In the UK, the local 10 mile time trial is a popular way of measuring your fitness and speed. It is an easy discipline to enter and appeals to anyone from the really keen time trialist to the more everyday cyclist interested in trying something different. The great thing with a 10 mile time trial is that you can just turn up on a decent road worthy bike and see how you get on.
But, as soon as you’ve done your first 10, you will want to try and beat your previous time. This is the great attraction of time-trialling, even if you come last, there is always the incentive to try and beat your previous pb. There are quite a few ways to improve your times in a 10 mile time trial – from spending money on some aero equipment to good old fashioned training. The best thing is to maximise in every possible area. How far you go depends on how much you get addicted to the speed and trying to beat your previous best.
Main ways of going faster in a 10
- Training. In particular, specific training to improve power and speed for the 10 mile distance.
- More aerodynamic position. Most riders can shave off seconds (even minutes) by making their position more aerodynamic. (Some methods are more expensive than others)
- Faster course. Fortunately or unfortunately, some courses produce quicker times than others. The best is not to get hung up on the course you do, but try to beat your pb for local courses.
- Faster tubulars. Ride track tubs and you can go faster, but risk a puncture.
What is a good time for a 10 mile TT?
A ten mile time trial can taken anything between 17.20 (over 34 mph) and 40 minutes.
A good target for a fit club cyclist is to break 24 minutes on a standard quiet course. This requires an average speed of 25 mph. To win an open event, depending on the course, the most common time is something between 20.00 and 21.00. A big target is to break 20 minutes (average speed of over 30 mph).
10 mile TT Records
UK 10 mile competition record
- Marcin Bialoblocki – 16-35 – Course V718 10/09/2016 – 36.2 mph (450 watts)
- Alex Dowsett (Movistar)- 17.20 – Course- E2/10 – 01/06/2014 – av 34.6 mph
- Michael Hutchinson – 17.45 – V718 – 26/08/2012
- Bradley Wiggins………17-58 – Levens (L1015) – 16/09/06 – Av. 33.426 mph
- Michael Hutchinson….18-07 – P881R 25/05/08 –
- Jason MacIntyre………18-12 – L1015) Levens – 11/08/07
- Stuart Dangerfield……18-19. O10/2
- Graeme Obree………….18-27.- Q10/30 – 1993 – Woolwich. (1)
- Matt Illingworth………18.34 – 1992
- Colin Sturgess …………18.48 – 1988
- Dave Lloyd………………19.11 – 1981
- Martin Pyne…………….19.41 – 1981
- Sean Yates……………….19.44 – 1980
- David Akam…………….19.59 – 1980
- Sean Yates……………….20.07 – 1979
- Steve Denton……………20.26 – 1978
- Ian White………………..20.27 – 1975
- Willie Moore……………20.36 – 1972
(1) Obree was riding fixed – It was also the day before he broke the “50″ Competition Record !
Women fastest times
- Hayley Simmonds – 18.36 – 17/09/2016
- Anna Turvey – 19-08 – 11/09/2016
- Julia Shaw – 19.47 – 11/08/2012. Course V718.
- Wendy Houvenhagel – 19.50 – 15/09/2007 P613/10
- Sarah Storey – 19.57 – 07/08/2010 – Course: L1050
- Joanna Rowsell – 20.32 – Course: V718 14/08/2010
- Beryl Burton – 21-25 – 1973 (before TT bikes)
How to enter a 10 mile TT
The easiest 10s to enter will be through a local club event. These club events tend to be on a weekday evening and quite cheap to enter. You will probably need to be a member of a local club, though some events are called ‘come and try it’, and you can just turn up. See the CTT – Race of truth for more help getting started.
Then you can progress on to open events. These need to be entered 10 days in advance. See: List of 10s at Cycling Time trials. If you join a local club, they can help navigate things like course codes.
Training for a 10 mile time trial
In summary – 10 mile time trials are ridden at slightly above threshold pace (the max pace you can sustain for an hour). The key to improving 10 mile time trials is to train at this kind of intensity. Firstly, you need a basic base endurance, otherwise intervals will be less effective.
1. Mileage / Base Endurance
The good thing about racing 10 mile time trials is that you don’t need to do large volumes of miles. This makes it attractive for the racer who can’t spend all day riding. However, to make the most of higher level training, it is still important to build up a base of ‘steady’ miles first. If you are new to cycling it is more beneficial to build up a reasonable level of base aerobic fitness before jumping straight into racing. A good base for 10 mile time trials is perhaps 100 miles a week. If you do more, it will have some benefit; but it is not essential.
2. Threshold Training Intervals
The next real target training zone is what I call ‘threshold training’. Sometimes known as ‘lactic threshold’ anaerobic threshold. This is just below the pace of a 25 mile time trial. For myself, it involves training at a heart rate of 85- 90% max (or 184-190). I would say these are comfortably hard. It is that level, where you don’t feel a build up of lactic acid in the legs. I often do this as a continuous 20 minutes session, rather than break up into intervals. As the season progresses, I may increase the duration up to 1 hour of this threshold training. This is not the most specific training, but the advantage is that is not as tiring as higher intensity intervals
3. Intervals above race pace / VO2 Max intervals
Early in the season, I may do interval sessions of 5 minutes which are close to ‘race pace’. This will vary from individual to individual. I feel it is this training where you really feel you make progress in increasing your speed. Basically, the aim is to keep a pace which is higher than you can maintain during a 20 minute race. It is the pace, that involves going into the red zone. You will feel the build up lactic acid and it will require considerable effort to maintain your effort at this level. Typically, it is a heart rate of 95% or greater; but, it is not a flat out sprint. I find it easiest to do this kind of training on a long hill with a gradual gradient. I like to maintain a similar position to time trial and a high cadence. If you can do 3-4 intervals at this effort level, then it is a very good training session. In practice, you will find that by the third of fourth it is not possible to maintain the high intensity unless you are very fit; but don’t worry. The important thing is the quality rather than quantity.
4. Pyramid intervals to work the 3 muscle fibres
For the very fit, pyramid intervals can be very good for improving all three main muscle fibres – fast twitch and slow twitch. These are the intervals that coach Gordon Wright used for training Stuart Dangerfield when he was dominating the UK domestic time trial scene. This training programme involves a 2 – 3 hour ride, with many intervals of varying lengths, starting off with short intervals. The aim is to do the intervals at a high cadence and as fast as possible.
- all out sprints of 15 seconds (*9)
- 1 minute intervals – as quick as you can (*9)
- 5 minute intervals – as quick as you can. (*5)
The aim is to leave a good recovery time between each interval. This is quite an intense training programme because it involves lots of flat out intervals, including short very intense intervals. It improves the power of fast twitch muscle fibres you will recruit during a 10 mile TT.
An important way to get better at 10 mile time trials is to race them. This was Obree’s philosophy. If training for a 10 mile time trial, race for 10 miles as hard as you can. Each time you do one – try to improve your power output and go a little harder. It is this effort to always go harder, which enables the big fitness gains. Racing also enables you to learn for yourself the optimal effort levels required to racing a 10 mile time trial. Another benefit of racing is that you are often inspired to give it everything when people are watching. If you are training on your own, who is going to know if you knock off early or give up after 10 minutes?
5. Training on Time Trial Bike
If you have a time trial bike, the position will be somewhat different to your road bike. Therefore, it is advisable to do some (or preferably all) of your training on your time trial bike. This means that your muscles will be attuned to the slight variation in position. Time trial bikes, especially with disc wheels, are also more difficult to handle. It is good to get practise in training and used to riding on the time trial bikes. Psychologically it is good to train at high speeds you will be doing in a race. Therefore, it is good to do fast intervals on a flat road with the wind behind you.
An important element of training. After a really hard effort, you need to give yourself time to recover. Long miles at a high tempo, won’t help that recovery. Feel that if you give yourself chance to recover after racing / intervals, it enables you to go faster and harder at your next training session. If you come to interval training already tired, you won’t make that same progress. It can require discipline to do proper recovery rides, where you really just spin easy for an hour. But, intense intervals and races should be done when you are reasonably fresh.
Tips on Aerodynamics
- If you have a roadbike, aerobars which bring your arms closer together will make a big difference and perhaps gain you 0.5 – 1,0 mph
- A specific time trial bike can be worth an extra 1- 2 mph. Note: don’t worry about getting something very expensive and lightweight. The most important thing is aerodynamics not weight. (see: difference between road bike and TT bike)
Things which will also help your aerodynamics:
- A lower back position can help reduce frontal drag. However, it is not as simple as just lowering your back. It also depends how the air leaves the body, a slight curve can be more aerodynamic than a straight flat back. Also, going lower can lead to a lower power output. This makes it tricky. But, don’t just lower your position thinking lower = faster. It is not always the case.
- It also depends on your natural flexibility. For example, Chris Boardman perfected the superman position, but many would find this really quite difficult (plus not UCI legal or safe on busy roads)
- Learn to ride in the ‘turtle’ position. This means keeping your head low, but importantly still looking ahead where you are going. It works the back of your neck, but for a 10, it’s not too hard with a bit of practise.
- A good close fitting skinsuit. Bear in mind a good skinsuit could make more different than your bike!
- A good aero helmet.
- Deep section front wheel, e.g. Zipp 404.
- Aero socks and aero gloves.
- Tidying up cables.
- Removing speedometer.
- See also: Ways to improve aerodynamics
You can become obsessive with ‘marginal gains’ but if you’re really into time trialling it makes sense to see aerodynamics as an extension of the sport. However, even if you don’t want to spend lots of money and time in a wind tunnel, there are still a few ways to gain some easy seconds.
To some extent you can improve your position through educated guess work. But, there comes a point when you need to be more scientific. This involves getting a power meter and evaluation speed of different positions from same power. If you have access to a wind tunnel, it will be even easier to come up with faster times.
The best value aero equipment is probably:
- Shaving your legs
- clip on Aerobars (as cheap as £35)
- Aero helmet
- cheap steel TT frame
- Disc wheel (starting to be more expensivs)
Pacing a 10 mile TT
In some respects, a ten mile time trial is fairly straightforward, but pacing is definitely something which needs careful attention. I would say nearly all riders have a tendency to go off too fast, at some point – but especially when just starting. I can still do this, even after seven years of racing time trials.
- Don’t sprint from the start. Build up to speed over the first minute. There’s no point going into your anaerobic capacity at the start.
- To avoid going too fast in the first few miles, it will feel slightly easier than what you might expect.
- To improve pacing techniques, try a few times to ride a negative split – this means riding second half faster than first half. Many pros do this for pacing time trials.
- Generally, you want to maintain a constant power over the course. But, I advise going slightly harder up hill and into the wind. The reason is that the aerodrag is proportionately greater at higher speeds. Therefore, a slightly higher power at low speeds gives a greater return.
- Avoid losing concentration in the middle of a race, where mind starts to wander. Staying focused and always maintain your target effort level.
- A power meter is very useful for checking how you paced the ride.. If you go off too fast, you will see your power evaporate in the last few miles, meaning you’re overall effort is less than potential. If you roughly know the average power you can maintain for 20 minutes, you can use a power meter as a check to make sure you are not getting carried away in the first few miles.
- Even if you have a power meter, it is good to also try and do some rides without looking during the race, but look after. This helps you improve your natural pacing.
If you really want to get every marginal gain, you might want to look at the tyres you use. Some super-smooth silk tubulars will have less rolling resistance. e.g. the famous Dugast’s, Vittoria Crono or Veloflex Record 28 Tubular Tyre. However, these are much more likely to puncture. They really are for the big races / pb events. If you want a good puncture resistance tyre, Continental Competition are good, but you will lose some watts on rolling resistance
Road race tubulars at Wiggle
Other tips for 10 mile TT
- You need to arrive at a race fresh and determined to do well.
- Warm up before hand. I like to warm up for 40 minutes. Quite a lot of spinning, but some few short intervals to get close to race pace. Turbo is the best as you reduce chance of puncturing before start. But, it’s also good to ride on the road just to check gears and everything are working properly.
- Check equipment on the day before, not 30 minutes before race (note to self).
- Progress will not always be in a straight line. Don’t get too hung up on your times, but keep trying to improve your training and approach to the race. To some extent these slower times are inevitable, don’t get discouraged but persevere and when you least expect it, you might set a new PB.
Energy / Hydration
For a 10 mile time trial, energy requirements are fairly simple. You won’t need a bottle and you don’t need to worry about taking on energy just before or during race. However, for early morning races, you need to make sure you have raised your blood sugar levels, otherwise you may struggle. This may mean early start and early breakfast. Also on the night before, I may have some low GI oats to give slow release for next day. Some small study suggests sucking a sweat during race helps you go faster, but it’s never appealed to me. I sometimes take an energy gel, 20 minutes before a race – more for psychological benefit than anything.
Fast Courses for 10 Mile Time Trials
With the same power output and climate conditions, your time can easily vary by 1-2 minutes. Some courses are much faster because they have:
- More traffic passing by
- Downhill. Some even have a start higher than the finish like F11/10. You may think downhill course are not quite in the spirit of the sport. But, they are usually very popular!
- Quick turns. e.g. sharp corners mean you have to slow down, nice big roundabouts allow maintaining speed..
- Smooth road surface.
The fastest 10 mile time trial in the UK is undoubtedly the V718 in Yorkshire. M.Hutchinson set comp record here at 17.45. It is so fast it is very popular and can be difficult to get an entry. After the V718, other fast courses include:
- Levens – L1015 – Bradley Wiggins set 17.58 in 2006. Has a ‘gift hill at the start and then all dual carriageway.
- V718 – Course near Hull. Often regarded as fastest 10 mile TT course. (course pb: 19.02) I should have done an 18!
- F20/10 on the A10 north of London. (course pb 20.07)
- E2 – Six Mile Bottom – A11 – Four Went Ways quite flat and fast.
- A10/19 Etwall 10 – Fast dual carriageway. This road is fast. Only done a 50 on this course at average speed of 29.5mph
- F11/10 on A41 Aston Clifton Bypass. This course has a gift hill total descent of 50 metres in course (F11/10) For heavier riders this is a big boon because of the downhill profile. I go much slower on the F11/10 than the V course, but I’m light so don’t benefit from the ‘downhill’ profile. (Course pb 20.00)
- U47 on the Cirencester bypass. Getting more difficult to race on this course. (course pb. 20.09)
- H10/8 – On A31. It is too hilly to be super fast, but it is a nice smooth road and mostly dual carriageway. Traffic not as heavy as some course. A good course for newbies. (course pb: 20.07, though I did an unofficial 19 during a 25 mile TT)
- H10/181 – on A40 bypass. Has a slight height advantage. all dual carriageway – one fairly simple roundabout. But, also has a long drag to the turn. Needs an easterly wind to be fast. I promoted a 10 mile time trial on here in May for my club Sri Chinmoy Cycling Team. I did my 2nd fastest ever time on this course – 19.20. But, with an Westerley wind it is much slower.
Some people spend a lot of travelling to fastest courses chasing a fast time. Personally, I’ve never wanted to travel that much just to find a ‘fast course’. I see it as just an artificially fast time and it doesn’t give you a higher placing. I generally prefer to race on local course at times that suit me.
Having said all that, I have done two tens on the V718 – and both times I went a minute faster than anywhere else that season! Setting a pb is an attraction of timetrialling. It is a bit of paradox. If you do travel to a really fast course, you will then struggle to break your PB, unless you go back to course and find similar weather conditions.
My personal bests for 10 mile time trials
- 1992 – 29.30 My first and only 10 when riding at Otley CC on the triangle around Pool. I was happy to beat evens (20mph) in them days. In those days, I never would have imagined it would be possible to do a 19 minute ten mile time trial.
- 2004 – 24.11 (H10/17)
- 2005 – 21.11 (H10/8)
- 2008 – 20.19 (P613)
- 2010 – 20.09 (U47)
- 2011 – 20.07 (F20/10)
- 2012 – 20.00 (F11/10)
- 2012 – 19.07 (V718)
- 2013 – 19.02 (V718)
My fastest 10 mile TT on a course other than the V718 is 19.24 on the H10/181. I haven’t ridden the V718 since 2013. If I did I think I would go a lot quicker than my old pb. But, I’d rather chase a pb on more local roads. I’d love to do an 18 on a non V718 course.
Course personal records
- V718 – 19.02 (no power meter)
- H10/8 – 19.26 (338 watts Quark) 2nd – 2016.
- H10/181 – 19.24 (300 watts)
- F11/10 – 20.00
- H10/17 – 20.35 ( 325 watts).
Power outputs for 10 mile time trials
I don’t have many power meter readings for 10 mile TT because I only started using a power meter in 2013/14. In my first 10 of 2014. I averaged 317 watts for a 20.35 on the H10/181. It’s not the quickest course. Fair to middling. By comparison in the hill climb seasons, I did 390 watts for a 12 minute climb, and 450 watts for 5 minute climb. (I can get more power going up hill, but that’s another story) Also, I’m not entirely sure how well calibrated my Quark power meter is.
When winning the 2011 national 10 mile Title, Bradley Wiggins said his average power was 476 watts. He weighed around 70kg at the start of the Tour (CW)
Note to go faster, you need proportionately higher power because aero drag increases by a large factor as speed increases.
See splits on this very windy day (H10/17)