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What it takes to win a time trial
In this blog post, I will cover my experience of another local club ten-mile time trial and delve a little deeper into my race data to try and show you exactly what it takes to win a time trial.
It’s another Wednesday evening in the south of England, and tonight I have a club ten road bike time trial on the P751 course at kings worthy just outside of Winchester.
The weather is warm, and there is very little wind, almost perfect wind conditions for a time trial. This week’s course is a rolling 10-mile course consisting of 3 main sections. Brtish cycling time trails.
The first section is a high-speed descent into a series of very short rolling hills. Here riders will be hitting 40 mph on the descents before struggling to do ten on the uphill sections.
The following section is the longest part of the course at 5 miles. This section of the A33 has a mixture of long rolling hills and a fast dual carriageway section.
Most of the time, the race is won or lost on this section as it can be tough to pace. The third and final section is 4 miles and is a series of rough roads with sharp, twisty turns that challenge a rider’s bike handling ability.
Mental knowledge of the course
For these club races, I always try to ride out to the race and use that as part of my warm-up.
Today was no different. I had left it a little late, leaving to get to the race, so I had to rush through traffic, but I tried to ride the 8 miles to get to the race as easy as possible. I signed on, collected my race number and went on to do my typical- structured warm-up.
To win any time trial, you need to know the course in great detail. This doesn’t mean just knowing where the corners are. It means knowing where all the large potholes are, where all the braking points are before the corners and how much of the road you can use than entering and exiting corners.
It also means that you need to know where all the hills start and finish and roughly how steep they are and whether it is faster to climb them out of the saddle or sit down spinning a lower gear.
Because this is a course I have ridden many times. I had a good idea of all of this information. But if possible, a few days before a race, I would always try to go and ride a crouse and learn as much of this information as I can. Failing this, google maps can be a valuable tool to learn some of the essential elements of a racecourse.
The more knowledge of a course you have, the more confidence you have when taking on technical sections at high speed. It allows you to leave your braking to the last minute, knowing that on the exit of the corner, you have enough room to run out wide and maintain your speed.
So if you can brake later and know the fastest lines through all of the corners, then throughout a 10-mile time trial, you can save up to 30-40 seconds on your rivals.
For this race on the P751, this meant knowing that there was a huge pothole on the left-hand side of the road on a fast 30 mph descent. Taking the right-hand section of the road not only saved me time but stopped me from getting a puncture. Five top tips for time trails.
Maintaining a high level of focus, even for such a short race, is really hard. Many people struggle to do it, and it takes a lot of practice to get it right.
But during a time trial, you need to be really focused. During a time trial, there are loads of things that you need to focus on, such as pacing and maintaining a good aerodynamic position.
For this course, pacing is probably the most important thing. With several steep rolling hills right at the beginning of the course, it can be really easy to go out too hard and go into the red.
For a time trial this short, this is the last thing that you want. So by using a power meter and focusing on what numbers I am doing on all of the hills and fast sections, I can make sure that I successfully pace my race.
This helps me from starting the race too quickly and also go too easy on the fast areas where a lot of time can either be made or lost compared to the other riders.
Another critical element of focus is on aerodynamic positioning and how you ride your bike. This can be linked back to knowing the course.
By knowing when all of the fast sections of the route are, you can use all of your energy and focus on maintaining the most aerodynamic riding position possible to maximise your speed.
Conversely, if you know where all the hills are, you know when you can sit up in a more comfortable position and recover slightly. Advice for tackling your first bike race.
Course modelling and equipment choices
By selecting the right equipment for your specific race and the demands of the racecourse, you can significantly improve your race performance.
This does take a lot of time to get right and a lot of trial and error, but experimenting with different equipment setups can be the difference between winning and not getting in the top 3. Websites such as best bike split and my windsock can calculate the time differences between different CDA values (how aerodynamic you are).
In practice for the P751 course, it is trying to work out if a lighter bike will allow you to ride the hills faster and not lose time on the flat sections or if a heavy but more aerodynamic bike will be faster overall.
Even if you only have one bike with one set of wheels, there are some basic things you can do with your position to make yourself more aerodynamic. Increase your cycling fitness with interval training.
A willingness to really push yourself to your limit
The final element of a successful time trial is a willingness to really push yourself to your physical limit. To win a time trial, you have to be willing to completely empty yourself, which requires a lot of motivation. Common mistakes when cycling long distances.
To win a local club time trial, I had to provide 270 watts for 25 mins weighing 68kg a w/kg of 3.97. The photo below is the final 10 minutes of the race which was primarily rolling hills with a little bit of flat. Long distance cycling by Robbi Ferri.
I tried to vary my power output relative to the road’s gradient, but as you can see from my heart rate being 205 BPM for 10 minutes, I was right at my limit.
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