Racing a Cycling Time Trial – Part 2

Race Preparation

By Sandy Scott


It is the day before a time trial race at which you plan to compete.  I suggest that you prepare a checklist of the things you wish to bring with you that can be printed out and used every time you race.  Check off each item prior to leaving home so you have no surprises the next morning. 


Some of the things that I bring in addition to the obvious are:  Extra wheels so that I don’t need to struggle with tire/wheel issues when I should be warming up or thinking about the race,  spray adhesive (I use Duro All-Purpose or Elmer’s Craft Bond spray adhesives) for affixing the racing number to my jersey (numbers that are pinned tend to flap in the breeze which is distracting and not aerodynamic), a tool kit with everything I might need for minor repairs, a pump, a bike stand on which to prop my bicycle, pre-race meal items and energy gel(s) and bars, sun block, water and/or other fluids, etc. 


Clean your bike thoroughly – a clean bike is a fast bike.  Check your tires carefully for any chards of glass or anything else that might later cause a flat.  Inflate your tires prior to leaving home.  You don’t need the surprise and aggravation of a presta valve failure or any other tire issues the morning of the race. I vary pressures depending on road surface- 150-160 psi for a hard, smooth surface, down to 120 on a chip-and- seal-type surface.  Although this is probably stating the obvious, do not run 150 pounds of pressure in a tire designed for a maximum of 125 pounds!  I use tubular tires which typically have much higher inflation limits than clinchers.


If the race is the next morning and far enough from your home to require a hotel stay, arrive during daylight hours to leave yourself enough time to familiarize yourself with the course.  Drive or ride the course noting turns, landmarks, condition of the road, hazards, etc.  I’m a firm believer in the process of visualization prior to an athletic event.  With the course in mind, you can envision yourself successfully racing the course.


Try to get a good night’s sleep the night before the race, but, if you find yourself nervous and unable to readily sleep, remember that the two nights previous to that night are the important nights to sleep well. 


Arise early enough to allow at least three (3) hours between your pre-race meal and the actual race.  Eat a very light pre-race meal – even a light feeding will feel like a five (5) course dinner on a nervous stomach, but a light meal will feel digested by race time.  Experiment with your pre-race meal to see what works best for you.  Even though I drink a glass of orange juice every morning prior to my workout, I don’t do well with it on a nervous, pre-race stomach. 


Through experimentation, my pre-race meal has evolved to the following:  A Clif bar, banana, and water to drink.  As a competitive runner, I got into the habit of taking two pre-race aspirins as both a blood thinner (controversial) and to mask the various aches and pains that I seemed to chronically suffer while pursuing that sport.  I have continued the habit with my cycling races, and if nothing else, I benefit from the placebo effect in the belief that my performance will be enhanced! Out of curiosity, I contacted a physician friend of mine who happens to also be an avid time trial competitor to get his perspective on the use of aspirin pre-competition.  He, told me that commencing at the age of 50, he began a regimen of taking a daily low dose aspirin of 81 mg. On race day, he ups his dose to two 350 mg aspirins “as a heart attack/stroke preventative.”   Each of us is unique; you have to experiment and find out what works for you.  For some people a little caffeine (coffee, coke, or tablet) helps with especially short TT’s early in the day. 


Many time, trial events will post start times either on the Internet or at the official event hotel the night prior to the race.  If possible, ascertain your start time the night before the race, and pick up your race packet if available.  Place your number on your skin suit that night.  It saves valuable time and effort in the morning when you need to concentrate on the race and warming up.   If you do not have a start time and/or race packet in advance, plan to arrive at the race venue at least one and one-half hours prior to the start time of the first racer.   Register immediately and affix your race number to your skin suit, and if a transponder is used, install it or have it installed on your bike.  Check your start time, and sync your watch with the official race clock. Cruise by the start periodically to see that they are keeping to a published schedule – your time starts when they say “go” for your number regardless of whether you are there or not – there is NO excuse for missing your start time.


Prior to commencing your warm-up, check your bicycle for any obvious issues.  Make sure that your wheels are spinning freely, and not pressing against a brake pad from lying in your car. Plan to warm up for at least an hour for a time trial event.  Even a longer time trial requires a very warm engine at the start so that you can achieve your goal pace immediately without feeling either physical or nervous system distress.  The first half-hour of your warm up should be comprised of easy spinning.  In the second half hour you should commence doing race pace pickups allowing some lactic acid to build up and dissipate.  Finally, finish your workout with a couple of brief sprints.  Your legs and system will be now ready for battle.  Some competitors use trainers for their warm-up.  Ideally, I warm up on the race course – I would rather feel the road as I will experience it in the race. Here is Dave Viney’s warm-up routine:


“I warm-up for the first 45 min or so on my road bike – more comfortable, less worry about punctures, got spare with me in case etc, then for last 45 min move to TT bike and TT helmet, booties etc. and do several hard efforts getting up to race wattage for extended periods-3-5 min- I have found that  doing a warm-up on a trainer was not good for me – I have to feel the road and the power of the wind and how it will affect me in TT position- I’ve got to get comfortable with wind buffeting me and how bike will handle at 30mph in that wind on that road.  The shorter the TT the longer and harder the warm up – ambient temperature also needs to be considered but maybe that is whole other article.”


It is 10 minutes prior to your start time….  Look for Part 3 of this series dealing with actual racing techniques.

Email me with any questions at



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