One of the purest forms of speed on the bike is the Time Trial. It’s the adrenaline rush that pegs you against the clock. It’s also one of the most complex disciplines on the bike, as you need to have a plan, pace yourself, and then leave all you have on the circuit. How fitting that day two of the Suffer Camp would start with the Time Trial.
Coach, Sir Neal Henderson, took through the theory behind the TT, something that seemed so obvious but had managed to evade me. Pacing in the TT is all about knowing your FTP which we had tested the previous day. Using the FTP, you can pace your course to ensure you maximize your speed, efficiently. Then it was time to see how we went on a 9.5km Individual Time Trial, tracked by our FTP. Fun!
An Individual Time Trial is a test of one’s focus, as you power through a course. You also need to pay close attention to your pacing. This was made slightly more challenging by us doing it on a bike path that followed the Rhone River, right behind the UCI’s World Cycling Center. Those amongst the group with the lowest FTP’s went off first in the hopes that they could evade the hunt from the group’s powerhouses, mainly Braith.
After a small fault off the start line, I was quickly up to speed and tried to find a rhythm with laser like focus to catch the person in front of me. Nothing motivates someone more by hunting the rider in front of you. My plan was to try to hold my FTP of 260 watts to the turn around point, then lift the pace by 5 watts for half the return, and then 5 again for the final 2.5 kilometers.
It was a fairly lonely ride, as I didn’t manage to catch the person in front of me, and nobody caught me. I rolled over the line to put 15:03 minutes for a 9.5km course, nearly a minute and half behind Braith. We thought we had all left ourselves out on the road, giving it our all to push over the line. But that wasn’t the end of the session.
Next came the Team Time Trial, while the objective is the same as Individual Time Trial, the means is different. Racing the clock as a team means your pulls can be above threshold. In a team, the guy on the front can push above his/her normal threshold with the comfort that they can recover once back in the group. Team were grouped by their individual times, and given the goal of improving the finish time of the slowest in the group.
Logistically, it sounded simple. We’d have just three teams on the course. I set off in team two, and like before we had laser targets on the backs of the team in front of us, hunting them like a pack. We’d been taught the basics of TT communication, like ‘Steady’ and ‘Up’, with the changes left for a flick of the elbow.
Before we made the hair-pin u-turn, we’ve caught and overtaken the first team, making us now the chase bait for team #3, the team of powerhouses. On the return, we got a gauge on the gap we had, which was actually quite motivating as we had a gap we might be able to close. We were pursued with Sufferlandrian-like aggression. You see, a Sufferlandrian knows how to suffer, we can go deep into the red. Then disaster struck, a horse was on the bike path, which scattered our team and we fell into reach for team 1.
Both teams regrouped themselves for the final 2.5km, pushing ourselves deeper into the red. The final 500 meters was a pack sprint as both teams fought for space on the path to press over the line first. What a rush. With hearts pounding and adrenaline high, we had one more effort to go… couples.
Just when we thought we’d finished driving our bodies into the ground, Sir Neal gave us one more challenge. The couples or pairs time trial is a trial where a pair would head out with the aim of beating the average of their two individual times. With Joseph’s time being 15:04 and mine 15:03, we were ideally close to beat the goal.
Pairs TT seemed more enjoyable as communication was less complicated and the physical space we occupied on the circuit was more manageable. The format was the same, as we hunted and were hunted. It drove Joseph and I to push our legs harder than before. We worked well as a pair, swapping to help each other recover and then push harder again. At the finish, both Joseph and I had us nearly 20 seconds under our target, but the official time showed 15:03. The second best team by average time gains.
I thoroughly enjoyed the pairs format. I found it easier to work with my partner, find a rhythm and dig deep for faster times. This is the session that really captivated the group. I’d love for the others to share their perspectives and stories.
The morning of pushing our bodies had made us all tired and hungry, time for a shower and some lunch.