Spanning multiple disciplines and cycling race mediums, time trialing, often referred to as the race of truth, is an ultimate test and combination of an individual’s speed, power and grace. As a road cyclist, it can define an entire stage race.
As a triathlete, it can be an area to make up (or lose) large sums of time. And as a track cyclist on the velodrome, riding the physical and proverbial line can mean the difference between being on the podium or not.
In any medium, there are a number of things that go into riding a fast time trial. The following are some training tips and tricks that can help you propel your next time trial into a higher level.
Time trialing is a competition to see how much sustained power (or power to weight ratio) you can muster out of yourself and the bike, as com- pared to your competitors. This means that while training on the bike, focus on long sustained high power intervals to get the feeling of riding fast for an extended period of time. You will feel the wind increasing, your position faltering, your heart rate and breathing rising, and your mind going crazy telling you to, “please, stop.” The more comfortable and accustomed you can be in this state, the better you will fair come race day. In the weight room, focus on low repetition high weight intervals such as squat- ting and lunges. This will help build your leg muscles to sustain the high power needed for fast times.
Position (strength in flexibility)
Even when two identical people put out the same amount of power, their results can be vastly different. This is because your biggest enemy to going fast is wind resistance. If one person can maintain a more aerodynamic and tucked position, they can cheat the wind and use that power to propel forward, versus pushing wind out of the way. Work on getting into the most aerodynamic position that feels comfortable to you for the amount of time projected for the race. As you get tired, your position will start to falter, and your body will want to break good position by using other muscles. Yoga is the perfect complementary activity to time trialing because it focuses on strength and flexibility in positions for extended periods of time.
The importance of proper breathing can sometimes be overlooked, and be detrimental to your overall performance if not done correctly. Long steady breaths that are in sync with your motion can put you into a zen- like state and help pass the time, tricking your mind that you aren’t as tired as you are. The goal is to get as much oxygen with each breath, which can be hard to do in a tucked position. While doing yoga poses, and during training intervals, try to concentrate your breathing by expanding your lungs into your stomach region, letting it balloon out when inhaling. It feels weird at first but this technique will allow your lungs to expand to their greatest volume, maximizing oxygen intake with each breath.
Like all good endurance races, negative splitting is usually the gold standard. But since courses can be so varied, ensure you study each segment before you race it to determine how hard you should push in each section. Uphills are areas to push harder to make up time, whereas downhills can be slight reprieves where you will not be able to push out the same kind of power. Use each segment to its advantage. This technique also helps trick your mind by breaking up the race into smaller, more manageable chunks.
There is no luxury of racing your way into good form in a time trial. As soon as you roll over that start line, you’re exposed with no hiding behind other riders. Because of this, a thorough warm up is crucial for success. You should still be sweating on the start line, with muscles warm and ready to go.
Many times people get too hung up on the accessories that help you go fast, but it’s true that better equipment can equal faster times. But focus on this last, versus making these items your go-to answers to chip time from your race. Time trial bikes can be very expensive, so here are some cheaper accessory items to help you shave seconds:
- Clip on aero bars – The fastest way to get your road bike time trial ready. Being relaxed in this position will save you the most amount of time.
- Aero Wheel covers – Forget a brand new wheelset and opt for rear wheel a disc cover instead.
- Nose strips – Put one on after your warm up and you will feel like you can breath again.
- Ear plugs – Another jedi mind trick, which will help you stay within yourself, and not get discouraged by the high wind speeds around you. If you think you can go faster, many times you can.