Racing the Time Trial…as a TEAM
Successful Team Time Trial Racing
The team time trial is one of the most amazing types of road racing when it is well conducted. Multiple riders from the same team working together in prefect harmony is a beautiful sight to see. While this type of race is very uncommon in elite or masters racing, it is usually a part of big pro stage races and is a very important, integral part of collegiate racing. There is a collegiate national championship on the line for the event, and is at least supposed to be an event at every one of the collegiate weekends. Because it is not normally seen in district racing, it is a great opportunity for collegiate athletes to experience this type of racing. In particular, training and racing team time trials helps build team unity, gets the riders to better know and appreciate their teammates, and allows them to evaluate and work on strengths and weaknesses of pacing themselves in a break away situation and handling the bike efficiently.
Here are some tips for both training for and racing team time trials:
- Like any aspect of cycling, team time trialing requires practice. It is a good idea to really try to schedule in the practice once a week (it is a good workout anyways!) and include all of the riders that you will be competing with. Remember that in team time trial, you can race up one category, so a B team can have a C rider, and an A team can have a B rider. You also need to commit to
oing to the same collegiate race weekends so you will have your team fully formed and ready to ride.
- Communication is key. Usually the team starts with 3 or 4 riders and it is the time of the second or third rider crossing the line that counts. Check the specific rules for how many riders need to cross the line, and how many you can or have to start with. Riders are often mismatched, especially if one rider is riding in a category above them, so be sure that you are communicating with your team. If you are having a hard time pulling through and the rest of the team is cruising along, either sit in for a few pulls to get your legs under you, or take one last big pull and let the riders go. Of course only drop off of the group if the team does not need you to complete the race and has the required number of finishers with them.
- Pacing determines the outcome of the race. The group needs to go as fast as possible, without surging through on the front and creating gaps. Maintain the speed of the group while not blowing up by regulating the amount of time at the front. If you are the strongest rider that day or are feeling good, take a bit longer pulls. If you are having trouble maintaining the pace, take shorter pulls. The group should be doing short pulls anyways, like around 15-20 seconds. Be realistic with yourself and don’t go over your limit at the front! If you blow up and come off of the back or can’t maintain position in the paceline, the team will slow down dramatically. It is not a macho match out there- it is a streamlined, well-oiled machine! Communicate while doing this, and if you are really in the pain cave and can’t come through, sit on the back for a bit but communicate to your team that you are doing that so the person coming off the front knows to slip in ahead of you.
- Speed and efficiency. Be very smooth, down in the drops, fast cadence. Communicate that you are coming off of the front with a flick of the elbow and slide back to the rear of the group. Do not swing out wide, the group gets faster when it is compact. Slide in smoothly as soon as you cleared the last wheel.
- Watch the power on the hills! You will probably have a variety of people in the group, some climbers, some better in the flats. Regulate the power (not speed) on the hills so you don’t drop the non-climber. There are two ways to pace on the hills that can lead to increased speed. First, if the hill is not that significant and you are still going fast, have the climber type put in additional time at the front. This will save the non-climber from fighting the still significant wind as well as the hill. Second, if the hill is steep, put the non-climber in the front or second wheel of the group and he (or she) will communicate the pace that they can handle. Once over the hills get back to an efficient paceline and let the non-climber sit in for a bit to allow them to catch their breath. If you can handle it, you can also try to push the non-climber, but it is pretty hard to pull off!
Team time trial is probably the hardest of cycling disciplines- you are going full throttle in the front and have very little recovery. Go hard because the race is short! Be sure to warm up really well!
Good luck team!
Scot Ferguson is a USAC level 2 coach and certified in Power Based
Training (CPBT). Scot is a long time collegiate cyclist and raced for many
years with the UNR cycling team. He now coaches the UNR cycling team as well
as his own personal clients and strives to help them succeed. Additional
information about his coaching programs can be found at