So how do you ride a good time trial? Andy Sexton, a triathlon coach and former national age-group triathlon champion, now competes solely in time trials. He offers the following advice:
- A key skill is being able to pace the event efficiently. Practise pace control in training. Try riding a short loop (about a mile) a number of times. Aim to hit the same time for each repetition. Going off too fast is the number-one mistake made by novice riders.
- Learn to relax. Time trialling can be a painful process. Watch the best riders and learn to relax at high levels of effort. Keep your torso and head still and relaxed, and concentrate on generating power with the large muscle groups in the glutes and quadriceps. Tension in the face, arms and upper body means you're wasting precious energy.
- Despite being ridden at a fast pace, time trialling is predominantly an aerobic event. Build aerobic fitness with long, steady rides, where it's still possible to hold a decent conversation, but fast enough that you have to concentrate to maintain the pace. At least one ride each week should be designed to increase your aerobic endurance. Gradually increase the length as your fitness improves.
- Add faster paced interval training, but don't confuse intervals with going flat out. An interval just means any repeated measured effort. A blend of short, fast intervals (1-5 minutes) and longer steadier intervals (up to 30 minutes) can help build both your anaerobic and aerobic energy systems. Interval training does not have to leave you exhausted.
For the novice, time trials provide a good opportunity to learn from the master cyclists who turn up to compete week in, week out - either by watching them in action or asking for advice, which they are usually only too happy to give.
Taking part in time trials is satisfying in itself, but the real thrill comes when you begin to see improvement in your triathlon. Your confidence will grow and you'll know that a sizzling bike leg will set you up for great things in your races.
Discover our top beginner tips.
How to Take Part
Rules governing entry in UK time trials vary from region to region.
- In England and Wales, cyclists must belong to a club affiliated to Cycling Time Trials (cyclingtimetrials.org.uk).
- In Scotland (britishcycling.org.uk/scotland) you must belong to a club to enter club events, and you may need a race licence for open events.
- In Ireland (cyclingireland.ie), including Northern Ireland (cyclingulster.com), you must hold a race licence to compete in all time trials - most licence holders are also club members.
For more information, see the websites above or contact your local cycling club.