What is a time trial race like?

My first time trial this year was a strange concoction of events. I’m not a super fast cyclist. I know people who are older and much faster. The decision was last minute without time to train plus I really didn’t feel much like doing any hard rides this year.

The only thing going for me was cycle commuting all winter. Even then, I didn’t push myself as hard as in previous years and found it more difficult to ride fast. I ride heavy bikes and that’s about all that keeps me in shape.

Improving fitness a few days before the race was not going to happen because it takes a long time to improve fitness by gradually increasing effort over many months. The only possibility was to rest up as much as possible and hope I was fit enough to manage a decent time. The only change I made for equipment was new $100 tires.

I worried about whether I could even place well. As the group rode slowly out to the start line 1.5km away, I dropped down to first gear and picked up my pedal speed for about a kilometre then went up a few gears, took it easy and relaxed.

We lined up in a row according to our race numbers. One by one, the 20K riders left 30 seconds apart. By the time the last rider ahead of me left, the jitters were gone.

It seemed rather odd that all the worries about how well I’d do were suddenly gone. There is only one thing to do on a time trial and that is go as fast as possible for as long as possible.

When a person focuses totally on the present moment, time seems to slow down. I started out slowly and gradually picked up the pace. Jack rabbit starts waste too much effort.

All the techniques I used years ago on rides suddenly came back. There are really only two things you have control over. One is how you breathe to get as much air as possible. The second is choosing how much effort to push the pedals.

Overdo either one and you’ll slow down. The key is to balance out the stress between legs and lungs and maintain the highest effort on both. This means listening to the body and what its saying. Too high a gear and legs will fatigue. Too low a gear and breathing gets out of control. Its a constant rebalancing act in the gusty wind and frequent hills.

Within a kilometre I passed the first guy very quickly. Riders are separated by 30 seconds at the start line. Another kilometre later I rapidly passed the second guy. Another couple of kilometres and I slowly passed the 3rd guy who was going really fast. I began reducing the effort going down hill so I wouldn’t run out of steam before finishing.

As I neared the turn around point I was about about 500 metres behind the 4th guy and almost ready to pass. This meant I had gained almost 2 minutes on the 20K riders. The turn around was very slow. It costs way more in time to take the u-turn too fast and blow it.

The whole ride up until this point seemed like a few minutes. It was actually more like 10 minutes.

On the way back I passed about 10 of the 10K racers. I remember the hills and keeping my breathing under control. The last kilometre or two were uphill and into wind. At first it didn’t seem that bad but I kept my effort below what I could do going all out. The effort climbing long hills gets more difficult the longer the hill is. By the finishing marker I could just barely sustain the pace.

It was pretty weird that time didn’t seem to exist during the 19 minute ride and that I was the first one back.

Back at the arena we were given our times after the last riders had arrived. The time keeper said that anyone riding a heavy bike (more than 15lbs) who can manage that fast a speed, has talent.

I didn’t think I had it in me.



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