Cycling Time Trials

Le Mond

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.

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Newbury RC hill climb – Walbury hill 2015

Today was the Newbury RC hill climb on Walbury Hill.

The start was a very civilised 10am, with myself as last man at 11.20am. It meant I could start the day watching a video of the last 20km of the women’s world race championship. I didn’t know the result, and when I turned it on, it didn’t look too promising for British hopeful Lizzie Armistead. But, it turned out to be a thrilling race, and a really superb victory for Lizzie Armitstead (from Otley, Yorkshire). As the imperious old rugby union commentator Bill McClaren would say:

‘They’ll be dancing in the streets of Otley tonight.”

Back to domestic time trialling in the UK, and there was not quite as much glamour driving down the A34 towards Newbury, but it was a great Autumn day and super views from the top of Walbury hill.

After last year’s first open, Newbury RC have made efforts to make it an even bigger event. They managed to get a rare road closure (which is great to race on) and a generous prize fund, due to sponsorship from Ridgeway Volkswagen and several others.

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Shaftesbury CC 50 mile TT

The Shaftesbury CC 50 mile TT has been held since 1906. The first winner being S.Smith in a time of 2.27.52 – not bad for single speed, no traffic roads and probably less than skin tight alpaca wool tights. It’s a pretty impressive history for a cycle race. (Starting only 3 years after the first edition of Tour de France).

Today’s Shaftesbury CC event was held on the E2/50c – a fast bit of road using the A11 and A14. Michael Hutchinson once broke competition record for 50 miles in this event, with a 1.35. I did the ECCA 100 on this course a few weeks ago. With windy conditions, and still awaiting some go faster aero equipment, I was more interested on what power I could manage – rather than setting a time.

But, the plan to ride to power, didn’t go to plan as the Garmin somehow got mislaid in the car. I found it after the race. But, without Garmin,  it was back to, ‘old school’ riding on feel, with not even a clock to give an idea of how long it was taking.

The first leg was mostly tailwind, and it was pretty fast with quite a bit of time spent in biggest gear of 56*12. I’m been having problems getting the gear into the 11 sprocket, so before the race dutifully put bike in workstand and checked gears were working properly In the workstand, the gear slipped into the 11 sprocket as seamless as possible; there seemed nothing to adjust. Yet, as soon as got on road in Cambridgeshire, it wasn’t budging and I couldn’t get in the 11 for love nor money. I bet if I put it back in workstand it will work again. I would love to understand the science of this or maybe there is no science it is just the amateur bike mechanic gremlins at work.

Still, I can pedal a high cadence and it was great fun going along with tailwind up the straight road. The A11 is about as far removed from hill climb territory as you can imagine. Still even hill climbers like trundling along at high speeds. With such a good speed, uou’re almost tempted to give the turn a miss and just keep going to do an out and out 50 mile and get the train back. But, at Red Lodge, I came off the A road for a short bit of quiet B-road. I later found out I went through 25 miles in about 48.17. which would be a massive 25 mile pb. But, that was before the return leg. It was quite windy on the way home, though I felt pretty good and felt a lot more power than BDCA 50. But, perhaps if I had a power meter it would be telling me something different. That’s the rub with a power meter, is it good to be told you’re not trying hard enough?

Anyway I finished. A little bit thirsty. It was quite warm today.

I did a 1.42.18 – perhaps 3rd place. Behind Adam Topham 1.39.30 and Jon Wynn 1.42.14 There were quite a few times around 1.42, though I kept getting confused mixing up handicap and actual times. My brain wasn’t working so well after than effort. First women was A. Lethbridge 1.54, just ahead of J.Muller 1.55.

I enjoyed the race. Less windy would be good, but you can’t have everything. But, not many timetrials left now, just the odd 10 mile and 25 mile TT. I’m sure when I finish TT season at Nat 25, my new aero-equipment will turn up the day after. Just as reliably as my 11 sprocket will work as soon as my bike goes back in the stand.

Big thanks to Shaftesbury CC and all the marshalls who stood by the side of a busy road for a couple of hours.


ecca-50-2 ecca-50



Sometimes an idea comes along – and everyone thinks – why didn’t I think of that 10 years ago?

In the world of aero-marginal gains, NoPinz is a great simple idea. Reduce the aero drag from a flapping number and use a self-adhesive wallet to stick number to your back.


The other advantage of the Nopinz system is that:

  • It means no messing with trying to attach you number with safety pins. (even though I do secretly like the ritual of number pinning; even though I never get it right first time. )
  • Protects skinsuit from getting holes in. Big issue if you’ve spent a lot of money on a skinsuit
  • Organisers should be happy because it means no-one trying to put glue on the number to keep it aero.
  • Avoid safety pins falling out (which can happen)

I used this disposable speed wallet a few times back in April. You have to be careful in putting on. It’s a little fiddly, but about the same time as doing and undoing safety pins. It worked well from what I could experience. It stayed on 100% and definitely felt better from an aero perspective.

The only thing to watch out is that your skinsuit needs to be dry before putting on.

Wattage saving

I’ve heard claims of 3-5 watts saving for a speed wallet. I haven’t tested, but intuitively it does makes sense. You can sometimes feel the sail effect of a number which is held in by safety pins.  Even more watts claimed here

Given it has many advantages and few disadvantages, it definitely makes sense. By comparison to other aero-savings, it is quite affordable.

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National 100 mile TT 2015


Today was national 100 mile time trial championship, held in Raglan, Wales. The course was mostly on the A40 dual carriageway, but with a bit of quieter back-roads to help relieve the monotony of the A40. It was fairly flat 2,990ft /900m of climbing over 100 miles. Overall, quite a good championship course. With mostly good weather, it produced some quite quick times.


The women’s winner was newly crowned BTTC champion Hayley Simmonds (Team Velosport). The men’s winner was Charles Taylor (South Pennine CC) 3.32 – just 15 seconds ahead of BBAR champion Adam Topham (High Wycombe). I was 7th in 3.39.50


After finishing 3rd last year, I’ve trained quite hard for the national 100 this year and training has gone well. Last week, was quite busy with 3 big races. After flopping (relatively) at BDCA 50, it’s been a quiet week of tapering.


Firstly, it was nice to do a 100 mile TT which doesn’t start at silly o’clock for a change. It was 9.10am when I set off. The first 6 miles were on a quiet backroad. A nice place to cycle – though a bit bumpy, and I nearly lost handlebar mounted water bottle. Then it was onto 24 mile laps of the A40. This included about 3 miles of quite backroads, the rest on the A40. I enjoyed the backroads the most – a change to get away from the traffic, and also a more sporting feel, some ups and downs and fast turns. More fun than just blasting along a straight road. Because of the laps, there were quite a few riders on the course, so frequent overtaking. Up to 60 miles, it was all going to plan. After 70 miles, the power started to fade  – it wasn’t as good a ride as ECCA 100, where I could lift the tempo in last 20 miles.

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BDCA 50 – 2015

The BDCA 50 is an event on the A50; it was a full field with punters from all other the country looking for quick times on the super-fast course. It’s a big race for the BBAR contenders. After the British time trial championship on Thurs, anything else was always going to be a bit of a let down. I likened racing at Cadwell Park on closed roads to a non-league side turning up to Old Trafford. I don’t know what comparison I can make to racing on the A50/11 – but, it was about as far as you can get from the twisting, undulating closed roads of a motor racing circuit. Before, the start Matt Bottrill was joking ‘ – time to start racing in a straight line again!’ The A50 is certainly one long stretch of straight-road – technical corners don’t come into it; if you like getting you’re head down and smashing up a dual carriageway, for artificially fast times the A50 is as good as it gets.

Read moreBDCA 50 – 2015

British Time Trial Championship 2015

The British Time Trial Championship 2015 was held at Cadwell Park motor racing circuit. It had an impressive entry list with around 180 riders entering the Men’s, Women’s and Under – 23 championship. Former World Hour record holder – Alex Dowsett (Movistar) underlined his world class form to take a fourth national title. In the women’s event Hayley Simmonds (Team Velosport) won, and Scott Davies (100% ME) retained his under-23 title.

Alex Dowsett

The race started on the Cadwell motor racing circuit before heading out to some local Lincolnshire lanes, which were closed to traffic. The men did 28.7 miles with women and under-23 men doing 2 laps of the big circuit for around 21 miles.

The growth in British Cycling

I did my first British time trial championship in 2005. It was held near Penistone on open roads to traffic, with a typical local school for HQ. I’m not sure how  many people entered in 2005, but it wasn’t that many and only a handful of women and under 23’s. Fast forward nine years, and you can see in a microcosm how British Cycling has changed. There is much more interest from across the board and a real strength in depth. Cadwell Park and the closed roads made a very impressive setting for the Championship.

Matt Bottril on motor racing circuit

Compared to 2005, it was a bit like moving from Sunday league football in the local park, to suddenly finding yourself in the Premier League playing at Old Trafford. Sunday league football and the the village HQ retain a certain charm for domestic time triallist like myself, but it is really good for the opportunity to race on a bigger circuit, with banks of spectators and wonderful curves of a motor racing circuit. I enjoyed it a lot.

Read moreBritish Time Trial Championship 2015

ECCA 100 2015


Today was ECCA 100 on E2/100. A few weeks ago, I was talking about difficulties of racing early in the morning. But the ECCA 100 is the classic of early morning starts – 5.00am for first rider. I had a relative lie in, starting at 6.25am, but it still meant leaving Oxford not that long after going to bed.


Last year the ECCA 100 was held on  a rare float day, and I set a pb of 3.34.17 This year was a slower year, with a strong westerley wind taking the edge off times. I seemed to be relatively slower than other people, though on the bright side I had higher average power and, by previous standards, finished quite strongly for a 100.

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Aerobar mounted waterbottle

A look at the aerodynamics and convenience of a water bottle between the arms for time trials.

12 months ago – three days before the ECCA 100, I did a post on rear mounted bottle cages. The post wasn’t much use for me because – 5 miles into race, the said waterbottle self-ejected itself onto the road, never to be seen again. I somehow managed to do the 100 mile TT on 1.5 litres, but it was close to being a disaster.

This year I’ve gone for the other end of the bike and spent considerable time looking for a waterbottle which could be mounted on the aerobars. The advantage is that I’ve heard this is a very aerodynamic position for a waterbottle. I know Matt Bottrill uses something here for CTT events.

The good thing about a Speed Concept Bontrager aerobars is that it comes with potential to buy an adaptor to but on tribars making it easy to fit an ordinary bottle cage on. (SC WB Cage)

But, for some reason I bought the profile design Aero HC. This can be fitted to any aerobars – whether a Speed Concept or not.

Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 13.52.04

HOwever, it uses a rather unaerodynamic contraption to fit on to bars It’s quite wide and it puts a lot of extra stuff into the wind. Someone tested the Profile Design aerobottle and found it quite unaerodynamic. (review at DCRainmaker)

However, I can ditch this thing and just use with Bontrager bolt cage.


It looks quite aerodynamic. It reminds me of the Japanese bullet train.

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Level 3 – ‘sweet spot’ training


The races are coming thick and fast at the moment. This weekend  the ECCA 100, then a few days later the UCI elite mens British time trial in Lincolnshire.

Bradley Wiggins in BTTC (about 2009)

There is a smattering of time trial regulars on the BTTC startsheet – but it looks a little more like a truncated Premier trophy road race, with a few top pros flying in from the continent. It will be an interesting battle between Alex Dowsett (former World Hour record holder) and Geraint Thomas (winner of this years Tour of Algarve, E3 Herelbecke and one of most accomplished all-round pro riders). I’m worried that doing a 100 mile TT on Sunday may not be best preparation for short TT race on Thurs, but at least I won’t have the Tour of Switzerland miles and climbs in the legs like Geraint Thomas.

I started doing the BTTC in 2006, where I think I finished 14th. Since then the quality and depth of the field has increased quite significantly. There are many really quick riders on the startsheet, who kind of slip through the radar – such is the quality in depth of British cycling at the moment.

Read moreLevel 3 – ‘sweet spot’ training