TrainerRoad’s Ask a Cycling Coach podcast gives you the chance to get answers to your cycling and triathlon training questions with USAC certified coaches Chad Timmerman, Jonathan Lee and special guests. Check out a few questions we answered in our latest episode with special guest Justin Rossi – A nationally ranked Cat 1 cyclist for the Herbalife Marc Pro Strava team.

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Is the setup of your equipment important?

Justin Rossi placed second in the 2014 National Championships by nine seconds. It’s only a few seconds, but for Rossi it was the difference between first and second place. It’s also likely the difference between a great setup and one that’s spectacular.

This goes to show the importance of paying attention to the smallest details when you prepare your bike to race. For example, a couple of inches of exposed cable can slow you down by the few seconds you need to win.

Your choice of kit is one area to pay particular attention to because of the significant impact it has on your time. Choose the tightest fitting kit you can, preferably a skinsuit. As a somewhat funny but honest rule of thumb, you’ll know you’re in the right kit for a time trial when it takes two people to put it on.

Aside from the technical aerodynamic benefits of choosing the right tires, helmet and kit, you have to consider the psychological role of appearance when it comes to time trials. Looking good won’t guarantee you a win, but it can give you the confidence boost you need to push that much harder. When you feel faster, you tend to go faster.

Another facet of time trialling to consider is the form of your body on the bike. While there may not be such a thing as being too aero, there is such a thing as too aero too fast. It takes time for your body to adapt to every aerodynamic adjustment you make to your form on the bike. Give your body time to adjust to new aero positions so you don’t sacrifice power for aerodynamic efficiency. Assess your FTP in and out of your aero position, and compare the two. If after a few weeks you’re still losing power in your position, it’s probably time to adjust your form.

To hear the coaches’ advice on this topic, listen at 3:54. 

What should I eat before a time trial?

First off, know that you don’t have to eat a full meal (or anything at all) before a race. If you’re racing early in the morning, there’s little sense in sacrificing your sleep schedule to eat before a race. For Justin, he has to have a full meal. But, that’s just him.

That being said, every person is different. This is the number one rule when it comes to nutrition advice. What works for one athlete might not work for you, so giving yourself time to try different approaches is key.

Consistency is key when considering nutrition. Race day is not the time to try something new just because it worked for a colleague or team mate. Experiment with various nutritional strategies while you train, and learn what works best for you. Once you’ve nailed down the perfect eating plan, stick to it and follow it leading up to and before your race.

Some athletes tend to diverge from their traditional eating plans when traveling for races because they don’t have the traditional kitchen setup they’re used to at home. If you plan ahead, you can easily overcome this obstacle and keep your nutrition on track. Investing in a hot plate and an all-in-one camping kit gives you everything you need to make a meal in a hotel room.

To hear the coaches’ advice on this topic, listen at 32:31. 


The pending anxiety leading up to a race makes it easy to go all out for longer than you need to coming out of the gate. The best cyclists tend to secure their positions early in the race and pace themselves accordingly.

Once you reach about 15mph it’s a good idea to work your way into an aero position as soon as you can. It’s at this speed that the windforce begins to work against you and hold you back. A common mistake for time trialists is getting into their aero position too late. So go hard for 5-10 seconds, then get in your aero position.

A highly agreed upon TT strategy is the negative split. Essentially, this means the second half of your split is faster than the first half. Pace yourself during the first half to have the energy required to increase your power and finish strong in the second half. If you go too hard too soon, you won’t have enough energy to finish the race as you planned.

To hear the coaches’ advice on this topic, listen at 43:55. 

Additional Notes

We covered quite a few topics in this week’s Ask a Cycling Coach podcast. You can learn more about these additional points with our resources below:

If you have a question that you’d like to ask Coach Chad, submit your question here. We’ll do our best to answer them on the next episode of the Ask a Cycling Coach podcast.