Someone recently told me that riding a time trial is like riding a knife’s edge. Just a little too much in either direction and you fall off.
This is one of the aspects that attracts me. The time trial is known as the ‘race of truth’: there is no drafting, no wheels to follow, nobody to hide behind. But it’s not pure strength. The guy with the most watts doesn’t necessarily win. You have to optimize the watts that you do have, with your pacing with with how aerodynamic you can make yourself.
A common mistake is starting out too fast. You’re on the start line with someone holding your bike by the saddle, the clock is ticking down, and your heart rate is already spiking from the adrenaline. You blast off from the line like it’s an 8km prologue. Only you have 40km to go.
You feel strong those first 5 minutes … and then you hit the point where your legs feel like tree trunks, your pedaling goes square, your arms start to tingle, and you know you have gone out too fast.
I know all this. Yet I still do it. It happened to me recently at the Groveport TT.
I left the start, into a headwind, and felt good. In the first few miles I was already catching rides in front of me. That should have been a clue. With about 10 miles to go, I suddenly became aware of the feeling: I need back off and recover. From that point to the finish it was a matter of damage control.
Riding to limit the damage is not the optimal way to finish. Nor is it enjoyable. You’re dying horribly, but you still have to ride yourself to the finish without totally giving up.
The worst thing is that it plants a seed of doubt. You line up for the next TT, and now you have to deal with the memory of that experience. You know you can’t go out too fast. But now do you overshoot to the other side and ride off the knife’s edge?
And how will you manage it when you know that starting 1 minute behind you is the winner of multiple national championships? Yes, that will be the situation at the state TT. Mind games.