Question: My big goal this season is the cycling portion of a triathlon relay. The 55-mile (90-km) course is fairly hilly. I’ve never done a time trial longer than 15 miles. What type of training should I do? — Dave R.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: Preparation for a long time trial differs from training for the traditional TT distances (20K and 40K) in a couple of ways.
First, and most obviously, you need more mileage. You must do some longer rides to prepare you to go nearly 4 times as far as you’ve raced before, and be able to stay close to maximum speed for the distance. Training 55 miles won’t help much. You need to cover up to 90-100 miles to be well prepared.
You also need to spend time on the bike you’ll use for the event. If you’re installing aero bars or using a time trial bike with a different position than your normal bike, you should do most of your training rides on it to get accustomed to the different stresses on muscles.
Because the course is hilly, you need to include climbing workouts so you don’t fatigue prematurely or cramp. These rides don’t have to be all-out. Simply riding hills at a brisk pace is sufficient.
Your goal is to ride the TT fast, so you need speedwork. Here’s one way to include it: Once a week, do 5 repeats of 5 minutes using your TT bike (or position) at a hard pace. “Hard” means just short of the point where regular deep breathing turns into panting. Spin easily for 3 minutes between efforts.
Finally, because the event is long, you need to figure out hydration and nutrition. Unlike in a shorter time trial where you can always get by without eating and rarely need to drink, food and fluids are critical during 55 miles.
You might want to experiment with gels, which are quick to use, don’t require chewing and may digest better during hard riding. Or you might consider a sports drink that provides all the nutrition and hydration in one.
I suggest that you plan your workouts each week between now and the event to include the elements I’ve mentioned.
You’ll find a lot more advice in my Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which has workout programs for 3 different cycling levels. Sounds like my “fast recreational” program is on target for you.
Coach Fred Matheny is an RBR co-founder who has four decades of road cycling and coaching experience. He has written 14 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach Fred Matheny, including the classic Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which includes 4 eBooks comprising 250 pages of timeless, detailed advice and training plans. The Complete Book is one of the many perks of an RBR Premium Membership. Click to read Fred’s full bio.