Grassroots time trialing: how to get started

With summer finally arrived, the competitive season is in full swing.

While seasoned riders will be riding a familiar path that may include week night track or crit races and weekend road racing, riders newer to the sport, perhaps discovering a taste for life on two wheels from sportives, may be wondering how to start.

We continue our look at grassroots racing, begun last week with an examination of road racing, by turning our attention to time trialing, with the insights from top amateur, Tim Bayley, a man with over 20 years experience racing against the clock.

Tim Bayley held an elite road race licence for 10 years, but with family and work commitments has made the time trial his ‘go to’ event. Picture:

Tim’s first competitive action came in 1991 when he rode the final club 10 TT of Folkestone CC’s season. “I had to wait the whole winter to ride another,” he recalls.

In time trialing, Tim found a branch of the sport perfectly suited to the beginner: one in which he could turn up and compete without the need for support or having to know anyone. “Time trialing was easy to get into. I loved riding hard, just going out and making my legs hurt. I still do!” he jokes.

Time trialing is one of several disciplines open to the amateur. Track racing offers the thrill of high speed, wheel-to-wheel racing in close proximity; road racing demands endurance as well as speed and tactical nous. Tim was part of the team that won the “Best British All Rounder” in 1996, his final step to an elite road licence, which he held for 10 years, winning two divisional titles and enjoying top five finishes in Premier Calendar road races.

But while work and family commitments make it difficult to compete at elite level on the road, he says, time trialing, often cited as the purest form of the sport, can be accommodated by most schedules. Tim is a brand manager with Fisher Outdoor Leisure (hence the LOOK, SRAM, and ZIPP kit), but while he spends his days surrounded by cycle kit, finds his time to use it limited.

Tim’s trusty LOOK 576 aero time trial bike

“When you are working and have a family, it’s tough to spend the mornings and evenings training and then disappear at the weekends to spend all day racing,” says Tim. “I love the fact that time trials are totally accessible. It is great that a rider in his first race could ride against national champions or Tour de France riders.”

(Tim proudly points out that 2011/12 British time trial champion, Team Sky’s Alex Dowsett, will be riding the Icknield 25 this weekend).

The skill set required of a good time trialist is focussed very much on effort, another attractive proposition for the newcomer to cycle sport who may lack the bike handling skills to race safely in a bunch and would almost certainly face an initial battle to learn its tactical subtleties.

“Time trialing, however is all about the rider,” says Tim, “There’s no hiding place, which is why it is called the race of truth. The skill is being able to ride hard but with the ability to pace yourself at the same time. It’s very easy to start to hard and lose time in the second half.”

Regulation of effort is a key skill for the time trialist, says Tim. He uses a power meter to help

The use of tri-bars can provide a challenge to the newcomer, he warns, as can controlling deep section wheels in cross winds. Some of the technical developments that characterise modern cycling are most evident in the time trial. Tim maintains that the use of aero bars, wheels, frame, and wearing a skinsuit and aero profiled helmet can give an advantage of more than five minutes in a 25-mile time trial.

We’ll bring you a typical week’s training for Tim in a future article. His race day preparation includes a light past meal four hours before the race and a 100g of Maxim energy drink in a 750ml bottle 90 minutes before he starts his ride (“just sipping, not loading up”). He’ll consume the same after the ride (“I don’t use a bottle in a 10 mile TT”).

To newcomers contemplating a time trial, Tim’s advice is simple: “Don’t be intimidated.”

“Cycling clubs have 30 or more riders at each event in the evening during the week and every rider once turned up to ‘have a go’ and enjoyed it,” he adds.

Searching the internet for a local club, or visiting the Cycling Time Trial website is the next step. “If you take some mates along to you can have a great time competing with each other too,” says Tim.

“Enjoy it!”

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