Efficiency and Pacing for Time Trials
by Adrian Hegyvary
For the last two months, Cycle University has had semimonthly time trial tests on a 10km, electronically simulated course. Using Computrainers, each race pits up to seven people against one another over 6.2 miles of 3% grades calibrated by rider weight. This forum has supplied us with pages of data, given us a rare opportunity to witness how to best ride a time trial, and without a doubt, has reinforced the old tenant that consistent pacing is the key to a strong TT performance.
The Computrainer software allows us to display each rider’s instantaneous power output in watts, the most objective measurement of “how hard” you’re going. At the end of the test the computer records average and maximal power, along with average/maximum speed, average/maximum heart rate, and finishing time. From these data we can analyze each ride in multiple dimensions: how hard you felt like you were working (perceived exertion), how hard you really were working (heart rate), and what all that hard work produced (finishing time and power output).
By examining results in this manner, many riders have seen significant performance gains. Take one rider as a case study: Jeff (we’ll call him) rode three time trials, each with similar results, and was looking for a way to improve. We looked over his old results and found large discrepancies between his average and maximal power, showing that for at least a portion of the test he was going too hard, then had to back off for a while to recover. These accelerations were eating up his energy, just as stop-and-go driving burns more gas.
Last week we set a goal of maintaining 10 watts above the average power of his previous time trial, and trying not to go above or below it. He said that for the first half of the test he felt like he wasn’t working hard, but by the end he was maxed out. The end result was that his average power for the test increased by 10 watts as planned, his finishing time dropped by 20 seconds, but his heart rate remained the same and he felt like the time trial was easier. The key to this example is in the importance micro-pacing: without paying attention to his power output, Jeff would have thought he was going too easy for the first half, and his heart rate would have shown no different. But by targeting a level just higher than he knew sustainable, his performance painlessly increased by a significant margin.
If you’re interested in testing your own performance, there will be one more time trial this season the evening of April 12th. At the end of the series, the men and women with the most improvement in finishing time as a percentage will each receive CycleU prizes. Please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for Dates, times, and registration information or check our website www.cycleu.com. (Cost is free but we suggest a $5 donation to Cascade Bicycle Club for each race you do).
In addition, we will hold intermittent simulations of a number of northwest races throughout the season, including time trials from local stage races, key portions of other races, etc. We will also continue to offer the regular 10k race monthly if there is enough interest. We are also available on a consultation basis, and can create courses for regular practice if you are targeting specific events.
Learn fast. Ride Smart.