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How To Ride The Perfect TT

This is one of those questions I get asked quite a lot, and really when you think about it its one of the cycling disciplines which has the least amount of tactics involved.

A lot of riders especially in the UK compete in a weekly time trail of some sort and like to use them as a gauge of improvement or even as a competiton against their cycling companions.
Certainly here in the Isle of Man we have a 10 mile TT league which gets numbers towards 100 each week which always amazes me. Its such a painful discipline that I figure most cyclists must really have a screw loose to want to do these week in week out.
This is one of those questions I get asked quite a lot, and really when you think about it its one of the cycling disciplines which has the least amount of tactics involved.

A lot of riders especially in the UK compete in a weekly time trail of some sort and like to use them as a gauge of improvement or even as a competiton against their cycling companions.
Certainly here in the Isle of Man we have a 10 mile TT league which gets numbers towards 100 each week which always amazes me. Its such a painful discipline that I figure most cyclists must really have a screw loose to want to do these week in week out.

So how do you ride the perfect TT? Well I can give you tips which I've used over the years to get the best out of what you've got.
Trust me I never had a body built for TT's but I could still do a fast one when needed.

So first thing lets assume you've done plenty of threshold work in training to build the engine, you've done that right? If not start doing it now.

Secondly preview the course, have a ride of the course if possible to see where the corners are and how fast you can get round them. If there are climbs will you need the small ring or can you ride the big ring, get all this put to the memory bank so you have no surprises once you race the course.

Warm up well. Personally I like to warm up on the course so I can see wind direction and check for any other surprises which may appear.
Some races don't allow this or it may be a case that its just too hectic to get onto the course in some areas. If thats the case bring your turbo or rollers with you and warm up on them.
I like to do at least 20 minutes warm which can look like this:

  • 5 minutes steady riding, (Pz 2/HR 2)
  • 3 minutes tempo (Pz 3/HR 3)
  • 2 minutes threshold high cadence (Pz 4/HR 5a)
  • 2 easy spin
  • 1 minute Vo2 (Pz 5/HR 5b)
  • 1 minute easy
  • 1 minute Vo2 (Pz 5/HR 5b)
  • 1 minute easy
  • 4 minutes threshold (Pz4/HR 5a)
  • Ride easy close to the start for another 4-5 minutes
This is an example which is a good one to use, but if you have a method you like then stick to that.
Roche_TT
Once you start, and here is the step I see a lot of people struggle with. Start steady!!!
You're not trying to break the record for the 200 meter sprint, roll away steady and build the effort to your sustainable effort over the first minute of the race.
Go with some gusto, but once you get that first minute done you should still feel you can get settled in and hold the pace. If you get into that point and are gasping for air with burning legs then learn the lesson for next time.

Cadence is something to think about now, should I spin, or grind? Well in a perfect world you should turn a gear over 90 RPM, but if you aren't trained to do this then you will probably need to use a lower cadence in order to keep the pace going.
Keep using your gears on inclines and head winds, don't try to sit in one gear and grind up the hills, you won't go faster and your legs will explode. Always try to gear down for inclines so you feel the effort is constant. Smooth and sustained is what you're looking for.

With cadence this is something you can work on through specific training, you'll probably see the people who can ride a fast TT will have a cadence around 100 RPM, but this takes time to become accustomed to. I'll do something on this another time.

If you have slow corners on the course, brake on entry and come out of them with speed. Again the effort coming out should remain fairly constant, so bring the pace up to where you were but don't do it by sprinting, do it gradual so your legs don't go bang.

Always review your pace as well, if you hit half distance and feel you can up the pace slightly then give it a little more. Same goes the other way, adjust down if you feel you are not able to hold the pace for the duration.
This is where using power or heart rate can be useful if you aren't quite sure of your bodies limits yet.
you can ride to threshold power for the duration of the TT and hold it as close to the mark as possible, same goes for heart rate. You should be able to sit on your determined threshold HR. Both of these can be worked out by doing a simple threshold test over 20 minutes.

So far so good right? Oh what about concentration, this is a funny one. I get people saying to me how do I stop thinking about random things while I ride a TT? Some have let their minds wander so much they're power file drops by huge amounts and they haven't even noticed.
Well this one can be tricky, and I do believe this is what makes the difference between 2 identical ability riders. It comes down to clearing the mind and focussing on the effort, and the feeling of pain.

if you start thinking about what colour socks go with your favourite pair of pants then I don't think you're going to go as fast as you might if you focus on going as fast as you possibly can for the duration of the race.

Once you have all these things down, then you can start looking at equipment choices and bike set up for the marginal gains. First though get the routine nailed, and then go for the bling.

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