Warming up before a cycling event is an essential part of getting your body race ready both mentally and physically.  The length and intensity of the event will determine how long of a warm-up you will need.  If you’re someone who frequently races or joins the weekend group ride, you may already notice a difference in how you feel at the beginning of the ride or race if you forget to warm-up.  Do your legs feel heavy?  Are you out of breath? Do you feel like you get your ‘legs’ around 30min-1hour into the ride?  These are all signs that a warm-up would benefit you!


Duration of the Race:

Short intense races like criteriums, track events, cross country mountain biking or cyclocross require a longer warm-up.  You want to get that blood moving to those muscles before the race.  The start of these races can make or break your race so you need to be ready to hit it hard right from the gun!  Your warm-up should be 30 minute-1 hour with some intense efforts mixed in.  In addition, if you are able to ride the course, use your pre-ride to help you mentally scope out the course and figure out your line. The warm-up is where you can get your game face on and focus.




Time trial races also require a long warm-up.  For this event, do a couple of 1 minute efforts at your lactate threshold or TT pace (see warm-up example below).


Road races, gran fondos, or endurance mountain bike events don’t require as long of a warm-up or any at all.  You can usually count the first 10-20 minutes of the race as a warm-up.  You’ll be out on the bike for awhile so you don’t want to use up those matches before the race begins.  However, if the event starts off with a big climb or you know the race will start off fast, it is recommended to get in a short warm-up.  This will help you keep up with your competition and recover from the initial effort faster.


Finish your warm-up at least 10 minutes before your start.

This gives you time to grab some last minute things, use the restroom, and head to the start.  If your race lines up early – you may need to line up as early as 15-30 minutes before the start.  Be sure to get a good position at the line as this will save you the hassle of having to pass so many people! Instead of just standing around while you are waiting at the start line, jump up and down, do some dynamic stretching, keep your body moving, blood flowing, and mind focused.

Whiskey 50
Tricia Davis and I (2013) wait at the start of the Whiskey 50 – 30 minutes before the gun to get a decent place in line.


Weather can affect your warm-up routine.

If it’s cold, you may need a longer warm-up.  If it’s hot outside, you want to keep your core temperature down so minimize your warm-up in this instance and keep cool as long as possible.


Lastly, find a routine that suits you!  If you currently have a warm-up that works for you, stick with it.  If not, try my warm-up routine below.


Melissa’s Cycling Warm-Up Routine


Start your warm-up 60 min before your race.

Spin easy for 15 minutes to get the legs moving.

Then do:
2×10 min ON, 5 min OFF @ sweetspot HR or watts (moderately hard effort).
Spin for 5 min easy.
Then do 2×1 min ON @ threshold HR or watts, then, 2 min easy spinning between efforts.

*If doing a crit, XC, or cyclocross race, add in 3×20 second sprints with 40 seconds rest between efforts.

Spin easy for a couple of minutes and then take your bike off the trainer, get the race wheels swapped over, helmet on, then roll over to the start.


If you have questions about your warm-up routine or need help with your training schedule, drop me a line: melissa@potentialenergytraining.com or check out our coaching services here!



About Melissa Ross:

melissaMelissa Ross is Co-Founder and Cycling Coach of Potential Energy Training and Nutrition. Melissa’s 11+years in the sport as an athlete and 5+ years as a coach has taken her all over the world from touring Italy, racing across Europe and the US as a professional road cyclist, to becoming a pro mountain biker, exploring the trails across Arizona and even recently finishing 13th in the Absa Cape Epic in South Africa and making the podium 2 years in a row in the Leadville Trail 100! Melissa has an incredible desire to help other people reach their full potential and bring the passion of having a healthy lifestyle into their lives.

Pre-Race Warm-Up Strategies for Cyclists
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