Optimal pacing/rotation for 4 man TTT

For a race of about 1 hour, one would think VO2 max efforts of maybe 60seconds with rest periods 3x the length of the work. But I am not sure how much you can recover in a paceline vs rest interval in a workout.
120% ftp seems a bit high, maybe more like 110 and then go out and practice it

Anyone have experience with this?

I’m no expert on TTT’s but I would have thought that shorter pulls was a better way of doing things.

Plus, you do need to take into account what your teammates can hold while recovering, as there will probably be differences in FTP (and CDA) between riders.

Try it and see. You are going to have varying abilities (both power and recovery) and varying draft potential. For a 4 person TT, how much you can rest in the line depends largely on how much air you push compared to the person in front of you - if they are tiny and you are large, there isn’t going to be much resting going on at all.
It’s also worth practising starting with different people in different positions. I would suggest slowest to fastest, but that can lead to the slowest person struggling to get on the back after they have started everyone else off. It depends on how the rotation works out as well.
Practising is really useful. Also, working out what words you want to use to communicate beforehand - make them short and different - if you use “go” and “slow”, there’s going to be an issue!
Edit - when we’ve done 9-up TTs, 20-30 seconds is a good length for a pull. You might find that doesn’t give enough “rest” time for a 4 up.

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My favorite racing is TTT!! Best way to suffer is with friends!

The key thing is practise as a squad. It’s usually the well drilled squads that do well at these events. Think about the order of the riders. We’ve found having strong/weak/strong/weak works well, but needs to be adaptable for the squad. Some riders might be able to do longer pulls so it’s worth thinking about the length of pull each individual rider can do.

Communication is important. Have words that can’t be muddled up or misinterpreted. And if you’re on TT bikes flicking the elbow to tell the next rider to come through is going to be hard - a flick of the head works well.

Preparation is key. Know the circuit in advance. Make sure you’re clear which way you are going at junctions and don’t rely on a marshal to tell you. Missing a turn cost us a top 10 in the Scottish TTT championships in 2016. Think about the wind direction on the morning of the race and decide at what points you will change the direction of rotation to provide maximum shelter for the paceline.

I wouldn’t get too hung up about what power each member will do their pulls at. As you get drilled as a squad it’ll become organic. You’ll begin to recognise who is going well and who is suffering. If you are communication as a squad you’ll make adjustments. And trying to ride looking at a Garmin for power in a paceline on TT bikes is not recommended!!

Summed up in three words - practise, communication, preparation:-)


One key is that if you are stronger than your colleagues, you don’t pull harder, just longer. The squads that practise know how to manage this - the ones that don’t splinter when the strong guys get to the front and the guy trying to get on the back is croaking “wait” as they disappear up the road. If you’re truly on the limit, shouting to be heard up the line is incredibly hard!

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Rule number one of a TTT is that the speed doesn’t change.

If someone is stronger they pull for longer, if someone is weaker they do a shorter turn.

Don’t have it so the strong guy goes to the front and pulls really fast for a minute and then the weaker guy slows the whole thing down for a minute. This will result in the weaker guy being crucified when he should be resting, as he will be going hard on the front and then will likely have to go just as hard on the wheel, and most likely do a full sprint to get on the back of the line.

The stronger guy on the other hand, will have more recovery and will therefore likely push the pace even more making for a nasty feedback loop.

Figure out roughly how fast you want to ride and don’t let the speed change. Also bear in mind that uphills everyone has to go harder relative to one another so it might be a good idea for the weaker rider to pull up a hill. The stronger guy should pull down it as everyone will get more rest relative to him.


We would always put our heaviest rider on the front on the hills initially so he could dictate the pace. We didn’t want to loose him for the flats.

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I’m interested in the responses in this thread. I love love love TTT but there just isn’t that much enthusiasm for any sort of time trial in my region. So I don’t get to do them very often.

Just a few days ago I tried 30 seconds on/90 seconds off in this fashion. In other words 105% to 110% ftp for 30 seconds…then 75% of that for 90 seconds…repeat for an hour. I just used workoutcreator to make the workout. It’s a tough workout! You should try it and let that guide your pacing strategy.

Even that workout is probably easier than the actual act of a 4 rider TT. For me the hardest part of the team time trial is getting back ON after I do my pull and rotate back.

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That’s where the practise as a squad comes in. It’s a real art knowing just how much and when to raise the effort to slip back into the line without going into the red. The guys coming through after you pull off need to take some responsibility for not lifting the pace to make sure you don’t get dropped.

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Yeah, practice is important! Otherwise that guy on the team that just has the weakest aero/power combination just gets crushed 30 minutes into the race. That’s another part of the puzzle we have not mastered! How do you match rotations/efforts to the individual rider’s abilities.

Also knowing the correct vocabulary! No sounds a lot like Slow sounds a lot like Go when you’ve got a time trial helmet covering your ears.

For the last time I rode the national champs, we had a few things agreed. I’ll not bore you with it all, but let’s just say the team got to really appreciate schedules!!!

We knew which way the wind was blowing on each part of the course and had decided in advance which way we were rotating.

Only a few simple comminucations…

  1. Flick of the head to let the rider behind know you were pulling off. We go so drilled this wasn’t even neccessary.
  2. Knew who would be on the front at key sections of the course - eg technical parts/hills.
  3. A few simple words only: Easy = slow up. Go = give it some more. Stop = we are stopping. On = we are all together, eg at junctions. Would only ever be the last rider in the line that would shout “On”. We agreed that’s all we would say during the ride.
  4. Have a team captain. They make the calls and adapt the plan on the go if need be.

When you’re practised you can tell when the other riders in the squad are tired. For example, the guy I would ride behind would swing off more sharply and not hold his line so well, so I told him to shorten his spells as I fell back into the paceline. (I was the team captain, this was my job to look out for!!).

I had three screen on my Garmin - avg speed, distance and elapsed time. We rode on RPE, not power, and I dictated the pace to keep us on a pre-agreed schedule.

The year we took the wrong turn we finished 12th. The following year we prepared meticulously and rode to a pace that would have been good enough for 6th the previous yr. Unfortunately what we hadn’t expected was the standard to be raised so high that we could only manage 13th. Last yr, we had the strongest team yet, but injuries led to us pulling out. This year, it clashes with anoher race so I’m undecided whether to try again!


It’s not a precise science, takes time and practice to figure out the optimal strategy for any particular group. My thoughts:

  • 1 minute pulls is a good starting point
  • stronger/weaker riders should take longer or shorter pulls, not change the speed. If a strong rider just surges for a minute all he’s doing is putting everybody else in the red, better to have him do 90 seconds and give the team more recovery
  • if the pace has dropped and you need to pick it up, make sure the last rider is re-attached first (especially if he’s the guy who dropped the pace and is struggling), then pick it up gradually
  • pace the first half conservatively. I’ve never yet done a TTT where we were standing around at end wishing we’d gone off harder…
  • assuming time is taken from this rider across the line, try to keep 4 people at least to 40 minutes unless somebody is having a real shocker or the team is a complete mismatch. 4 people with one person doing short turns is still a lot better than 3 people
  • make sure everybody knows not to be a hero. If one guy is feeling strong and his minute turns are creeping up to 70, 80, 90 seconds you don’t have to match him. Let him pull and trust that he’s not blowing himself up
  • Rely on pre-agreed rules and hand or head gestures as much as possible. Verbal communication is nigh on impossible when you’re all on the limit with aero helmets on
  • if there’s cross wind then form an echelon (assuming traffic and roads permit you to do this safely), and when you pull off after your turn drop back on the side the wind is coming from so you shield the rest of the team as you move to the back. That said, it can be remarkably hard to know where the wind is coming from at times!
  • if there is any flexibility in the make up of the team(a), matching riders of similar size can work well. I’ve found ITT ability doesn’t necessarily translate well to TTT. E.g. I’ve done TTTs with some smaller triathletes with great tri bike leg times who can cruise along at 80-90% FTP all day long, but who have very little ability to ride above threshold, and offer very little draft!

Thanks all for these great responses!! Lots to think about and PRACTICE :+1: