Racing a Cycling Time Trial – Part 1

By Sandy Scott

WARNING:  The information you are about to read will make you a faster time trial racer.  If you are a cyclist who likes to race simply to participate, if you enjoy paying money to race with no hope of winning, or if racing is just a social event for you, this article may or may not be of interest to you.  Prior to giving up on the article, however; please read at least the next paragraph for a different perspective by Dave Viney, an elite-class time trial competitor.  If, however, you are a hardcore racer (or want to be) who comes to win and believes as I do that the only winner in a race is the guy on the top step of the podium, and that the other two guys on the podium are the first and second losers, then this article will definitely be of interest to you.


Dave Viney is the finest time trial rider I have ever known.  He is a multiple Canadian national Masters time trial champion, and multiple North American Masters time trial champion riding the fastest time in the meet for anyone over 30 while he was in his 50s!  He is currently 59 years old, and, in most time trial events, he turns in the top time overall beating even the Pro, 1, 2 groups.  A month before his planned, peak form for the Canadian and North American Masters championships, Dave rode a 40-kilometer time trial at the USCF Florida State Time Trial Championships in 52:55 at the age of 58 – that’s an incredible 28.2 mph average for almost 25 miles!  Upon completion of this article, I sent it to Dave for comments.  Here is his take on time trialing:  “Not too quibble but I kind of like the TT, because you are competing against yourself so everyone can be a “winner” by improving on previous performances on the same course hence the popularity of the thousands of weekly club-run TT’s.”  In that Dave is my time trial hero, our differing philosophical outlook notwithstanding, in deference to him, I invite those of you who are casual racers to read on.  You will find other comments by Dave highlighted in red throughout the text.


Time trialing is called the “Race of Truth” for good reason. There are no wheels to suck, and there are no excuses – you are on your own, you are in the wind, and there is no place to hide!  If you listen to the chatter at the end of the typical road race, you will hear many of the following statements:  “I got boxed in”; “I didn’t know someone was off the front”; “I was driven wide in the last  turn”; “Someone sat up in front of me”; “My lead out man went too early”; “My lead out man went too late”; etc., etc., etc..  There are no excuses in a time trial – you either cover the distance faster than everyone else or you lose.


There is admittedly an element of luck, and certainly a lot of strategy in road racing and, hence, the strongest rider does not necessarily win.  In time trial races, assuming equal equipment, preparation, technique, and the ability and willingness to experience pain, the strongest rider will almost always win.  I love that!  In a TT the strongest rider who does the best job at pacing and maximizing his effort, and who has done his homework in equipment preparation and course review, will win.


To be a good time trialist, you need not only a strong engine, but you must be willing and able to withstand rather intense pain.  To me, that kind of pain is “delightful pain” – I embrace it!  You must also be able to concentrate – otherwise, if you let your mind wander, you will assuredly allow your speed (or power) to fall off leading to a result below your potential. Time trial riding is hard work and you have a lot of tasks in addition to just riding your bike fast!


While on the subject of pain, I have never forgotten a statement made by Olympic swimming champion, Don Schollander, who set three world records en route to winning four gold medals at the 1964 Olympics. When asked by a reporter what separates a champion from the rest of the pack he said, “The difference between a champion and a non-champion is, that when the body is screaming out in pain, the champion pushes his body even harder while the others do not.”


If you are still reading this, let’s deal with specifics.  I will assume that you are serious enough about time trial racing that you have equipped yourself properly for an optimal performance:


1.  You have a dedicated time trial bicycle with aero wheels that has been properly fitted to you.

2.  You plan to wear a skin suit, aerodynamic helmet, booties over your shoes, and no gloves.

3. You will run with a water bottle on the seat tube.


For a more detailed description of time trial equipment, see an earlier article on this site that I authored.  Race day is tomorrow – watch for Part 2 which is coming soon.

Email me with any questions at


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