Ready, Steady, Go!

Have you had your eye on a stage race for a long time? Or have you lost a bet and are feeling awfully hung over, wondering how are you possibly going to get through this race? Either way, you need to get going with some good preparation to ensure a successful and fun ride to cross the finish line. To help you out we’ve asked Sarah Walker, of Walker Physiotherapy, to provide a monthly column based on her years of treating riders. She knows a thing or two about what hurts mountain bikers.

Having been part of many Epics, Sani’s and Wines2Whales races, I have seen what happens when there is not enough race preparation – it’s a nasty sight. Read these tips, taken from countless physio sessions spent with many experienced mountain bikers who have survived to tell their tale.

Is your bike suitable for the race? Talk to those in the know about what bike will survive the terrain you intend to ride. Make sure it is correctly set up for you.

Who should you choose for your race partner? You must know each other’s strengths, weaknesses, oddities and routines before you venture into a stage race together. It could turn out to be a grizzly end to a good friendship!

How physically prepared are you for an intense training programme? Have a mountain biking specific physical assessment to detect any weaknesses and imbalances in your body before you start your training. Get going with an exercise programme to iron these imbalances out.

What training should you do? There is never enough training time as we all lead busy lives, so go for quality not quantity. You will be amazed at what a structured scientific programme will produce. The fitter you are, the less time you’ll spend in the saddle on each race day and the more time you’ll have for recovery.

How can you avoid getting injured? Prevent injuries by working on your problem areas with core and strength exercises; allowing recovery time and having regular sports massages to speed up recovery.

What should you eat? Eat sensibly. See a nutritionist for advice as we are all different and not everyone’s remedies work for all of us.

What about medication? Test any medication you may need to take during your race before the time on a training ride as your body could react adversely to meds when taken under physical stress, the like you’ll be under in a racing environment.

How can you get your muscles prepared for the onslaught of the race? Pre-book a massage session for each race day. If possible go for massages up to once a week in the last few weeks leading up to your race. Sports massage speeds up muscle recovery and reduces the incidence of injuries. It’s a no brainer.

What about my support team? Prepare your support team! It’s going to be a strain on you, those close to you and those supporting you. You will need them on your side at all times, and you’ll need to be happy to see them at the finish line. They need to know to expect irritability, exhaustion and possibly irrational requests from you during the race.

Good luck and make it an adventure, have fun!

Sarah Walker
Sarah Walker

Sus Sarah’s Epic Checklist of Must Haves:

  • Sunscreen (Solarx works like a bomb!)
  • Bum cream (Milking cream from your local bike shop)
  • Mozzie repellent
  • Rehydrate sachets to use after a super-hot, long, sweaty day
  • Ear plugs – block out snoring neighbours and noisy generators
  • Probiotics to avoid a runny tummy during the race
  • Immodium – there’s not always a tree in sight
  • Valoid
  • Buscopan for tummy cramps
  • Eno’s for muscle cramps

Sarah Walker is a sports physiotherapist who has been involved with treating cyclists for 15 years. She’s worked at many MTB stage races around the country and from her Cape Town practice sees many a sports person. She teaches Pilates and is fitness trainer for a tennis academy. Sarah believes that a thorough sports specific assessment followed by a well-planned exercise programme to treat the cause of the problem is the key to getting her patients back to full health and sporting success. Go to for more info or send your questions to

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