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Riding a 10-mile time trial

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Article posted: 15/04/2014

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In both the Advanced and Intermediate Training Plans, 10-mile Time Trials are prescribed as key training sessions. The main reason for this is that they’re an ideal way to get an extended interval at or above your threshold, with the added motivation of a number on your back helping to raise the quality of your ride. It also provides a great way to measure your progress and to develop your ability to pace extended hard efforts.

If you’re riding a road bike, make sure you ride on the drops or in a flat forearm position on the hoods. Keep low and avoid unnecessary movement of your upper body, as that creates a bigger hole to punch through the wind.              

They’re definitely not just for experienced riders as club mid-week evening 10-mile time trials are an ideal way for novices to get involved with a club, try their hand at racing, without the worry of being in a bunch, and to gauge their fitness level.   

When and where?

Many cycling clubs during the summer hold a mid-week evening 10-mile time trial that is open to anyone and you can enter on the evening. Find your nearest local club and then contact them or look on their site to find out when and where their events take place.

What to expect?

Generally, the time given on the information will either be for the first rider off or for the time that signing on begins. If it’s the former, for your first time at least, you should aim to get to the race HQ about an hour before the advertised time. This should give you plenty of time to find where you need to be and to get yourself sorted out.

First of all you’ll need to sign on, pay the entry fee (normally £2-£5 maximum), find out your start time and get your race number. Get someone to pin your number on for you, it needs to go low down on the middle of your back.

If it’s relatively nearby, riding to the event can be an ideal warm-up and riding home the ideal cool-down. However, if you’ve driven, you’ll need to warm-up. Some riders will use a turbo trainer but you’re fine to warm-up on the road as long as you don’t obstruct the course. Aim to warm-up for about 20 minutes, the British Cycling Warm-up is ideal and aim to finish 5-10 minutes before your start time.

Ride to the start, which is often not where you signed on and wait to be called to the start line. Riders are usually set-off at minute intervals. You may be held on the line by the starter, just stay relaxed, have your natural foot forwards and make sure you’re in a suitable gear for setting off. You’ll get a countdown and, on go, usually a welcome little shove from the holder.

Enjoy the ride and don’t worry if faster riders pass you. If you catch up with riders ahead, do not sit behind them, overtake safely but as quickly as possible.

Ride through the finish and, when safe, turn around and ride back to where you signed on. Don’t return to the finish and try to talk to the time-keepers as they’ll be busy keeping track of other riders. Return your number and sometimes results will be announced on the night but will often be published on the club website later in the week.

Pacing your ride

Almost all riders when they ride their first 10-mile time trial, go off far too hard. Once you’ve made your starting effort, settle into a rhythm and try to ride consistently. If you’ve been following the British Cycling Sportive Training Plans, the effort level should feel about equivalent to your 20-minute Threshold Test with similar heart rate or power values. Once you know you’re inside the final mile, you can start to wind it up if you’ve anything left and, when you can see the finish, empty the tank. It’ll probably take you a few goes to get it right, so don’t worry if you over or undercook it.

Do I need a special bike?

No. There will probably be riders on full time-trial set-ups but there will also be riders on regular road bikes. You’re only really competing against the clock and yourself, so don’t be intimidated by the go-faster aero kit and don’t think that you have to have it all to take part. Make sure your bike is well maintained, your position is right and remove any unnecessary weight and drag such as mudguards or extra bottle cage.

Can I modify my road bike to go faster?

The most common modification is to add some clip-on aerobars to your road bike but this can easily result in you going slower. The geometry of a road bike frame means that simply clipping on aerobars can create a position that is overly stretched with a very closed hip angle. This will result in lower power production which can easily negate any aero gains. You may find you’re able to get a decent position by moving the saddle forwards and fitting a shorter stem. However, it may be necessary to fit a specially designed seat-post which will effectively steepen the seat tube angle to bring it more in line with typical time trial bike geometry. A more expensive upgrade are deeper section aerodynamic wheels. However, in gusty winds, they can be a bit of a handful so don’t assume that deeper is always better. For more advice on wheel upgrades, take a look here.

Buying a TT bike

If you get bitten by the bug, you might decide to take the plunge and buy a dedicated time trial bike. A correctly fitted time trial bike will optimise your aerodynamic position and have an integrated cockpit that’ll allow you to shift gears while staying down on your aero extensions. Even more so with a road bike, correct positioning is essential. You can do this at home by following this DIY time trial fitting advice from Rëtul but, if possible, we’d strongly advice a professional fit.

Any other go-faster tips?

Make sure that your clothing is close fitting and not creating unnecessary drag. Anything that is flapping or billowing is costing you speed. You don’t have to go for a skin-suit but your jersey and shorts should definitely be snug. If you’re riding a road bike, make sure you ride on the drops or in a flat forearm position on the hoods. Keep low and avoid unnecessary movement of your upper body, as that creates a bigger hole to punch through the wind. An aero helmet offers reasonable time returns for pounds spent but remember, if you choose a helmet with a long tail, you have to keep your head up and still or the tail will just stick up into the air and create drag. Aerodynamic shoe covers are another relatively cheap marginal gain but position, pacing and fitness are the biggest three contributors to time trialling speed.

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