Time Trialing for beginners

Can any Time trialist help me. I have just got into this sport for about a year. A new season is quickly approaching and I need help and advice can anyone help me? When I begin the time trial what % of FTP should I be going at? When should I step this up to my FTP? Also in regard to cadence during trainer road workouts Chad is recommending cadence of 85-95 cadence in the workouts how does this relate to cadence in the actual time trial, what should be my cadence then. On the hills do I take them easy or do I increase my pace? If anyone who does Time Trials can give me guidance in these areas I would be grateful. Thanks.

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Depends on the distance. Roughly speaking for a 40k TT you should average close to FTP. Probably not 100% if you’re new to it, but something like 95% is a good starting point (that also assumes your FTP was tested in the TT position, if you test and train in the road position you’ll likely lose some watts when you get on the TT bike). Assuming 40k is your distance then:

Start off a bit over FTP to get up to speed quickly. Within the first minute settle down to ~95% FTP. Push a little harder on hills or into the wind but not a lot - maybe 100-105%, then drop back to 90-95% on the descent or tailwind section. If the hill is steep or technical enough that you’re going to be coasting on the descent then maybe push a little harder on the climb, but this is rare on TT courses.

Keep an eye on RPE, review at halfway and if you feel good then take things up a few %. Chances are you’re going off too hard at least a few times and blow up though. “I wish I’d started harder” isn’t something you hear very often by the finish line of a 40k TT!

Cadence? Don’t worry about it, do whatever feels natural. If what feels natural is fairly extreme, like <75rpm while pushing threshold power on a flat road, then follow Chad’s higher cadence instructions and exercises in training until it feels natural on race day.

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I mostly do 10s and the odd 25 nowadays on the flat. I generally aim for about FTP and then look to nudge it up in the second half. Ideally, you won’t have much of a sprint at the end, but will be able to hurt yourself a bit more in the final 200m.

For hill climbs, I look at how long it roughly takes on strava and then pick what my power duration curve says I can do!

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In no particular order, a few thoughts.
Don’t go out too hard, its so easy to glance at your power reading 30 to 40 seconds in and find out you are doing +200% FTP in the excitement of starting the race for 10 & 25 mile TTs.
In 50 , 100 mile & 12/24hr events consider using the ride to the start and first 10 minutes of the race as your warm up.
If you have any sections where you are going at around 40mph spin easily to recover and concentrate on making your frontal profile as small as possible. Trying to pedal to get that extra 1 mph requires huge effort that you’ll pay for later.
Use whatever cadence feels right, for me that is ~80rpm on a flat course.
Push slightly hard up hill or into the wind ~102% ftp.
Don’t get caught up looking at your power numbers too much in the race, it usually involves looking down at which point the tail of most TT helmets comes up to act as a sail to slow you down.
Train in your TT position. Get either a mirror to look at your position or someone to take some pictures of you on the turbo and compare them with the endless pictures online to see if you are in the right area position wise.
Look at your clothing you plan to race in… wrinkles cost Watts! I saw a aero test where a flapping number cost 5W… it could take weeks to gain that power, why just give it away?
If you are UK based don’t forget that all CTT events now require a working rear light for you too start.
Good luck & don’t eat too much cake afterwards (UK tradition at Open races).

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Get friendly with bestbikesplit.com. :+1:

Now for some fluff:
Pre-TR, my A race was the National TT — my first ever real TT race (previous to that I hated TTs!). Being an obsessive all-or-nothing type person, I did a lot of reading and research on best TT practices. Everything already posted is very good advice; my post just serves to reiterate.

I dug up what remains of my notes on TTing…general summary:

  • Start hard but not too hard and do not hold that power!; get up to speed in a reasonably short period of time (~1-2min)
  • Cut your TT into quarters; defined by RPE: Q1@7, Q2@8, Q3@8.5 Q4@9+, Qmax@11 (last ~2km/2min)
  • Forget about catching your ‘1 Minute Man’ until Q4
  • Go harder into the wind and up hills; go easier downhill and w/ tailwind
  • In most cases, it’s better to climb seated vs standing; get out of the saddle for hills ~8%+
  • Ride the course a few times if you can; knowledge of what’s coming up and line choice can save you many seconds over the entire course
  • In terms of what’s most important for TTing:
    FTP > VO2max > Speed Endurance > Muscular Endurance > Pacing > Aerodynamics > Flexibility
  • Did I mention bestbikesplit.com? :wink:

Remember, even the pros screw up TTing. It’s a difficult thing to master – you will not have a perfect TT! Time trials are very sciencey and specific and not at all like road racing. Accept your mistakes and take away at least one imperfect factor you can analyze and work on to improve.

Probably the #1 mistake beginners make (myself included) is going out waaay too hard. Train your brain as well as your body, get them working together and you’ll be flying. :+1:

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Thanks guys for all that excellent advice it is very hard for anyone to help you at club level everyone keeps all the information top secret, so to get advice from people who really know is like gold dust. I think you all agree that keep to what ever cadence you are comfortable with. So on my Garmin just keep an eye on distance and power and forget about any more data? You all have told me things that I have been doing wrong for example I was going off at the start far too slowly so that straight away will give me a better plan to keep too. Do you advice training on the TT bike on the turbo and if so how many times a week? I have been on my road bike on the turbo up until now because I wanted to get fitter first before introducing an add problem of the TT bike.

Great stuff very happy with the support given. :+1:

Definitely train on your TT bike. I do all sweet spot and under workouts on the TT bike.

My biggest top tip would be to get yourself on very friendly terms with your bank manager. Time trialing is a very good sport for draining all of you bank accounts :joy:

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I do all of my indoor training on one of my 2 TT bikes, swapping them over every 2 weeks as one is set up more aggressively for 10 & 25 miles, whilst the other is more relaxed for 50 miles & above. If i don’t train in my TT position then I get ~20W drop in the power I can hold racing in that position & on long races i can play the what bit will hurt next game…
I just display (from top to bottom) 3s power, cadence & distance on my Wahoo when racing. Time looks after itself, i’m going as fast as i can so why worry about it.
Most of all try to remember it’s meant to be fun…

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Train on your TT rig both on the turbo and out on the open road. Turbo to build the power in that position and on the road to learn how to control a TT bike/position.

Maybe it was Coach Chad who said it’s no use doing VO2max and higher workouts on your TT bike because you aren’t racing like that when you TT. Like @willow15 said, SS and Threshold workouts are great.

And don’t worry that your wattage will drop some in your TT position because the faster aerodynamics will make up the difference, and probably more.

Something no one has mentioned is hydration/bottles. If it’s a shorter TT (~20min), don’t bring a bottle. You’ll have to experiment with your personal hydration levels above that.

Good luck in the rabbit hole!

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I do ~1 TT session per week, always outside, usually SS or threshold work so that it’s highly specific to racing. That’s enough for me to stay pretty well adapted to the position, I have no noticeable power differences between road and TT positions, and can do a 40k TT with no major comfort issues (apart from the usual agony of the last 10 minutes, but that’s normal…). Might ramp it up to twice a week approaching a longer or more important race, especially if it’s more technical. Don’t really see any point for me in doing more than that. I love riding my TT bike fast on good roads in good conditions. But I prefer my road bike for everything else. It handles better, you can take it on group rides, it’s safer when there are cars around as you don’t have to shift positions to brake, and having lots of different hand positions breaks up the monotony of indoor riding (plus getting a TT bike with horizontal dropouts on and off the trainer is a PITA!).

Think it’s quite personal though. How much you do depends how much you want to specialise in TT vs doing road races, how much time you need to adapt to the TT position, how much indoor vs outdoor riding you do, what your local roads are like, etc. I know triathletes who don’t road race, don’t do many group rides, only train on quiet roads, and have 2 TT bikes so that one stays on the trainer and one is ready for outdoor riding. They ride almost exclusively in the TT position as a result. Works for them. Wouldn’t work for me! Also worth noting that I think I can get away with relatively time in the TT position because I’m fairly consistent with it all year round, I ride ISM saddles on all my bikes, and have spent a fair bit of time and effort getting my TT and drops positions as similar as possible so that switching between road and TT isn’t too much of a jump. I also ride the drops a lot on my road bike.

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Just follow the pacing on bestbikesplit.com, I had really good results using it last year. It takes all the guess work out of how hard to work on uphills/downhill/prevailing winds.

Make sure to do a couple of B TTs before your A TT. I always need 1 or 2 “warm up” TTs to get me back in the TT mindset. In addition, if your race distance is 20K or so, try and do 2 races that day. It is really fun and good training.

Since I don’t do other road races, I almost exclusively ride my TT bike on the trainer and outdoors. I did pay for a professional fit, so I am really comfy on the bike.

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One piece of advice that isn’t training related but will save you time. Before you invest mega bucks on a new frame or wheels, you’ll gain more watts per pound spent (or dollars) on getting a decent skinsuit (that fits correctly) an aero helmet and shoe covers. Always amazes me how many people I see on bikes that are five digits in cost but have their number flapping around in the wind because it’s pinned to their suit.

If you are in the UK, try a couple of SPOCO events, they are held on what are known as ‘sporting’ courses, which means lumpy and twisty, they are very good for getting better at handling a TT bike. Also more interesting then an out and back on a flat A road. (In my humble opinion)

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