Support Crews: Pre-start preparation

article026You and your team have finally agreed on the menu – you’ve done the shopping – twice. The stuff they were supposed to organised didn’t happen, so you’ve had to go out again… and race day is just around the corner…

A week before the race, while you’re making food, accumulating gear and packing crates, start catching-up on sleep. Even though you’re getting excited and your mind is buzzing with all the things you still have to do, make sure you get to sleep at a reasonable time. And, more importantly, make sure that your team is doing the same.

You can’t bank sleep, but you can make certain that you’re well rested. Inevitably, from the day before the race till you’re back home again, you’re not likely to get more than 4hrs sleep a day.

When you get told your race venue, calculate your travelling time. It is better to arrive at the registration location really early – and during daylight – so you can check the bikes for travel-induced damage, make sandwiches, set-up camp for the night, finalise the packing of the seconding vehicle and do the social thing.

Don’t count on getting any sleep in the afternoon when you arrive – even if you’ve been up and travelling since 5 that morning. You’ll be on an adrenaline high already and will be buzzing. Besides, there’s plenty to be done.

While you’re organising food and the packing of your seconding vehicle the racers will check their backpacks and gear. They make have to do proficiency testing and will have to get their compulsory gear checked.

If you prepare while you still have light then, after registration and the pre-race briefing, all you have to do is eat dinner and check the route with the racers before sending them off for some shut-eye.

Most importantly… you should only go to sleep once you’ve made certain that the racers are 100% ready and the vehicle is 99% packed. In the morning you need only pack away tents and overnight equipment.

Take along a pen and paper to the briefing. Listen carefully and note changes to the route or co-ordinates.

As seconds, you will be given your own set of instructions and will be told when you have to leave the start (it may be before your team) and what the conditions are going to be like on the roads and at the transitions – always assume the worst.

Make certain that you collect your own set of maps, which you may have been able to order when the team entry was submitted.

You may have to leave 15mins before the race start. This means that you need to prepare drinks and a snack, wake-up the team, feed them, pack the vehicle and leave.

From the start to the first transition you’ll probably travel in convoy. LISTEN to instructions and don’t be impatient. You’ll get there in good time.

Although the organisers will always try to put you on routes different to those taken by the teams, you may drive past racers. Give them the right of way, slow down as you pass – especially on dirt roads, don’t stop and do not give your team (or any other team) any help. You are not allowed to assist your team (food, water, first-aid, clothing) unless you’re in a transition area.

This doesn’t prevent you from shouting encouragement out the window and taking action shots as you drive past.

As soon as you arrive at a transition area setup your camp. When your team leaves, pack-up immediately and move to the next transition. You can wash dishes, hang up wet clothing and tidy up when you get there.

If you get a flat tyre or get lost, you’ll have enough time to deal with problems and locate the transition in time to meet your team.

You’ll be much less stressed knowing that you’re in the right place in good time.

Lastly, make sure you know where you’re going before you leave transition. There have been cases where seconds have gotten lost and their racers had to sit waiting for them.«

NEVER, EVER let your team down through a mistake that could be easily avoided.

Author: Lisa de Speville