Is a time trial a race? A race of truth say some. No wheel sucking, no team to power you to the line. Was I racing others? Yes and no. I was very pleased with my position in the race and the er, first prize money of my budding career, he says, just shy of veteran age!
Yet I wasn’t really racing others. How could I, riding a TT on a road bike, loaded with two water bottles, a saddle bag, and a full loaf of Soreen bulging out of my jersey pocket. What? Some of us were heading off for a proper ride after the TT.
Time Trial preparation
So why ride a time trial, I obviously wasn’t taking it seriously, was I? Well I was serious enough to spend thirty minutes analysing Strava rides from pervious years, not that I learnt much!
I didn’t ride the course beforehand, nor did I turn up in my car and warm-up in the car park on my turbo. Oh no. This was simply a new experience and a chance to test my legs. I was intrigued. How fast could I ride a hilly 10 mile TT?
I deliberately chose a ‘Sporting course’ also known as a hilly time trial. Most time trials are raced on long flat dual carriageways to ensure fast times. Yet cars passing by at 70 mph isn’t my idea of fun. A hilly TT adds a few other dimensions that help level the playing field against those riding bikes fresh from wind tunnels or wearing helmets made for travelling to another planet.
Hilly courses have turns, like a proper bike ride, requiring a certain amount of technical ability to corner at speed. And of course my beloved hills. Not that I was loving these hills! Having previously competed in Hill Climb races, I thought I knew what pain was all about racing uphill as hard as you can for 3-6 minutes. Ha! Then I rode a time trial. Ouch.
The plan was to start moderately quick and ease into the race. This being my first ever time trial, things didn’t quite go to plan and I inevitably fell into the biggest time trial mistake of them all: starting too fast.
This was the last thing I wanted to do and no matter how many times I told myself to take it easy for the first couple of miles, adrenaline had a different idea. Whoosh!
Within a minute my heart rate went anaerobic, pushing for my max. The rest of the race was a case of clinging on as best I could. I settled into awkward rhythm, switching efforts between cardio and muscles, pushing hard up hills and spinning a quick cadence, reversing this pattern on the flat, mashing out a slow cadence to give my aerobic system a rest.
Constantly straddling that fine red line between overcooking it and not quite going hard enough took enormous amounts of concentration. Sure, you can bash out intervals on the turbo but here you must keep an eye on the road, for cars, for potholes, for the next turn. Staying low to remain aero, resisting the urge to look behind to see if your minute man has caught you yet. What about now, you think, turning again?
Not being overtaken by my minute man (the rider who set off a minute after me), was one of my two objectives, a pretty silly goal given the rider behind could well have been Bradley Wiggins for all I knew. Objective two was to finish without an ounce of energy left, with no regrets because I’d left every watt of power on the road. Mission accomplished.
All in all it was a great day out. The weather was perfect, with both the men’s and the women’s course records being broken. The course was challenging with over 700 feet of climbing in ten miles. I was thrilled with my time of 25:58, finishing second in the road bike category and 10th overall from a field of about 40 riders.
I even managed to form part of the winning team (with a team course record nonetheless), mostly thanks to my teammates Gunther and Richard who finished first and second overall. That brings my career earnings to a colossal £10. Eat your heart out Mr Sagan. I’m only in this biking lark for the money.
Will I be tempted back to race more TTs? Perhaps, but only the hilly variety. The 10 mile TT is a perfect distance for me but I also fancy a 25 mile TT later in the year, where the last thing I must do is start too quickly. Yep, you know I will! Alternatively I may just find some TT courses and go and ride them in my own time given I’m only racing myself.
A huge thank you to the host club, Finsbury Park CC and all of the volunteers who made this happen.
15 tips for riding your first Time Trial
- Don’t buy all the gear
- Start on a road bike first
- Try a sporting course
- It’s not a race
- Study the course, especially the corners
- Warm up sufficiently beforehand with a few short all out efforts and some tempo riding
- Practice riding aero, tuck your elbows in and get them low
- Check the weather forecast, it’ll be a very different ride in the wet
- Don’t expect to get the pacing right first time
- Use power or heartrate to help you pace the race
- Don’t look our for your minute man
- Do chase down those in front but at your own pace
- Ride with your head up and eyes open – the roads are not closed
- Be prepared to feel sick and dizzy at the end!
- Enjoy it. Well, as much as that’s possible when you hurt so much