UPDATED May 7, 2013
In this post, I would like to share in concrete and detailed terms how I think I should ride the course. Take note: this might not work for you, since everyone has different skills and strengths. When I originally wrote this post (2011), the average speed for my best TT was 46.78 kph, so you can judge the speeds below around that.
1. Start strong, but not hard. You should feel powerful but never out of breath. The saying goes that your first 15 seconds are free, so wind it up hard, but settle right down. Don’t be tempted to go hard once you’ve settled down. It should feel almost too easy. Trust me, if you go hard, it will catch up with you.
2. take that same pace up to the bottom of the hill, easing up a fraction whilst keeping a good rolling speed. On lap 1, I’m usually dropping from 47-48 to 45-46kph kph before the steep part of the hill just after the first right bend.
NOTE: “easing up” doesn’t mean going easy. Just don’t push the envelope here.
3. punch the hill hard. Don Gillmore disagreed with me for aero-dynamic reasons, but I found it was easier to get out of the saddle, since this enlists different muscle groups, feels more powerful and gives a break to the other muscle groups. However, I rode on the saddle for this hill on both laps when I did a PB of 22:19 (down from 22:46), and did the fastest lap of the year, at 11:04 for lap 1 — maybe Don is right… Try it out, see what happens.
4. punch OVER the hill — don’t ease up at the crest, otherwise you slow down. I usually am at about 41kph here.
5. push as hard as you can all the way to OVER the next rise (I reach about 1-2kph faster over that second crest), till you reach a good speed when it starts to slope down.
6. This is where you can back off a bit (see above about easing up). You want to keep it steady and strong, but you can use this to recover a bit. You will need that rest for #7.
7. turning onto Newton X, punch it out of the corner as soon as possible. Depending on where it is, you can start as early as the second-last cone. Accelerate to a top speed and get into the aero position before the corner and take that corner in the aero bars and get as left as is legal on the bike lane.
8. Sit tight: try to build your speed back to your strong steady speed and power over the rise on the highway. Building speed is more important HERE than trying to do it on the rest of the highway.
9. The “downhill” part is actually quite flat here, so you need to just keep it super steady and strong. Don’t try to overdo it. It still has to hurt, obviously, but you don’t want to be burning matches. This is really where you need to focus, and where you can lose focus. Repeat your favourite mantra, if that’s your thing. I usually start going harder when I pass the hill on the other side of the Start/finish. You might want to start earlier, and it helps to experiment with this.
10. leading off the highway, get into a tuck and hold tight till just before the first cone. You will get crucial recovery here, and only lose about 2 kph if you’re properly tucked. Squeeze your top-tube with your knees while tucking as this helps with stability.
11. take the corner wide, as close to the cones as possible, and get ready for the sudden change in the apex of the corner: as soon as there’s that sudden change, that’s when you want to hit it out onto Lochside. You need to be ready for it. Pay attention. It could cost you some vital speed. In fact, I would say that you can lose up to ten seconds 0.5 km down the road (no exaggeration) if you don’t get this right: think about how much time it takes to get back up to a decent speed, and how much energy it takes. If you are coming out of the corner fast, you have a huge advantage.
I did a few trial runs at full speed of this corner in 2011, trying all sorts of different approaches: yes, you want to get as wide as possible starting the corner, but cut into the apex as much as you can. For that corner, I would say a “late apex” is best (see image), considering that the curve angles further right after the apex (at almost 180˚, unlike the regular corner in the image, which is 90˚). Also, make sure to lean your bike and not your body. This is called countersteering, where you straighten the inside arm and bend the outside one (see image below). Use a light gear, a bit lighter than your starting gear (I start with 53×15, and 53×17 seems to work better on the corner), and stay seated for the second part of the corner as you pedal out, then accelerate out of the saddle once it seems more effective/stable to do so — this depends on individual riders — and get to a good speed (I personally can’t get back to my average speed though: see #12). Dave Shishkoff reminds us to “look where you want to go” when cornering.
12. Do a gradual build-up to the S-bend, about 2 kph increase.
13. Once you’re on the home stretch, you can actually reach a fast speed, but hold back a tiny bit. At the end of lap 1, I can hold 47kph. At the end of lap 2, I have topped out at 49.7 kph (i.e. don’t hold back at the end). Dave reminds us that this isn’t a 100m sprint to the line. It has to be a constant, steady effort. On the second lap, you shouldn’t have enough gas left to sprint.
14. This is perhaps another crucial part. If you didn’t go out too hard on lap 1, and if you held it steady on the rise to the start/finish (#13), you will have enough energy to keep a decent pace whilst holding back a bit, leading up to the hill a second time (see #2). That way, you can crush the hill a second time, thereby maintaining a decent speed.
15. Repeat 3-13.
a) This is contentious: don’t warm up too long, and keep a light gear. Try doing 3×30-second efforts at an extremely high cadence. Try carpooling to avoid a long warm-up. I’ve been doing this warm-up since I first saw this video. There’s a tradition of long warm-up in cycling. You even see people on trainers for over an hour before a TT. All of this is unfounded scientifically, though maybe it has a psychological effect, much like a security blanket! Don’t fall into the tradition trap or, “it’s how I have always done it and it works.” Experiment with different ways. The Sidney TT is perfect for this.
Note, I am currently reading Hunter Allen and Stephen Cheung (Cutting-Edge Cycling, 2012), and they suggest 5x 1-min high cadence (over 120 rpm) efforts and 2×5 min ramp-ups (from 80% FTP or 85% FTHR to 100% of FTP/FTHR for the last minute).
b) relax your whole body at the start. Go off the saddle and back with 1 second to go to give yourself momentum for the start. Try this without having your bike move backwards to avoid losing momentum. You need to get behind the pedal of your starting foot. Try this at home.
c) breathe slowly when going steady. Try 4 short breaths in through the nose and 1 long one out the mouth. It works for me, but not during the the entire TT.
d) relax your upper body. Here is an interesting article about the optimal TT position.
e) focus on leg-speed and movement rather than on pain. I would say, focus on execution rather than on pain — it works! I love this blog post by Taylor Phinney about “entering the pain cave” (thanks to Jamie Cameron).
f) Perhaps the most important thing, something Steve Baird (veteran course record holder for the old course, at a whopping 21:56) told me 3 years ago: “it’s not about the time!” This is coming from an Olympian who swam timed events! One way to look at it is as a challenge to ride the TT correctly. Be happier about how well you rode it vs. how fast you went, because form fluctuates, and weather and traffic are inconstant. When I rode at my best last year, I was most happy about how I nailed it technically. I was repeating to myself constantly, “how can I ride this as smartly as possible?”, “how can I get the best ride I can get?” These questions get you to focus differently on the task at hand.
g) Time trials are supposed to be an exercise in pain. You should feel like you want to die at the end…
I hope this helps, and let me know what you think through comments or by email: emilederosnay at gmail dot com. I’d love to hear what you think.