The ‘Joy’ Of Time Trialling

The season is about one month far and my first time trial is coming up. For me this is quite an important event because my first biggest goal this year, will be the national championships ITT (individual time trial). From week one, a training session on the tt-bike is integrated in my schedule. Even though I’m sure there’s still a lot of improvement possible, I try to specialise myself in getting as aero as I can on my beloved time trial bike. This weekend will be my first test. The expectations are high.

Now, what exactly is an individual time trial? Pure theoretically it is an individual race against the clock on a certain course (flat/rolling/mountains) and of a certain distance. Both decided by the organizers of the race. ITTs are also referred to as “the race of truth“, as winning depends only on each rider’s strength and endurance, and not on help provided by team-mates and others riding ahead and creating a slipstream.

Starting times are at equal intervals, usually one or two minutes apart. Competitors are not permitted to draft (ride in the slipstream) behind each other. Any help between riders is forbidden. The rider with the fastest time is declared the winner. Almost every stage race has a time trial.

What is so special and cool about this kind of racing?

The bike!!! At Ridley we have the Dean, Dean Fast and Chronus to do the job. (Check them out on the website for more info: Link.) I just like the way a time trial bike looks. So tough and aggressive. A disc wheel and 3-spoke front wheel to complete the picture and there is love…

The built of a time trial bike is scientifically based on aerodynamics, tested in the wind tunnel. Aero is everything they say. Or in other words, the more aero your position is on the bike and the bike is on itself, the less efforts you need to go faster. The less air resistance, the better. Going fast is what it’s all about. High speed during a longer period of time.

An aero position might not look very comfortable. But if you’ve found the optimal bike fit and a comfy saddle, you’re ready to fly. And by flying, I mean pedalling really, really…really hard. Not a lot of riders like the time trial. And that is for a certain reason. Starting in a TT is the same as knowing you’re about to die. From minute one it is a battle against yourself. From minute one the lactate feels like coming out of your ears. This is a tough discipline. Every pedal stroke needs to be powerful. The only time to get some kind of recovery is when you take a corner. A few deep breathes and back to the lactate until the finish line.

TT of the Day

When I’m racing a time trials I get super nervous because I know what is about to follow. Suf-fe-ring. Always, also when I’m in shape. It never gets easy, you just need to undergo and stay focused. In the week before I start ‘racing’. I often bust myself during training or in the car, that I’m getting in this kind of a zone where I’m pretending to be on track to the finish. Sounds a bit crazy, right. But to me this is a sign that I’m finding my best form. I always try to do a recon of the course on the bike. Where it is possible that I stop a few times to find the right way to cut into a corner (this is not my specialty, technical skills; almost zero). If you take the time trial seriously, a recon twice or 3 times is necessary.

The rest of the warming-up I do on the rollers. That’s where the suffering already starts. Not only this is meant to activate the muscles, the goal is to get your heartrate already very high for a few times without getting tired. A few times you have to look up the zone where the lactate comes say ‘hello’. Wish this customer didn’t exist, he’s not my best friend. This is an example of a warming up I use made by my coach at the 185 coaching center:

  • 3h before start: last meal with carbs
  • 2h before start: 30’ recon, easy ride, consume half a bottle of isotonic drink
  • 1,5h before start: check-up bike by jury
  • Relax, get clothes ready, get into focus, consume half a bottle of isotonic drink
  • 45min before start consume half a gel
  • 40min before start consume half a bottle of isotonic drink + start 29min warming-up on rollers:
  • 8min at 144-170 watts (extensive)
  • 3min at 260 watts (intensive)
  • 1min at
  • 2min at 290 watts (tempo)
  • min at < 119bpm heartrate, recovery
  • 2x:
    • 15sec at > 172bpm heartrate, maximum sprint seated, hard resistance
    • 45sec at < 119bpm heartrate, recovery
    • 30sec at > 172bpm heartrate, maximum sprint seated, hard resistance
    • 1min 30sec at > 119bpm heartrate, recovery
  • 5min at < 119bpm heartrate, recovery + 1 gel
  • GOOOOO!!!

During the race I get into this kind of a bubble, my own world. You would think that time trialling is pretty easy. Just ride as hard as you can. But it’s not that simple. There so many things to stay focused on. Keep the breathing under control. Long deep in -and exhales, they keep the heart rate a bit lower.

Push both pedals hard enough but not too hard. Never make it easy on yourself, keep pushing. But also pull the pedals. Pushing and pulling to get most power out of the legs. Stay aero. Head down and torso still, only the legs should do the work. Eyes on the road. Fast corners but not too many risks.

Meet my enemy

And then there is that one big enemy.
You don’t see him.
You only feel him.

I always ask the team director, who sits behind me in the car, to keep me ‘busy’. I need to be treated like a baby. He needs to tell me which corner is coming up, if I’m in the correct gear, to pay attention to my bike position. I need this guidance because I tend to get so deep in my zone that I have no clue where I am on the course. It already happened that instead of taking the corner to the right, I just went straight. It sounds dumb but the only thing I can think of during a TT is pedalling really really hard.

And then there is that one big enemy. You don’t see him. You only feel him. He’s called ‘Pain’. And I’m not supposed to give him any attention. Because he takes away all my focus. If you let pain win, you lose. The battle goes further than the physical level. Your body is stronger than you think. It’s the pain that tells your head you aren’t. You can compare it with the never-ending discussion between the angel and the devil. Winning that fight is crossing your limits and being able to dig deeper to find your best result.

It all doesn’t sound very enjoyable, right. So far, maybe not. But knowing you gave it the best of yourself. That satisfied feeling you have after a good race. That’s what it’s all about. Thinking back of the sound your beautiful tt-bike was making during the race. You were flying!


There is no comment on this post. Be the first one.

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.