Time Trialing 101
The 2020 season has been a very unusual one. It started a lot later than any other year, significantly changing how our training was structured. As races were confirmed on the calendar they were just as quickly rescheduled or cancelled. Some of us got races completed and others decided to shelve any ambitions this year rather than being disappointed with last minute cancellations. It has been very difficult to decide what the focus should be and how invested we should get when things can change so quickly.
For me, this season was more about being silently productive rather than looking for any major results. Given the nature of restrictions, cycling time trials have been quite compliant with government event guidelines so they were my choice of poison for the remainder of the racing season. The reason is quite simple. These are races that are dictated by speed. The best racers know all the tricks and the race shows up any opportunities to go faster quite clearly. The goal is to find more speed on the bike and time trials show you.
Time trialing is a very pure and simple form of racing. Generally things are not too technical but are more determined by speed and pacing. You cannot hide from the effort so it is a very measurable event which is great for learning. I strongly recommend they are included in training preparations.
Here are some of my top tips for time trialing.
Quite simply speed is what wins the race. If you don’t have fast equipment that you drive as fast as you can, you will not have any real performance. Equipment is a big factor in how fast you can go. This gives massive opportunity to learn how your bike and equipment should be used to deliver speed. You can measure your effort against speed to see what equipment makes what sort of difference. It is quite an interesting development project to play with. You must be willing to experiment with combinations of equipment and how you use it.
There is no hiding in a time trial. You must push the bike as hard as you can for the given distance. This will need a combination of both ability to produce power and an ability to maintain it. This requires specific training. We have a programme here to do just that. TT Prep Programme
Knowing how hard to work and how to manage your effort for different distances is a craft. Misplaced efforts or mini rests can cost significant time, or may reduce it, if done well. Training and experience helps with pacing as you learn what you are capable of. More racing helps to hone in on your most effective pacing strategies and will be beneficial in future races.
Getting out of your own way.
Aerodynamics are important as they are the main determining factor for speed on a flat road. Simple posture and positioning changes can have a massive impact on your speed. Being aggressive with position may be uncomfortable but fast. Shorter races may be a time where discomfort is acceptable to achieve a result. Longer races may require more comfort at the cost of speed to achieve the best result. There is a balance between comfort and speed which experience will help you decide. You must be willing to experiment and analyse what works for you to stay powerful and suitably comfortable. Generally you want to make sure you don’t act as your own brake but can still maintain good effort.
Time trials are determined by your effort alone. You must be willing to put yourself on a redline to achieve your best. Time trials can be painful when you are at your maximum. Mentally they will test your ability to both relax and attack at the same time. They are often lonely races where you are spaced out from most other competitors. The mental skills required are very beneficial to other forms of racing. Longer time trials are a great way to become resilient and tough when your body wants you to back off.
In summary, time trials are great races for honing in on specific skills and knowledge that directly improve your cycling. They favour an analytic approach to get the most from them. The simple nature of their organization makes them a favorable option for many, particularly for the 2020 race season.
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