So you want to do an ITT

Time trial master Cadel Evans

I must confess up front that I’m no time trial expert. In fact I’ve only ever done one individual time trial and that was with absolutely no special preparation or specific training. However, my Club Championship ITT is coming up and I thought I’d give it another go and in the process educate myself about how to prepare for one.

My first and only ‘race of truth’ was last year for the LACC Club Championship. I literally decided the day before that I would go along to Penrith Regatta Centre and give it a crack. Sadly for the club, but good for me there weren’t a huge number of participants so I found myself with only one rival in the Masters Women’s category and Joanna was/is so far above my league that I just focused on my own ride and knew my time would be way behind hers. It also meant that I was guaranteed a second place if I finished the race and I proudly display my medal to prove it. Would you believe this is the only trophy or medal of any kind I’ve ever received in a sporting competition. I have lots of fun run, bike event participation medals but I’ve never actually been awarded a place in anything ever before.

This year I will again ride LACC’s Club Championship ITT which is a 20 km ride around the Penrith Regatta Centre. I doubt that I’ll win, particularly if Joanna is there again, but I might be lucky enough to score a place again. For the record I did the 20 km last year in 39:06 so that’s what I’ll be aiming to beat.

I also need to tell you that I have absolutely no specific time trial equipment or clothing. A lot of the speedier and more serious time trial participants have the full-on time trial bike, special teardrop helmet and even special skin-suits to make them as aerodynamic as possible. It all looks very impressive and intimidating but I’m not going to lash out any time soon to join them. You’ve probably seen the professional riders like Cadel time-trialling either on TV or live and they look super impressive and go super fast. They actually train in special wind-tunnels and their teams spend many hours and dollars getting everything exactly right for them to be as fast as possible.

Once again I’ve not done any specific training other than the odd extra lap after my group rides down on the drops, and it’s only three weeks away so I’ll now focus on the advice below.

I am indebted to Selene Yeager and her great book Every Woman’s Guide to Cycling for the facts contained below. You can read more about her book in a previous blog post where I reviewed it and another great gook about cycling for women.

Selene’s first tip is that the terrain you train on should be similar to the actual course you will race on which makes a lot of sense. You should also train on the bike you will use in the TT so if you have a special time trial bike then this is the time to use it and get everything right so you are comfortable and as aerodynamic as possible.

In training you need to incorporate what she calls ‘brisk training intervals’ so that you get comfortable with a little pain. To be a successful TT rider you will spend the majority of the race ‘in the throes of a brisk pace’. This means you will be right at or slightly above your lactate threshold. Selene says that elite athletes often time trial 10 to 15% above their lactate threshold. Ouch.

Selene also stresses the importance of a warm-up before your event. In fact I’ve seen riders on their rollers or stationary trainers near the start line and thought they looked impressive but now I understand why. Apparently if you don’t warm up properly then your lactic acid levels will spike and you’ll have to slow down to recover from the leg burning and rapid breathing that results.

She says that novices make two common mistakes – either they go out too hard, blow up, recover slightly and then build to the finish, or they start too conservatively and take too long to find a solid pace (I think this is me). Ideally you want to reach the finish line and know you gave it everything.

The book contains a detailed training plan for the eight weeks leading up to a time trial so if you’re serious about being competitive I recommend you track a copy down.

As far as equipment goes, Selene believes that aerobars are the single best piece of gear you can buy to improve your performance. They allow you to lie forward and flatten your back to allow air to move over your head rather than hitting your chest. These bars come in various sizes and widths and attach to you existing road bike. I’ll think about those for next time.

Wish me luck. I’ll keep you posted on how I go.

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