo.

Tips for warm up:

·        Before your warmup starts, have everything you need for the race organised and ready, so you are not rushing after warming up. This might be – Helmet, glasses, mitts, food etc.

·        Music helps to concentrate on the warmup and block out all distractions around you. Gets you in the zone for the race.

·        Finish the warmup with plenty of time if you need the toilet etc.

·        Have your warmup uploaded on your cycling computer so you can stick to it.

·        Have a separate ‘Warmup’ bottle that is separate to your race bottle so you can just simply swap that pre-race.

My Warmup:

·        5mins Easy pedalling – No Specific watts just waking the legs up

·        5mins Progressive Effort – Starting this effort quite comfortable but every minute that passes up the watts. The final minute needs to be pretty much full gas to open the lungs.

·        2mins Easy – No specific watts just spin off the progressive effort.

·        3mins (with sprints) – The next 3 mins need to have 3 x 15 sec sprints evenly spaced out. Just to make sure you are fully ready for the race.

·        5mins Easy – No specific watts, the warmup has done. This is just to spin out any heavy feelings in the legs.

Ready to race.


All our coaches warm up in slightly different ways, however there are some definite similarities. It’s likely you’ll all find your own version of a pre-race warmup but our top tips are…

·        Create a routine and use it - warmup the same way for a local race as a national championship. It helps you focus, deal with nerves and get the same result every time.

·        Include some intensity in your warmup.

·        Be organised – know your timings, have your race kit ready & where to be before you start warming up.

·        Stay warm – muscle temp is important, so keep wrapped up until the start of your event.

What Next? 

Warmups are just one way that you can improve your performance during a race, if you're a aspiring racer another way to improve your race results is by attending our weekly Talent Development sessions at Doncaster, find out more about these here.

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