Three time trial training tips by Jack Martin
Looking form some tips to take your time time trailing to the next level. Read jacks essential three time trial training tips.
Cycling time trails
The distance and duration of cycling time trials can vary hugely. The two most common distances of cycling time trials in England are 10 and 25 miles or 16.1 and 40 kilometres. However, races can be shorter and also much longer.
Whilst the basic training components for all distances will be largely the same, longer races (such as 12 hour time trial) will require significantly more endurance training compared to 10-mile time trials.
Several key physiology components to training for cycling time trials included structured intervals training progressive overload, adequate recovery periods and training for the demands of your event.
Train in your racing position
If you will be using a time trial bike when racing time trial events, then it is likly that your riding position will be significantly different from your normal road bike position. The use of aerobars and having a stretch out position will drastically affect how the bike handles and how much power you can put to the pedals.
To feel comparable and safe when using this unconventional position, you should try to complete several training sessions per week using your race bike and riding in your race position. One of the easiest ways of doing this is to use a turbo trainer over the winter months to allow your body to fully adapt to the unconventional position way before the race season kicks off.
As you can see from the image below, I have my time trial bike set up in my kitchen doing an interval session in complete race kit. Yes riding a static bike in your kitchen may seem a little boring and doing it in full race kit may seem a little strange but it is really effective.
I commonly do a mixture of long endurance miles with structured intervals at race intensity. When first starting out riding in your time trial position I would recommend doing 5×5 minute intervals at a medium to hard intensity. Five long distance cycling tips.
This session would start with a 20-30 min gradual warm up before doing 5 minutes in the aero bars position at around race intensity before 5-minutes easy sat upright, not using the aero bars. Depending on the time of year, and how fit I am, I would typically do between 5-7 intervals per session. End the session with a gradual cool down of 15-20 minutes. Read Jacks article on cycling the South downs cycle route.
Learn how to pace long solo efforts
If you want to do well in time trial, pacing your race is arguably the most critical component.
There are many reasons why pacing a time trial is an important skill to learn.
Firstly you can’t start the race too hard and run out of energy before you’ve reached the end, but likewise you don’t want to start to easy and have to much energy once you’ve passed the finish line. The final reason is that optimizing your pacing strategy around specific course characteristics is one of the easiest ways to reduce your race time and improve your chances of winning. Common problems when cycling long distances.
There are three main ways to pace a time trial, by power, by heart rate, or by RPE. Most serious amateur cyclists will have a power meter and may have some knowledge of what all of the power numbers mean.
But the basics are that you want to gauge your effort using a percentage of your FTP (functional threshold power or the maxim power that you can do for one hour.) for shorter events e.g 10-mile time trial you can actually ride at slightly over your threshold power for 25-mile time trials depending on your ability you should aim to ride directly at or just below your threshold power.
The second methods of pacing is using heart rate. Heart rate monitors are far more accessible compared to power meters, but similar pacing methods can be applied.
You should have an idea of both your maximum heart rate and your threshold heart rate. You can pace longer events by riding under your threshold heart rate.
But by far the easiest way of pacing time trials is by using RPE or rating of perceived exertion, basically how hard the effort feels. One of the biggest mistakes that most people make is starting out way too hard.
So, for the first quarter of your race, you should feel like an effort level of 6/10. As the race goes on, you should aim to raise this to 8/10, and in the final closing mile, you should be at 10/10 and giving it everything you’ve got just to get across the finish line. There is a lot more to pacing time trials, so much so that it could probably form its own blog post, but for now these tips and tricks should help you get started.
Use structured interval training
In terms of fitness training for time trials, one of the easiest ways of increasing your cycling fitness is by using structured interval training.
For people who are time-poor because of full time work but still want to be competitive in their local races, structured interval training can drastically increase fitness and performance in under half the time of traditional training methods.
For an average road cyclist looking to get into time trials, 3-4 structured training sessions per week will see their fitness skyrocket. I recommended 2 interval sessions performed at or just below races intensity, one example of this would be 2×20 at sweet spot.
This session would involve performing two 20-minute-long efforts just below race intensity which allows you to learn how to pace long efforts, how to produce high power numbers whilst being under fatigue and how to keep riding hard when you are in pain.
I would typically have 10-15 minutes easy peddling between each effort to allow my body to recover fully after the second effort has finished ride easy for 15-20 minutes to cool down and that is your session finished. Another session that I do quite frequently is vo2max intervals. This is probably one of the hardest sessions you can do but the long-term fitness rewards are definitely worth it.
The aim of this interval session it to cycle as hard and as fast as you can for a very short period of time. This will increase your aerobic and anaerobic power output and teach your body to function under high lactic strain.
At the beginning of the session, I would start out with 5-2.5-minute intervals with equal recovery between each interval. Meaning that if you are doing 2.5-minute intervals, I would have 2.5 of easy cycling between each interval.
As the session progress, I will aim to increase the duration of each interval in minute increments. This may mean starting at 2.5-minute intervals and progressing to 3.5, 4.5-minute intervals and so on.
The longest intervals I would recommend doing are around 8 minutes in length but these are really hard, so start out with 2.5-minute intervals.
As with any good training rest and recovery are equally important as the intense cycling. So, aim to have 2-3 days of easy riding. I would encourage you to have one easy day between each hard interval day.
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