An individual time trial is a discipline with physiology, technique, tactics, and psychology requirements. Each of these categories has a potential for optimization that will make you faster. In the first article, I will take a closer look at what you can do to optimize your time trial training.
Getting started with time trial training
The most apparent parameter for time trial performance is your physiological status. Maintaining a large percentage of your maximum oxygen consumption over a long period is essential in a time trial.
Genes play an essential role in your maximum oxygen consumption, so you will benefit from choosing your parents carefully. (If you read this, it is probably already too late, sorry.)
Interval training can improve your time trial performance
Forget about the genes for a while. You have an excellent opportunity to optimize your aerobic engine through interval training. Time trialists should focus these intervals on workloads that require intensities at maximum oxygen consumption (VO2 max) or just below. Training at this intensity boosts your VO2 max and improves your performance at a lower power.
That is probably not known by all cyclists, but the physiological adaptations you get from this training are the same as the extended ‘threshold’ intervals. There is nothing magic about training at the threshold, and it is not better than training slightly above or below the threshold.
The exciting thing is how great a stimulus you put on your oxygen system and how long you spend on that intensity because that makes you better.
Use time trial power outputs to plan future intervals
Performing a time trial with a mounted power meter or simply making a maximum power output test will give you a picture of what intensity is required in the intervals. Time trialists can perform intervals in many ways, and they work lovely for most riders – mainly if they are performed as described in this article.
The idea of doing intervals is to split up a long ride into shorter sections with high intensity. By doing this, you will get more time at your planned oxygen consumption with less effort.
Use power output to control pace
I usually recommend serious riders use a power meter to optimize physical performance. The reason for this is that it is possible to control the workload very precisely, securing me that they train precisely what I am interested in. Unfortunately, there are a lot of riders who start too fast in intervals and then slow down in the last part of the interval.
The problem with this is that the first part of the interval requires a tremendous amount of anaerobic work that they get exhausted too early. As a result, they reduce the pace and can’t maintain the power output needed to stimulate the aerobic system sufficiently.
The result is that the interval subjectively is a challenging experience but objectively a poor controlled aerobic interval. Knowing how many watts they can maintain over a given period makes it much easier for them to control the pace during the interval.
Optimize your aerodynamic position
Aerodynamic drag is your enemy in time trials. Read how you can beat the opponent by aerodynamic tests with your power meter. Wind tunnel tests are expensive, but doing tests with a power meter can be a valuable alternative.