Time Trialing (Part 1 of 4 – Aaron Buggle)
Firstly, time trialing happens to be my favorite discipline in cycling. I’ve always been drawn towards the contrast between the crazy technical aspects and the pure simplicity of covering a set distance as fast as you possibly can. I’m a fully-fledged TT nerd if I’m honest. I was first attracted to time trialing because of its purity; it’s you, your bike and a clock. You go away and prepare meticulously then turn up with your game plan/homework done ready to empty the tank and most often the best (prepared) rider on the day wins. Right you guys know I love it – but the truth is the vast majority of cyclists fear time trials and often voice their hatred towards them. More often than not it’s down to a lack willingness to prepare adequately for them. In this four part series I’m going to compile some of the key tips I’ve picked up over the years that you can apply fast and yield big results.
I’ve spent years preparing for time trials from national championships to the worlds and now I’m proud to say I’m taking other riders through that same system – minus all the silly mistakes that cost me time along the way. Time Trialing is a discipline of cycling that many riders struggle with, whether it is pacing, position, or training, the race against the clock can be a problem area for even the most experienced of cyclists. For riders who struggle with them, time trials typically follow this familiar pattern. Start off way too hard, realise halfway through that you cannot sustain your effort, slow down to what feels like a snail’s pace, and suffer like hell until you cross the line. Pacing is one of the most important aspects of a successful time trial, so mistakes made here have a huge impact on your finishing time. With the advent of the power meter pacing has become easier in some respects, but riders still make huge errors of judgement in this area and some believe the only thing to a fast TT is holding the highest average power! Speed wins races –not power. With or without a power meter a perfectly paced TT is a combination of art and science and without preparation in terms of pacing you’re setting yourself up for a fail.
The restrictive, position used in time trials can also be difficult for riders, it’s pretty intuitive that we all want to adopt the fastest possible position but this is extremely individual. Turning up to a time trial without being properly adapted to your TT position is a recipe for disaster, with cramps, massive drops in power, and huge discomfort being just some of the myriad of problems riders encounter if they are insufficiently adapted to their TT position. Lack of flexibility can also cause issues with maintaining a TT position, with riders often having difficulty with the lower, and more stretched out position adopted for time trials. There are many simple tricks one can do to accustom yourself to you low profile position you just need to give it attention and drop the ‘just ride your bike attitude’ because it doesn’t apply to time trialing. A nerd with his or her homework and preparation on point will beat you on the day. I see it all the time; riders with huge thresholds on their road bikes simply can’t produce the same power in their TT position. This is a simple fix – IF you’re willing to give it the time it needs.
Training can also prove problematic, with many good road riders finding themselves completely unprepared for the long steady state effort of a time trial. Many riders also have difficulty with producing high power outputs on flat roads, as opposed to climbs, leaving them underperforming in TT’s compared to what they could do on a gradient. With time trials playing a key part in deciding the general classification in many stage races, a poor TT can often be the Achilles heel for many riders, really holding them back from achieving results in these big events. However it doesn’t have to be this way. In this blog series we will break down the process of becoming a better time trialist, help you to master the discipline, and help to change time trialing from being a dreaded weakness, to something you look forward to. The key to getting faster on your TT bike is controlling as many of the performance indicators as you possibly can, we break down these key performance indicators, from position, pacing and training. Make sure to check back for the next installment of this series, where you can learn the key information that will help maximise your abilities in time trials.