Team time trials are studies in aerodynamics, athleticism, preparation and technique. Pull these together and you’ll see a group working in perfect unison, cutting through the air and reaching incredible speeds. It’s poetry in motion, and professional teams represent the pinnacle of the discipline.
While most amateur teams naturally don’t have access to the time and resources the pros have, there are key elements of their training and preparation that will benefit all riders. BikeRadar spoke to Bigla Pro Cycling Team rider Iris Slappendel for the pro view on team time trial training and tactics.
Slappendel, who was recently elected to the UCI Athletes Commission, has career highlights that take in winning the queen stage of Thüringen in 2010 and victory in the Open de Suède Vårgårda in 2012. In 2014, she won the overall sprint classification in the Women’s WorldTour series and also became Dutch National Road Race champion. She’s competed in the both editions of La Course, the high-profile women’s race which she described in 2014 as an amazing experience, riding in front of huge crowds on the Champs-Élysées.
Slappendel is known – and respected – for her aggressive riding style, her love of hard conditions and her willingness to work herself into the ground for her team-mates. These attributes combine to make her an excellent and experienced TTT rider.
As far as individual training goes, Slappendel says: "One of the most important things is to ride your TT bike a lot." As simple as it sounds, this helps you get used to the position, and develop the ability to hold it for long periods without sacrificing power. She does interval blocks at race power on the TT bike.
Motor-pacing also makes up an important part of her training: "I know not everybody likes it," she laughs, "but it helps me get the feeling of racing for a long time at a high speed." She also pops out from behind the moto every now and again for 10 to 20 seconds to ride into the wind, mimicking doing her turn on the front of the team.
Train frequently as a team
Each member of the team knows their role, their position and communicates with the others
Training on your own will only get you so far. It’s important to train frequently as a team, so that you develop a good understanding of your teammates’ strengths and feel comfortable with each other.
Slappendel says that this is part of Velocio-SRAM’s team time trial success: they train together so much that they do well, whoever is in the team they put together on the day. She and her Bigla team-mates throw sections of TTT training into their normal road training rides, and work on it all year round, not just in the lead-up to races.
Choose your team wisely
Slappendel points out that great individual time-triallists don’t always make the best TTTers. "Sprinters can do a short push at a high speed, which can be more important than being able to keep up a constant riding tempo. You need a couple of good time triallists to act as the motor, but the team needs a mix of skills: I’m not a time trial specialist, but I’m stable on the bike, I take a nice line, and I have a lot of experience."
TTT success is dependent on the team working together like the proverbial well-oiled machine
Going into races means fine-tuning the choice of riders – "Anything can happen and you have to be flexible. The one who’s always the motor can have a bad day!" – and also the order they’re in. "On a very technical course, if you have someone who takes the corners fast, you don’t put them at the front," because gaps will open up as others struggle to follow her.
Tempted to try it? In the UK, Cycling Time Trials is the national governing body in England and Wales, and lists upcoming events with links to race details and entry forms. USA Cycling in America has a state-by-state searchable lists of events. In Australia the Australian Time Trials Association and Cycling Australia host online event calendars.
We've also got lots of advice, training tips, reviews and buyers guides for all things time trial related on BikeRadar.