First-time Time Trialling.
Today we welcome a guest post from Jacintha Hamilton-Love, on her experience riding her first time trial as part of the LWR 2017 TT league. (In fact Jacintha won her particular category with a very strong time. For more on her victory/the race, read the race report here). Over to Jacintha:
First-time Time Trialling…
I did my first time trial recently and LWR have asked me to share what it was like. Last year I started criterium racing (check out that LWR league too!) and cyclocross, so by this point I was familiar with the ‘newbie nerves’. For me this materialises on race morning as a desperate wish to not leave the house, coupled with a bit of nausea. But the great thing about doing a LWR league TT is that there are lots of other women in the same boat, as well as experienced riders very happy to help you!
The first thing to say is: you do not need a pointy helmet or any extra kit to do a TT. If you own a road bike, then you can do a TT. Out of all the cycling disciplines it’s one of the easiest ones to turn up and just have a go. Time trials are one of the purest forms of bike racing; your aim is to get the fastest time round a set course. The Cycling Time Trials Association has lots of useful information like rules, calendars and an article for would-be time trial folk here.
“You do not need a pointy helmet or any extra kit to do a TT. If you own a road bike, then you can do a TT.”
What about practicalities? The sign on was in the village hall and once I’d signed on I had to pin my race numbers on my back. This is actually impossible to do yourself, but there is a sort of ‘you scratch my back’ system that works: offer help and ask someone to help you.
Then there’s warming up. Lots of people bring turbos or rollers to do this, but I’m perfectly happy doing it on the road. I’d planned a warm up route and as it was quite a hilly TT I put in some short hard efforts to remind myself that I was about to spend an hour or so working very hard.
The start was 5 mins ride from the race HQ. I got there 10 mins before my particular start time. Clothing is always a massive debate at events like this. I knew that the TT would take just over an hour and it was a mildish day for March so I wore a load of warm clothes to the start and did a tactical strip down before (generally you can leave stuff by the start and come back to pick it up). When it came to my turn I was close to my vomit threshold and wishing I could just say “thank you very much, but not today”. However I have learnt with other cycling events that the big happiness rush afterwards is almost always worth the stage fright.
“The big happiness rush afterwards is almost always worth the stage fright.”
So, the start – someone will hold your back wheel so that you can clip in with both feet. It’s important to get in the right gear and to be very clear with the person holding you if you don’t feel straight. Tell them if it’s your first time. A timekeeper will count you down and at “Go” your back wheel will be let go but not pushed. You have to pedal!
And then you’re off. It took me a few minutes to settle down and focus on the next hour ahead. This TT had marshals along the course and clear signs so while I did have the route on my GPS I didn’t look at it. The course was a rolling one and went through some lovely Surrey countryside on relatively quiet roads. During the hour or so I was out on the course, I passed a few riders and some passed me. This is normal but the one thing you have to be aware of is the strict rule around drafting – it’s a no no.
“There is something very zen about being out there on your bike on your own, knowing that there is a ticking clock watching you.”
I can’t say that pushing your lungs to the edge and focusing like crazy on the road ahead is fun at the time, but there is something very zen about being out there on your bike on your own, knowing that there is a ticking clock watching you. After just over an hour of zen/pain/focus, I crossed the finish line.
Post-race everyone was on a big high (or was it the fruit cake?) and the thing that really came across was how friendly and open this group of bike-minded women were. You’d just been in your own personal pain cave for the last hour, therefore you were part of the gang. The results were put up on a big board, and prizes given out to the faster riders in four bike categories.
It was 10 am on a Sunday, I’d already raced my bike, eaten cake and met a bunch of really cool people. When I got home I signed up to two more TT events, and have started to think about how I can get more aero (maybe I will buy a pointy helmet after all). I can recommend the experience!
Tempted to give it a go? Do it! Sign up here and I’ll see you there.