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Bicycling Blog - Team Time Trail

Team Time Trail - March 26, 2011

Bicycle racing comes in all sizes and shapes from highly specialized track events to BMX but the bicycle racing that I’m most interested in is Road Racing. Even Road Racing has several different disciplines. There are one day races and multiple day races and they can be anything from pancake flat to extremely mountainous.  Multiday races are normally composed of various different kinds of events.  Usually they will include a time trail and occasionally they will have a team time trial.

In road racing you typical race in a pack of riders and all riders finishing in the same pack get the same time. So if 150 riders arrive at the finish line together the rider finishing first and the rider finishing last get the same finishing time. In an Individual Time Trail (ITT) each rider races solo against the clock and therefore each rider is awarded an individual time. In a Team Time Trial (TTT) each team competes as one unit against the clock and each rider in the team gets the same time, more or less.

In a big race like the Tour de France teams are composed of 9 riders. When there is a TTT in the Tour the team will take it’s time off of the 5th rider to finish. Any riders in front of or in the group with the fifth rider are all given the same time. If the 6, 7, 8 or ninth placed rider is off the back of the group they will be given their individual time. So when they have this kind of race it is important to keep at least 5 riders together and the leaders of the team have to be among the 5 riders. This race will usually come early in the Tour and won’t usually have a big effect on the overall race unless one star rider and his team lose a lot of time to another start rider and his team.  But these races are important to the men that ride them. It is very prestigious within the pro ranks to win a TTT at a big race like the Tour de France.

This Spring I had my first chance to ride in a Team Time Trail. This race was put on by River City Racing of Owensboro, Ky. and sponsored by Independence Bank. The start/finish was at Panther Creek Park near Owensboro and the course was just under 12 miles. In this race teams would be made up of 3 riders and the time would be taken off of the third rider to finish so no one could be left behind. I teamed up with Big Zig and Hinch who are fellow Team Guitar Lab members.

The morning of the race we meet up at Busler’s to caravan over to the race.  I couldn’t keep up with the other two on the drive over and feared that this might be an omen. We arrived at Panther Creek Park and went to check in. What was apparent right away was that it was extremely windy and cold. We were given a start time of 10:28 and since it was just a little after 9 we decided to stay in the cars to keep warm.

Once 9:30 rolled around we decided it was time to suit up and go out and get ready to race. We headed south following the route and enjoying a strong tail wind. Then we turned west and rode through what was the only hilly section of the course before heading back north and east into the strong head wind. We cut through the back side of the park cutting the route short and arriving back at the start line with a few minutes to spare. While warming up on the course we devised our strategy for the race. We had not actually trained together for the event but we had ridden together enough to have an idea of our strengths and weaknesses.

After checking the time we made our last minute preparations which consisted of downing energy gels, sports drink, and hitting the port-o-let and then headed out to take the start.  We arrived at the line with two teams in front of us. We would start on 2 minute intervals. At this point around 15 teams were already on the course. As the other teams rolled off we took are spot it the line and the count down was under way.

We were given the start signal and rolled out with Big Zig taking the first turn on the front. I slotted in behind him and Hinch was behind me. This was our agreed upon rotation. Zig quickly got us up to speed and with the tail wind the speed was quite high.  He took a good long pull and then rotated out and I took over. I took my turn and when I was ready to come off the front we were already at the first turn. We went through the turn as I rotated out and a gap opened up between me and the team. I had to call for them to slow while I got back on to the back and then we continued going through the rotation.

We made a left hand turn and popped up over the first hill. Then we made a right hand turn and started a slightly up hill stretch. At this point we could already see the team that started 2 minutes in front of us. This might not have been a good thing because now we were intent on catching them instead of staying steady at our own pace. During this area of hills, Big Zig got a little too far into the red zone and he would spend the rest of the race walking a fine line between staying on our wheels and blowing up completely.

As we came out of the hills and into the flat we would now have the head wind to contend with. Zig got some recovery time in but still wasn’t ready to pull. Hinch and I worked out our two man rotation and spent our time off the front hiding in Zig’s big slipstream. By the time we turned to the East I was feeling the toll the wind was taking on my legs. Hinch was clearly the stronger rider at this point at was taking the longer turns on the front. I was doing my best to keep our speed up when I was on the front and Zig was hanging strong with us. We were continuing to eat into the deficit to the team in front of us. At this point I think that they were aware that we were coming up from behind.

Finally we got a down wind leg and picked the speed up. Zig took this opportunity to put in another big pull on the front while Hinch and I recovered a bit. Then it was back into the wind for what would be the last headwind section before the tailwind would take us across the finish. The onus was again on Hinch to fight through the wind with me doing what I could to help. We were getting close enough to the group in front that I was pretty sure we would overtake them by the finish.

As we approached the turn to head for home we could see a car coming from our left on to what would be our course. The race marshals at the corner were waving down the car to stop so we could go through the corner without slowing but the car practical ran them over and didn’t stop. I guess the driver wasn’t a bicycle race fan.

Once we started the last leg I went to the front to put in a strong effort to catch the guys in front. I thought Zig would get another second wind like he did in the last downwind section and stay on my wheel. He was feeling the cumulative effects of the effort and we had to hold back just a little down the last stretch. It was just enough to let the other team stay in front of us. At the line the gap was only 5 seconds but that means we beat them by 1:55. 

We continued on after the finish and took another 2/3 lap to cool down and got back just in time to see the results posted. We had finished ninth of 17, eight teams in front of us and eight teams behind us in our category. We were please with the result and enjoyed the day. We and the other teams thought that it was a fun day and we hope that they will host another TTT this year so we can see how we’ve progressed.  Thanks RCR and Independence Bank!