Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Case for Time Trials

The race against the clock should be a part of every serious road racer’s calendar. Often shunned, these events edge out yet another training ride for its benefits. Here are 5 simple reasons to register for the next time trial.

1. A Race:
Typically, the winter months are spent in long, slower rides. Hour after hour. The goal is to build base fitness in order to increase the athlete’s lactate threshold. By late Winter, the training events are more intense with the goal of building higher end fitness and skills.

Yet, the only true race is a race. And a Time Trial is a race. If you are at all skeptical about that statement, just show up and observe the hundreds of athletes who nervously warm up on trainers before the event. Donned with team kits, these men and women are all too serious about the event before them and concentrated only on the best possible performance.

When the official indicates “Go”., the race is on. Although it is a race against the clock, you are still racing to catch the rider in front of you and to stay away from the rider behind. With no wheel to suck, it is as if you are alone in a break, a break that is interminable. Mile after bloody mile. Make no mistake, a time trial is competition and let’s face it, competition is what marks a competitive cyclist. No matter how fast one goes on a training ride, it is still just a training ride.

2. A Yardstick:
Fitness is elusive. This is partly so because it is difficult to gauge your fitness. Even with the best of intents, it is too easy to ease up on a trainer or even in a training ride. Time trials are different. The game is on. Assuming an athlete competes in Time Trials as a regular part of their race season, then competing in and noting performance in a successive years helps the athlete gauge fitness. Though wind and atmospheric conditions vary, the course usually does not. A time trial will help the athlete answer the question: how am I doing?

3. A Certain Peace:
With all of the above said, Time Trials are not as intense. Time Trials are not as nerve racking. Before jumping in the season’s first pack race and all of its inevitable crashes, try an early season Time Trial. Time trial offers the athlete exposure to the competitive environment and allows one to size up the competition in a relaxed, contemplative way.

4.  A Process:
Time trials has the same process as a road race. This year, at the opening time trial, I simply forget to bring recovery food and drink. Big mistake. I was noticeably fatigued and run down the following day. The early season time trial is a great way to ease back into the race checklist: shoes, helmet, kit, trainer, GU, race license. You get the picture.

5. A Scene:
I save the best reason for last. If you race long enough, you will get to know people. Some of these people will not be on your team. Eventually, you will make friends with other racers. The atmosphere of a Time Trial is more conducive to chatting. Most of your buddies will be there. After the race, it is just great to catch up. Who said road racers can not be social?

For these reasons, the serious road racer should embrace the Time Trial.