Welcome to cycling’s race of truth
The NGNM Guide to the Race of Truth aka time trialling
Here at NGNM, we don’t talk racing all that often. We ride bikes because of so many other reasons. We ride to go from A–B, to keep our minds calm, to expand our horizons, and to see what our bodies are capable of. But if you’re looking for ideas on how to push your physical limits even further and get a real hit of type two fun, then you’re in the right place,
For this interview, we’re talking all things speed with experienced time trialler Mim Taylor and complete rookie against the clock Amy McQueen.
An idea is born
Let’s rewind to 2022. Picture the scene: We’re at the UCI Gran Fondo Time Trial World Championships with Lara Newell and Mim Taylor, athletes extraordinaire and NGNM ambassadors, who pull off two stellar performances. So stellar in fact, that Amy McQueen feels inspired to sign up.
Mim: Amy, shall we try to qualify for the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships by doing a sunny race in Cyprus this spring?
Amy: Sure, why not! My only hesitation is that I have neither the right gear nor any idea… What’s the best way to time trial?
Mim: pace yourself, watch your heart rate, and try to keep it in threshold, don’t stick your head up and remember to have fun
Amy: Okay, I’m in.
credit to Tim Dyer
Fast forward a few months…
Now that she has braved the startline of two separate events (AND qualified to represent Great Britain later this year), Amy is no longer a complete newbie to time trialling. But she’s still a long way from the experience of seasoned time trialler Mim.
Amy: Okay, so I’ve done a couple of time trials now and managed some decent times, what do I need to do to go faster? I’ve got €450 for TT ‘clothes’ through a sponsorship fund at work, so what should I buy? I’m guessing the Team Great Britain skinsuit for the World Championships is going to cost around €200? Is a serious helmet the next thing I should buy or will a secondhand helmet be good enough??
Mim: Invest in a skinsuit. If you’re going to average a speed slower than 45 km/h, then you can buy a cheap one. But if you want to ride faster than 45 km/h, then you’ll probably have to invest half a month’s salary. If you’re feeling flush, you can go for a hypersonic skinsuit – plus base layer – for the cost of your mortgage. That’s a good question about helmets: If you can guarantee the helmet has not been crashed then a secondhand will do just fine. Otherwise, I’d suggest buying brand new every time. The tail needs to lay close to your back when you’re on TT bars. Speaking of bars, buy clip-on TT bars and attach them to on your road bike handlebars. And slick overshoes so that you can cut through the air.
Amy: I should probably keep practising, right?
Mim: Definitely. Enter at least two weeks in advance for open events. In the UK, you can find events and enter easily using the CTT(Cycling Time Trials) website https://www.cyclingtimetrials.org.uk/ or by scouting local cycling club websites. Most clubs run evening races in the summertime. Take a look at the courses available and their profile, so that you can be confident that you’re choosing one to suit your strengths. Some are on lanes called SPOCOs (Sporting Courses) on smaller roads, usually hillier, and, of course, a few potholes.
Amy: What do I need to know for race day?
- Check your start time, it will come through once you’ve submitted your entry. Riders are set off at one-minute intervals so remember that you turn up and warm up ready for your start time—not the start of the race because there may be 200 riders.
- Remember that lights and a bike helmet are compulsory.
- Give yourself plenty of time to get the tight skinsuit on and to gently ease the delicate slick overshoes over cleats.
- Turn up and sign on, pin on your number—remember, wearing a parachute will slow you down, so use plenty of pins.
- Warm up gradually, aiming to reach race intensity for about 1 minute at a time. Build your cadence up so that you’re reaching your proposed race cadence.
- Aim to get to the start line 2 minutes before your go-time; you don’t want to be hanging around getting those warm muscles cold and getting in the way.
- Some races will have someone to hold your bike upright while you clip in. Other races won’t, so practise a speedy clip-in from a standing start at every road junction
- Race like the wind!
- Remember to sign out at the end!!!
c/o Gray Church
Amy: What do you take with you on race day?
Mim: I carry as little as possible because I have no pockets in my skin suit. Pockets — but especially their contents — produce drag. If the time trial is under 15 miles/21 kilometres (40 minutes of racing), I won’t even take a bottle. If I am taking fluids with me, I’ll put the bidon between the aero bars—using a special bullet-shaped bottle with a mix of carbohydrates and electrolytes. When it’s longer than 25 miles/38 kilometres (60 minutes of racing) you will need to think about fueling. I use a torpedo-shaped top tube bag that fits snugly behind the stem with small bite-sized carb/protein goodies. Once a time trial is longer than 50 miles/85 km, it’s extremely important to stay fuelled.
c/o Gary Church
So, mid-way through 2023, where are we now?
Amy: Right now, I’m really happy I have started time trialling with a bit of support from Mim. I originally thought that time trialling sounded a bit boring compared to road racing and crits, but actually it’s really thrilling. I’ve discovered that it isn’t always a bad thing that it’s a little less unpredictable! It’s so fun going fast and it’s exciting to think that specific bits of equipment can make me even faster!
Mim: Still here, still time trialling! It’s the Race of Truth; it’s you versus the clock. If you don’t concentrate on position, effort and steering, you go slower; there’s plenty to think about distracting the mind from pain. You are on the limit, with your heart rate between 90-95% of max, dependent on the length of the race. In a strange way, you get used to the pain, and willingly come back for more the week after.
If time trialling sounds like it could be your thing, we suggest joining NGNM's rides on Zwift - Women’s Crush Wednesday - and getting more beginner-friendly tips from Mim who leads the ride every other wed.
Check out our Performance Shorts and Jersey for your most drag-defying outfit with a race fit from No Gods No Masters®.