Riding The "Race of Truth"

The individual time trial is one of the most challenging events in racing.  It is an important measure of fitness and your ability to find and maintain a Maximum Steady State effort.  Time trials will test your ability to focus and teach you to embrace the resulting pain as a positive sign that your effort is just where you want it.  Time trial skills are also useful in mass start events when bridging to riders ahead of you, chasing after a puncture, or soloing to the finish line.  So here are a few tips to help you beat the clock!

1: Determine your MSS (maximum steady state) or FT (functional threshold) effort either with a field test or an actual TT race of 20-40K duration.  Record average power/HR/cadence/speed for your effort.  As fitness improves so will the numbers.
2: Incorporate a steady progressive threshold interval program into your training plan.  Start with shorter intervals with long recoveries and progress to longer intervals with shorter recovery.  Add some anaerobic endurance intervals as you get closer to your target event.
3: Practice riding in the aero bar extensions or on your TT bike. A road racer competing in stage races should train on the TT bike once a week during the season.
4: Develop superior muscle strength.  Hit the gym in the pre-season and incorporate force workouts on the bike using low cadence and big gears.
5: Cadence will generally be between 85-95 RPMs.  Some riders may be more efficient at higher revolutions and some at lower revolutions.

1: Get an early start and arrive with plenty of time to put in a solid warm-up. Half an hour earlier than your typical road race arrival is a good starting point.  You have already made sure your equipment is “race ready” several days before, but double check tire pressure, aero bar tightness, etc.
2: Warm-up on a stationary trainer near the start line.
3: Know the “official” time so you arrive at the start line with a few minutes to spare.
4: At the start line have your bike in a “starting gear”--not too easy/not too hard.  Once you are being held by the official, put the cranks at the 2 and 8 o’clock position.  Stand up and lean back with about 2-3 seconds to go, then lean forward and push down when time gets to zero, and the official releases you.
5: Stay standing until you get the gear up to speed and gradually sit down without losing your cadence.  Generally, you will remain seated except for turnarounds, or short steep hills.  If you rode the race correctly, you will not have the energy to sprint at the finish.
6: Remember the three golden rules of time trials. 1: DON’T GO OUT TOO HARD, 2: DON’T GO OUT TOO HARD, and of course, 3: DON’T GO OUT TOO HARD.  Be conservative in the first few kilometers and gradually ramp up your effort to reach MSS.  At the halfway point judge your effort, and if you think you can, increase your pace slightly.  At 5km to go, try to pick up your power again to carry you to the finish.

Free Speed (Aero Equipment)
Consider investing in standard aerodynamic equipment to include aero bars, aero wheels (disc rear wheel), light weight tires, aero helmet, shoe covers, and a skin suit. Time trials are all about saving as many watts as possible so these aero pieces of equipment will indeed make yours faster against the clock. Practice riding outside at least once in your full race set up before racing.


Jill Gass