Pacing a time trial at a Stage Race

I haven’t ridden a TT in a number of years and am headed to a stage race this weekend with a 15 mile out and back. I have listened to the TT podcast episodes but am still trying to think about how to pace to not blow up, and also in the context of a Stage Race where I’ll be doing the road race the following day - do people think about TT’s in a SR differently than a standalone TT so they’re not thrashed the next day, or is the effort short enough it doesn’t matter? I have been doing a crash course in using clip ons that I haven’t used for five years in the past week – I don’t seem to have a huge wattage loss in aero position, but my aero is horrible I’m sure, so it’s going to be more of a raw effort. I have a 305 FTP – my thought was go out around 290 and every 3 miles reassess up or down. Seems to me around 40 minutes would be a good goal. Any thoughts would be appreciated! I know that TT’s are often decisive in stage races, so want to give myself the best chance. Of course as a cat 4 the GC points don’t even matter for upgrades and I could just focus on the Crit and RR, but it’s more of a challenge to myself and for pride.

I think it’s pretty common to see people sandbagging TT’s at stage races because people feel they don’t have a shot. They’re really relegating themselves to the bottom of the GC standings, though.

I love a stage race with a TT, so I always give it all I got. For 15 miles I would be looking to beat my FTP, but starting at 290 might be a good strategy.

Good luck!

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@Scollett84 Can you describe the course profile a bit and your best guess on wind conditions?

@Landis they say its the 15 mile version of the Athlone TT, so flat, out and back (out north, back south), i guessed with this: here is the Athlone TT: There is a chance of rain, 8-10MPH winds ESE so should be a tail out head back.

@Scollett84 ok this looks like a perfect opportunity to negative split or go slightly easier than target power out with the tailwind. And then slightly above target power after the turnaround and into the headwind. edit: this would be true on a no wind day but, even more true with a tail out headwind back. All things equal you would want to go harder into the wind or up hill. Easier with a tailwind or downhill.

Check this out on negative split:

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I agree with @Landis, with a tailwind going out a negative split is perfect since you want to go harder when you’re going slower (into a heading and up hills).

As to your initial question, if you care about your GC position then do not hold back in the TT. The TT is the only point in a stage race where every ounce of effort you put in has a direct impact on your GC position. In a RR or Crit other people will either be drafting off you reducing the benefit you can gain on GC or even if you are off the front solo they will be drafting off each other to reduce the gains you make.

If you don’t care about the GC, and only want to target the RR or Crit then go ahead and sandbag the TT but use it as your opener for the next days race. Oh and don’t get time cut, not many stage races have time cuts in the amateur ranks but check before you decide to take it easy.

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Sounds like a good plan, appreciate the feedback. Update on weather: looking like potential thunderstorms now :scream:! I’m going to look at being on a my roadie with bars as advantage to a TT rig in poor weather.


Yeah the road bike will probably be less of a concern if it gets grippy out there. Also keep in mind that if the wind is gusty you may want a shallower front wheel to hell with handling if you’re using the clip on bars.


I’ll see you out there, maybe… but as a woman, I race at a completely different time. I don’t have a TT rig, so I’m just doing my road bike. Given the weather, I think it won’t be a big issue. I’m just doing this SR for fun and experience, as well as a great hard weekend of training. But to answer your original question, @Vision646 has excellent advice and I know he knows what he’s talking about, so I’d definitely take his advice under consideration. For myself, I’m going to give it a really good effort, since the whole point is to give this weekend a solid go, and aim for a negative split.

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TT is a good opportunity to take some time out of your rivals. An 8-10mph wind isn’t a huge deal unless it’s gusty. The course looks pretty flat (about 40ft elevation change), but mildly downhill with a slight cross-tail wind on the way out, slight cross head on the way home.

Course looks similar to this one although the Strava profile would suggest otherwise!

I wouldn’t be thinking about saving energy for the way back, but looking at at steady effort the whole ride. You’ll lose time overall doing it that way as the run out will be seeing some really high speeds. I’d think 40 mins is a very conservative estimate of your time with a FTP of 305 and clip ons. With similar power and set up I managed a 10TT in 22.30, so I’d be aiming higher.

I’d approach this route looking to keep my power and HR constant for the entire ride. If it’s just the TT that day, don’t hold back. Give it everything. You’ll recover just fine!

Constant power is really bad advise in this situation (tailwind descent out and headwind climb back).

Sorry, but I disagree. Looking at the Strava elevation map, there’s 43 feet of elevation change over the legs. Even the little spike is only 14 feet with a maximum gradient of 2.8%. That’s about as flat a route as you can get. I would still go hard on the out leg, and keep the power the same on the return. If you don’t then I would expect to loose more time to your rivals on the outward leg than you can make up for on the return.

And the wind forecast is only 8-10mph. That’s really not that windy at all.

I’d wouldn’t approach this as saving energy on one leg to make up for the other, but still ride a constant power throughout.

Check out you can enter the route, wind etc…and see the difference.

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Yeah - I went to try it (as @Jonathan is always talking about it), but entered a test route and the website isn’t super easy to use. I went back to enter what I actually thought the course is and as far as I can tell I only get one free upload?.. price is way too steep for me to pay premium as it’s much more geared to tri/TT folks. But I do agree, negative splitting or increasing power/not steady state at least for me seems the most logical.

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If you want to win the stage race, go all in; if you are going for the upgrade points and want to roll it, do it properly in Z2 (don’t do that mediocre half-in stuff)

If we are talking about the Madera Stage race and the athlone TT, I went to college in merced the wind is always going south, unless it’s a freak’ish day.
If’s out-NW and return on the SE (just like district) I’d go harder out and easier back, also if a train passes be ready for some shaking (not kidding)
322w out & 313w treated me to a fast 3rd place last year


Nice, appreciate your local insights. The forecast calls for SE winds which means out of the South east, ie tail out - you say “wind is almost always going south” which would mean a N wind… so forecast is the opposite of normal ? Would you still go with that tactic? Additionally looks like it’ll be raining, I see the point in your all in or out thoughts… though easier said than done! While I have you, that crit course looks super safe even if wet ?

I meant that the wind is almost always from North to South, you might have a unicorn of a weather (with the storm/rain; not too surprised)
I recommended my cat3 teammate to cap the effort by speed on the out/tailwind section and go all in on the return. It’s a lot harder to race that way.
I flatted in the RR, I’d recommend metal bottle cages & decent tires + move up when the road gets rough. The year I did it, was a 4 corner crit that went over train tracks, I think they changed it the following year, be careful if it’s a wet crit…

Maybe out on 280w and all in on the return. If you are doing it competitively, loose the “i’m on a road bike” mentality, borrow a tt helmet if you can, get a good skinsuit, you’ll be surprised how fast you can be (other teammate beat me in the cat2 chico tt with a venge + homemade wheel cover, I was on the “looking-stupid-with my zipp disc” receiving end)

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It’s not about saving energy for a single leg, if you look at the physics/math applying more power when you’re going slower is the faster way to pace your TT efforts. Not only that but it’s even better in this case as the negative split also gives your body and mind a chance to “ease” into the effort and re-warm up.

It is almost never recommended to pace a TT at the same power output for the entirety of the course. For anyone who really wants to get into TT’s I’d second as a great tool for getting an idea on optimal pacing strategies.

I would say that 40 minutes is VERY conservative, unless the weather is really bad or you are very un-aero. I know from experience, that I can hold just under 37 kph for that duration, which would give me a time of 39 minutes, on a road bike with aerobars and shallow rims, and my ftp is only 230…

Flat TT effort

It’s not the longest ride, but the best flat TT I can find from a pro that I follow on Strava with open power and HR data. Apart from the corners, he’s obvioulsy riding to a predermined power. This looks to be constant throughout.

Froome often rides a “negative split”, in that he rides the latter part of the course faster thyan his rivals. His power data isn’t open on Strava. You can’t really draw many conclusions, but you can ask is that because he’s maintaining his effort throughout whilst his rivals slow, or is he riding the first part of the course at a slightly lower power?