A key time trial is approaching. You want to have a great race but have the jitters. Get over them with a good plan starting with the day before the race up until you cross the finish line. Make the most of the many hours of training with a detailed approach to the race.
Two Nights Out
Make sure you get great sleep two nights out. Sometimes it is difficult to do it the night before a race, but two nights out is much easier. If you get a chance the day before the time trial, take a nap.
The Night Before
Pack everything you think you might need, even if it is a small possibility. Check the weather and bring appropriate kit (do not forget your shoes and helmet!). Bring all of your nutrition and hydration essentials. A small tool kit may come in handy if something needs a quick adjustment. All of your inflation tools – pump, right angle adapter for a disc wheel, spare tubes – are mandatory. Bring your trainer or rollers to have an effective warm up. Pack everything the night before and have it ready to go so you have piece of mind when you go to bed.
How much to eat for breakfast before a time trial depends on how much time there is before the race. If you have three hours, a full breakfast may suit you. If there is less time, trim down how much food you eat. This will take some experimentation. Make sure it agrees with you.
Get to the venue early enough so that there is time to pre-ride the course. It will allow you to see the best lines on the road and give you an idea of where you need to put the power down and where you can recover some. If you do not have time to pre-ride but the road is still open, drive the course; it is better than going into it blind.
Pair Your Clock
Check your start time for the time trial. Compare your own reliable clock with the official race clock. Make sure they are close enough that you will know exactly when you need to start based on your own clock.
The longer the time trial, the shorter the warm up. First, you want to save your effort for out on the course and second, you have a little time at the beginning to ease into your pace. You want to ease into your pace so you do not blow up and have more left for later in the time trial. For a shorter time trial, you should do a longer warm up because there is not as much time to differentiate yourself from the rest of the riders. You set a pace that is nearly full gas from the start.
Start your warm up easy and work your way up to harder efforts. Do some time in each zone up to zone 4; the duration of the time trial will determine how long you will spend in each zone. Include some high cadence around 120rpm for short bursts to loosen up your legs. Do not overdo it zone 4 – you only need to activate your metabolic systems, not win the warm up.
Time Trial Start
Get to the start line for the time trial with about five minutes to go. That means you have to be done with your warm up, have gone to the bathroom, made final adjustments to your kit, and taken care of anything else that needs to be done.
You are all ready to go. All of the preparation lead you hear. Do not blow it by going way too hard off the line. On go, do a few decently hard pedal strokes to get the bike going, but then get into the aerobars on your time trial bike or low aerodynamic position on your road bike as quickly as possible. You will gain more by being aerodynamic than by sprinting and it will keep you from blowing up. If the time trial is longer than fifteen minutes or so, ease into your pace over the first two or so minutes. You should not be going easy but at a sustainable pace below your target. Shorter than fifteen minutes and you need to be ready at the line to go straight to your target pace.
The coefficient of drag versus velocity is a cubed relationship, while the gravity versus velocity is linear. This dictates that you get more bang for your buck with extra effort on climbs rather than descents. This should also inform your time trial pacing. Think of your ideal pace on the flats to be a 100% effort. On a climb, do 110% of the flat effort, and a descent, do 90% of the flat effort. These numbers are relative to illustrate pacing ideas and only applies to flatter or rolling time trials. If the time trial has longer climbs, or is a hill climb time trial you will want to stick to your target pace so you do not blow up.
Standing On Climbs
Sometimes you will see riders come out of their aerobars for a hill. This is only worthwhile if your speed drops below twenty kilometers per hour or so. Otherwise aerodynamics are more beneficial than the additional force of standing on the pedals.
Through the middle and end of the time trial it is important to maintain a good aerodynamic profile. It pays to think about it because as you tire it will become more difficult to keep low, narrow, and stable. It is worthwhile to expend a little energy to ensure that you keep the good form that you worked on leading to the time trial. The less the air sees of you, the more the effort from your legs will count.
Your lungs are burning and your legs ache en route to a great time. Do not give up now. Really empty the tank for this last section. If you can stand up and sprint at the end of a time trial you did not leave enough of yourself on the course. Relief will come soon enough when you cross the finish line. In the meantime, stay in a very aerodynamic position and meter out your final effort to carry you across the line on empty.
After you cross the line, catch your breath, clean the salt and snot off of your face, get some water and recovery food and get yourself to the podium.