Levi Leipheimer pedals to victory in the Stage 5 time trial of the 2007 Amgen Tour of California.AP Photo/Santa Maria Times, Ed Souza
When most people think of a time trial (TT), they think 40K. While this used to be the norm, there are now many races with time trials far shorter than the 40K gold standard.
If you are not normally a fan of time trials, you might believe:
• I hate TTs and avoid entering any of them, so there is no reason for me to do TT training.
• Training for a 20K TT is the same as training for a 40K TT.
Both statements are false.
Let me begin with the first statement. You either love or hate TTs. Perhaps you have a love-hate relationship with the TT. Although you may not prefer to do a long, solo effort, the ability to TT is handy whether you actually do stand-alone TT events or not.
The ability to push yourself to the edge and hold it there requires mental and physical toughness. Both abilities can be trained and are usually trained simultaneously. If you know you can nail a steady speed, power or heart rate output for an extended period of time, that skill gives you confidence.
As a road racer, you have the confidence to try a solo breakaway, or take a flyer. You are more willing to try to bridge a wide gap if you're confident in your time trial ability.
And both road and mountain bike racers know what it feels like to pedal at redline on a climb. It is mentally crushing for other racers to see you pulling away while they suffer. If you can see a rider ahead, you know how fast and how long you can push the pace to catch that person. Your perceived exertion, paired with the confidence that you've done the training to catch that wheel in front of you, can propel you to a great performance.
Now let's look at a few workouts to help you improve your TT power and speed. Before beginning the anaerobic training that is necessary for shorter TTs, I prefer that cyclists complete low-end threshold and lactate threshold training first.
Zone 3 Intervals and Lactate Threshold Training
When cyclists are beginning threshold training, I begin with Zone 3 intervals. An explanation of training zones can be found here.
In general, the work-to-rest ratio for these intervals is 3 or 4 to 1. For example, after your warm-up complete 5 to 8 x 3 minutes working your way to Zone 3 heart rate or power (if you know your power training zones). Do one minute of easy spinning to recover between each work bout.
There are endless combinations of this basic interval concept.
In addition to intervals, you can do steady efforts for a longer period of time. For example, after a warm-up ride 20 minutes steady at Zone 3 intensity.
Depending on your training plan and your experience level, you can build your total Zone 3 work time to 40 minutes or so. While some coaches like 2 x 20 minutes as one of the final workouts, I prefer a single 20-minute set (recover for five minutes), then 5 x 4 minutes with one minute recovery intervals. The reason I prefer the last 20 minutes to be broken is because I've found it allows athletes to sustain a higher average power output for the work time.
The next step for time-trial training is threshold training. I use the same interval concepts covered in the Zone 3 section of this column, except intensity now moves into Zone 4 to 5a—ideal for the 40K distance.