Time trials are the simplest aspect of cycling sport. Riders go off at timed intervals and race alone. The fastest rider wins. It is a simple race against the clock or as they say in France – ‘contre la montre’
It has also been called ‘The Race of Truth’ because there are no team tactics. The strongest rider should win.
It’s not as exciting or spectacular as road races, but, time trials are often included in big stage races like the Tour de France and can be exciting in their own right for big events. It is often the time trial which decides who wins the big Tours. For example, in the 1989 Tour de France, Greg Lemond (USA) famously overturned a 50 second deficit on the final time trial to win the Tour by 8 seconds.
Rules of Time Trials
The rules of time trials are fairly simple.
- Ride the course
- Don’t take shelter from other riders (known as drafting)
- Have a bike fitting regulations of the cycling body.
In practise, there are many minor rules. The UCI have very strict rules about the placing of your saddle, angle of handlebars and even the aspect ratio of materials. In the post war period, the UK Road Time Trials Council (RTTC) had a long book of rules, including having a bell on your bicycle.
History of Time Trials
In the 1880s, UK mass start road races were constantly under attack from the police. This was due to complaints from (the generally wealthy) motorists that felt they were being terrorised by ‘furiously fast cyclists’. This was in the day of motorists driving at 10mph (how times have changed…)
An early time trial. The rider is performing a ‘dead-turn’ – a u-turn in the middle of the road. He is also dressed all in black. It is rather quaint that there was a time when you can stand in the middle of the road as the turning point for a cycle race. Continue Reading →