time trial

Training For Time Trials

time trial


Time Trialing (Part 3 of 4 – Aaron Buggle)

Time trialing is a discipline that places different physiological demands on a rider than road racing does, so it is only natural that the training is different for them. When training for time trials it’s really a case of quality of quantity and no pain no gain. You are required to ride at a high percentage of your aerobic capacity for a prolonged period of time so clearly there’s no need to train your explosiveness. It’s a mixture of sub- threshold, threshold and vo2 max work that will make you a better tester.

For most time trials the biggest training focus is on raising your FTP so we will take a look at that first – but it’s not the only variable. There are a number of ways of accomplishing a higher FTP.

Session Examples

-Longer “sweet spot” efforts, typically longer efforts carried out at around 85 – 90% of FTP

-Zone 5/Z4 plus efforts that “pull” your threshold up from above, examples include 4 x 8 minutes @ 104% of FTP with 4 minutes recovery between each.

-Zone 4 training sessions such as 2 X 20 minutes Z4 with five minutes recovery.

-Over-Under or crisscross efforts are another method of training commonly used. These efforts involve riding just under your threshold, followed by a short period over threshold, before then returning to an effort level just under threshold.

For riders using a heart rate monitor it is important not to go too hard at the beginning of longer efforts, such as the 20-minute threshold, and sweet spot intervals mentioned here.

Zone 4 Threshold Intervals

Riders tend to start these efforts too hard, in order to “bring their heart rate up” to the correct zone. This is a big mistake, as heart rate can take 3-5 minutes to reach the desired level when performing these intervals. A better method is to use perceived exertion for the first five minutes until your heart rate reaches threshold. Try and hold a 7 or 8 out of 10 effort, and you should find your heart rate gradually climbing into zone 4.

Z5/Lactate Clearance Training

Sometimes you are required to ride for sustained periods above your FTP, for example a short steep hill within a long time trial or even those short TT’s ridden predominantly about your FTP. This requires both an ability to tolerate high levels of lactate/blood acidity and hold solid form and an ability to clear the lactate and waste products rapidly after a period above FTP so you can return to cruising speed as quick as possible. The over-under intervals, and Z5 intervals mentioned previously, both cause adaptations that will help you become proficient in this area

Position Specificity

Following the principle of specificity, it is best to do sessions aimed at improving your time trialing on your TT bike/in your TT position. Nearly all riders find that they cannot produce the same power numbers in this position at first. This is due to the different hip angle, and different muscle recruitment demanded by a time trial position. However this power loss can be mitigated, and even eliminated, by training in the time trial position.

This is an area that can give a rider huge improvements in performance, and is a key aspect of training for time trials. I used to do my long endurance rides on the TT bike to improve my ability to produce power in that position, while 4 hour rides on the TT bike may be excessive for most riders, it illustrates the importance of maximising the time spent in your TT position. A more practical tip for amateur riders is to perform your recovery rides on the TT bike. These rides when performed regularly will really help in adapting your body to produce power in a TT position. Training will have tangible effects on your results in time trialing, unlike road racing where there are a lot of variables outside your control can affect your results, time trialing is a much more controlled environment.

Training for time trials is a very rewarding process, the more effort you put in, the more you get out and they are not called “the race of truth” for nothing!

About the Author