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TT Basics


Distances

Although time trials can essentially be any distance, the 6 most common course lengths are 10 mile, 25 mile, 50 mile, 100 mile, 12 hour and 24 hour (the latter three mainly for lunatics!). These fall into two general categories of TT races; club and open events, which have minor differences described further down this page.

Age/Gender Categories

It's every rider against the clock, and usually you'll be ranked as such, however there are different categories of rider; men's or women's junior (14-18), espoir (under 23), senior (23-39), or veteran (over 40). Championship and open events will sometimes race and rank these categories separately, but at club events there is usually just one start list and one results list with rider categories only sometimes differentiated by a small code next to their name. 

There is a universal handicapping system established by the VTTA (Veteran Time Trialling Association). This sets standard times for riders to aim for based on their age and gender, and results sheets often display the rider's actual finish time, as well as their 'vet's time on standard' which is represented by a + time (i.e. you have taken longer than the vet's standard time for your age/gender) or a - time (when you go faster than your standard vet's time). This is a useful way to rank all participants equally and often leads to the field being won by someone other than the most predictable (and youthful) candidate.

Speeds and Records

While the pros will average upwards of 30mph on a 25 mile course, a strong senior club rider will achieve well under 24 minutes for a 10 mile (the magic 25mph threshold), an hour for a 25, and 2 hours for a 50, though times vary due to terrain and weather conditions. To help them get there, time trialists (otherwise known as testers) usually spend all their spare pennies on the latest specialised aerodynamic equipment.

Course Records
As listed on the CTT Website

Men
10 - 16:35 - M Bialoblocki, One Pro Cycling Ltd, 2016
25 - 42:58 - M Bialoblocki, NOPINZ 2018
50 - 1:30:31 - M Bialoblocki, NOPINZ, 2018
100 - 3:16:51 - A Duggleby, Vive le Velo, 2017
12 hour - 321.44 miles - A Duggleby, Vive le Velo, 2018
24 hour - 541.17 miles - A Wilkinson, Port Sunlight Wheelers, 2011

Women
10 - 18:36 - H Simmonds, Aerocoach, 2016
25 - 49:28 - H Simmonds, Aerocoach, 2016
50 - 1:42:20 - H Simmonds, Aerocoach, 2016
100 - 3:42:03 - A Lethbridge, Drag2zero, 2018
12 hour - 290:07 - A Lethbridge, Drag2zero, 2018
24 hour - 461:45 - C Roberts, Crewe Clarion Wheelers, 1993

Racing Season

Races are run year-round but the main season coincides with the lighter evenings once clocks change, between April-September.

The History of the Course Codes

As the CTT website explains, for historical reasons dating back to an era when cycle racing in the UK was illegal and time-trialling was a clandestine affair, TT events are run on courses that are identified by a system of course codes, beginning with the letter of the relevant district. These codes relate to a specific measured stretch of road - often only marked by small painted start and finish lines on the kerbside - and can be best deciphered using the CTT website courses section  or the CTT handbook.

VCGH is in the London South district, which is classified by a G, although nearby racing districts are London West (H) and South (P). The regular Wednesday night ...a3crg  10 mile course, for example, (one of our most local and well-attended TT courses) is run on P881, while the course used by many clubs and known as the 'Bentley course' is the H10/8 or the H25/8 and so on, depending on the distance of the event.

The Difference between Club and Open Events

Club Events
Club events are quite low-key affairs, with HQs in isolated lay-bys (don't depend on civilised toilet facilities!). Races are organised by local clubs, often on weekday evenings on out-and-back stretches of A-road and dual carriageway (schedules and details are published on club websites). Although there are sometimes district-based restrictions on who can enter these time trials, most clubs have an open policy although you usually have to be a member of a CTT-affiliated cycling club. Basically you turn up on the day about 45 minutes or so before the start time, pay your entry fee (usually in the region of £3 to £5), sign your name to the start list and pin your number to your lower back. You'll be recommended - or required - to wear a helmet, and you will not usually be allowed to race without a working rear light.

After pumping up your tyres and making sure your bike is in optimum racing condition, you'll probably do a quick warm-up (on a turbo-trainer behind your parked car, or the local roads). When your allocated start time approaches, you'll make your way to the start line. Riders are set off at designated intervals (30 seconds - 1 minute for an individual time trial). You'll get a time-keeper there to count you down, and another marshall who'll hold your bike steady while you get into position and clip into your pedals. Familiarise yourself with the course map before you set off to the event, because club events - unlike open events - don't usually have marshalls on the course and it's easier than you think to make navigation errors under duress!

Open Events
Open events are somewhat more prestigious and serious than club events, and lead to your finishing times being recorded on the CTT website. They generally run at the weekend, and have a larger entry than club events (often around 150 riders). Where events are over-subscribed, the field is selected on the riders' fastest previous times (detailed on their entry forms), although the organiser may also operate a reserve list. Entry for open events needs to be made in advance via the CTT website.  Cost varies - around £7 to £12 per person. Entries close around 2 weeks before the event date, and you will receive a start list in the post or by email in advance, or you may need to view this on the CTT website.

After the entry procedure, open events run similarly to club events. The HQ is usually at a village hall or similar space, and you need to turn up a little in advance of your start time to sign on and pin on your number. After a warm-up, make your way to the start area with a few minutes to spare, where each rider will be set off in order. The start list for many open events will have been engineered so that you are setting off amongst people of a similar pace to yourself, so that you can compete against rivals on the road (although this is only possible if you've included your recent personal best times on your entry form).

There are very stringent non-drafting rules in time-trialling so that when overtaking a rider, you must move out of their wind-shadow well in advance, and the overtaken rider must then sit up and allow you to pass. Drafting of any kind is frowned upon by the TT fraternity and rigidly enforced by marshalls and officials.

Team Time Trials

Time-trialling is not always a strictly individual discipline, and team time trials (TTTs) are a good way to mix things up a bit. Otherwise known as 2-ups, 3-ups or 4-ups, the idea is that a number of riders rotate throughout the course, affording each rider a rest drafting the leader while getting ready for their turn on the front. Well-matched riders can get times faster than their individual personal bests, and it is an impressive spectacle to see teams in full club colours and aero kit travelling at 25+mph just centimetres from each others' wheels.

Other Types of Courses

SPOCO
For those that like to steer clear of dual carriageway and flat courses, Sporting Course Points Competition events offer some contrast. These time trials are held on more challenging terrain with lighter traffic-flow, and avoid classic fast-and-flat TT courses. The main SPOCO season is Feb-April, although you can find some scattered through the year.

Hillclimb TTs
Hillclimbs are what they say on the tin; fastest time from the bottom to the top. Hillclimbs vary dramatically though, from long efforts lasting minutes to super-steep and fast. Hillclimb season is generally at the end of the main season, in autumn.

There are plenty of special events too, which don't confirm to any of the categories described here.

Links

More information can be found in the CTT handbook, published each year (and including a full season's schedule of open events, with entry details).

  • http://www.ctt.org.uk is the website for the governing body for time trials, and is full of useful information on every aspect of time-trialling.


  • http://www.a3crg.co.uk One of VCGH's local friendly TT clubs, running an array of events including club 10s on Wednesday evenings on the A3 from Greatham.