Team Time Trial Preperation and Tactics

I have been racing for quite a while now and participated in many pace lines, taught pace line skills and raced in numerous Individual Time Trials but I have never raced in a Team Time Trial AKA: TTT. The individual time trial is often referred to the race of truth but add teammates and you have the potential to be really fast!

The TTT is my favorite race to watch during long professional stage races so when the opportunity to race in a TTT came up I jumped at the opportunity. As the teams coach, I decided to write up how individual TT tactics applied to TTT and everything I knew about TTT tactics/preparation and roll it into a simple set of guidelines.

Weekend before the race

  • Make sure any mechanical issues have been sorted!
  • Bikes should be clean
  • Bikes should be tuned
  • Bikes should be sound
  • Bikes should not have any unneeded gadgets installed (Lights, bags, additional water bottle cages)
  • Make sure you have your food, supplements, and kit packed and ready to go

Morning of the race

  • Eat a solid breakfast 3 hours before the start of the race. Carbs, fats, and protein!
  • Get to course 2-3 hours before the race
  • Set up Pit area
  • Kit out and get numbers pinned on
  • Pre-ride the course with the team for a dress rehearsal
  • All teammates back to the pit area and begin to warm up on trainers
  • Drink a sports drink during your warm up
  • 30 minutes before the start take on a gel
  • Get to the start/start house 10-15 min before start time

Communication verbal and non-verbal

  • Simple Verbal
    • Yes (go faster)
    • No (Slow Down)
    • Clear (Wheel is clear to pass)
    • On (Rider is back on the back of the pace line)
    • Off (Rider is off the back of the pace line and a gap has opened or is not able to continue)
  • Typical Verbal
    • Feeling good
    • Go faster
    • I am blowing up
    • Slow down
  • TALK LOUDLY it will be hard to hear over the wind and aero helmets
    • 2-way radios may be helpful (Check Rules)
  • Non Verbal
    • Chicken Wing into the wind for next rider to pull through
      • Basically sticking your elbow out in the direction you are pulling off
      • This will only work with a standard road bike
    • Nod yes or no when commands are yelled out

Wind conditions

  • The Wind will determine the formation of the pace line
  • Best draft isn’t always right behind the rider in front of you
  • Make small adjustments in your line when trying to find the best draft

In Race Fueling

  • Typically not required during a 20K TTT
  • During a 40K TTT, you will want to take a sip off your bottle every 5-10 minutes
  • You should also be prepared to take on a gel 20K into the 40K
  • Only drink and eat when at the back of the pace line

Formation of the TT Pace Line

  • Start
    • Likely to be a staggered start from strongest to weakest rider
    • May or may not be a handheld start
    • Very unlikely to have a ramp start unless you are racing in a grand tour
  • In race
    • Rotating pace line
    • Possible Echelon pace line if cross winds are present
  • Finish
    • Lead out for N-th rider of the team

Your pull at the front

  • Each rider at the front should only go so hard
  • Hard can be measured as 100-130% of their FTP
  • Go no harder than agreed to

Taking your turn at the front

  • When your turn comes DO NOT surge/speed up
  • Maintain the speed of the paceline
  • If you think you can ride longer at the front do so but never out of ego

Establishing Length of Pull

  • The length of each rider pull on the front is determined by their individual power to weight ratio or strength
  • The strongest pull the longest and the weakest the shortest
  • Pulls from 20 pedal revolutions to 60 pedal revolutions are the norm

Rotating off the front

  • When drifting to the back stay close to the pace line as it does provide additional draft for everyone
  • Do not let gaps open
  • Be prepared for each rotation (No sleeping on the job!)
  • When the lead rider drops back they need to apply a bit more power once they cross the last rider’s bottom bracket to minimize gaps

Keeping the team together

  • Opening gaps and trying to close gaps will only lead to someone being dropped
  • Keep a safe distance between each rider when riding aero
  • It will take longer to stop on a TT bike
  • When you sit up to get in the bull horns do it out of the draft
    • The rider behind you who is still aero could drift right into your wheel!!!!!
  • Pull out of the line into the wind to slow down instead of using your brakes
  • Leave the ego at home this is a TTT, not an ITT
    • You are only as strong as your weakest rider.

Finishing the race

  • Depending on how many teammates there are on your team the race will likely have an N-th rider
  • An N-th rider is the number of riders you must finish with
  • So if you have a 4 man team with 2nd N-th rider that means 2 of the 4 riders can be dropped

Death pull(s)

  • Riders designated for Death Pulls are those that are used to ramp up the finishing pace in the closing 500 to 1000km of a TTT
  • Death Pull riders will use all their reserves in an effort to bring the N-th rider in the fastest
  • This practice is very similar to that of a lead out train for a sprinter in a road race or criterium

Crossing the finish line

  • Never ever race to a finish line, race through it
  • Keep your aero position through the finish line unless it’s uphill
  • If you have an uphill finish then make sure you are geared correctly before getting into the bull horns
  • DO NOT STOP ON THE COURSE just past the finish line ride back to the pit area
  • Quickly change into some clean kit and get ready for your visit to the podium

There you have it! I really only have one other piece of parting knowledge to pass along and that is that all successful TTT teams have in common is that they practice with each other or have ridden with each other often. This familiarity gives each teammate the comfort and knowledge of how to work with each other.

Until next time,

Train Smarter Not Harder

Coach Rob

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