Welcome to the world of “The Race of Truth.” Before you go and ask a bunch of questions that have been asked 1000 times on these forums, please read below, and/or use the “search” function located at the top of the loaded page. However, most questions should be answered here.
What you NEED.
Racing license (or purchase a one day)
Jersey and shorts or skinsuit (no sleeveless and no “professional” jerseys)
Desire to suffer
No delusions of grandeur
What will help (yes, even in your first TT)
Any of the equipment listed below
Before the race
1. Yes, Aerobars will make you faster. No, you shouldn’t put them on the night before the race. Aerobar users often find that the bike is a bit more difficult to control, and the position takes some adaptation, so you should get used to this before you crash/throw your back into spasm.
2. Equipment that will make you Faster? In order: Aerobars (cheap), Aero Helmet (cheap), Power meter (not cheap), Heart rate monitor (cheap), Wind Tunnel (not cheap), deep dish/disc wheels (not cheap), TT bike/frame (not cheap), Disc wheel cover (cheap, but not legal for long), skinsuit (cheap), Ceramics (not cheap), Blah blah blah (none of the rest is cheap)
3. All of the above will not make you as fast as a good aero position (assuming you have aerobars…yes, they are that important), so look at some pictures of Professional TTists (the ones who win). They know what they are doing.
4. Yes, you should get a TT fit by a professional fitter. Chances are, the professional positions you see in the pictures are not going to be compatible with your body. Find out what is.
5. When you go to buy a TT frame (and you will get aero-upgrade-it is if you do enough TTing), expect to pick something up that is roughly 2cm shorter in the top tube than your road bike.
6. If you have to ask, then UCI rules do not apply to you (though in the US, USAC rules do apply. Pretty much any road/tt bike satisfies these rules).
7. If you can manage 260-280 watts for an hour, you are in the realm of a sub-hour 40k.
8. To improve, you need to better your threshold. There are lot’s of methods to do this, but most involve long intervals.
9. Many people find it helpful to preride/predrive the course.
At the race
10. Yes, you will see tens of thousands of dollars worth of TT equipment – sometimes just one person’s bike setup. Believe it or not, though it looks cool, it doesn’t make you as fast as it looks. However, to be competitive at the topmost levels, likely some investment will have to be made.
11. Yes, you should have a stationary trainer for warming up. As for the warm up routine, that is something you will have to discover either in training or through race experience, but the general (though certainly not absolute) rule of thumb is that long TTs require a shorter warm up (20-40 minutes), and shorter TTs require a longer warm up (30-80 minutes). Warm ups do not require race level efforts (though many do some race effort intervals). If you feel that you cannot warm up for the above length of time and still race, you don’t yet have the fitness. Sorry. Go train some more.
12. Stay hydrated. Unless it is a long (greater than 20k) or VERY hot TT, you do not need water during the race and with the exception of an old study showing that a water bottle is more aerodynamic (on a round tubed seat-tube), bottles and drinking are likely to slow you down (Unless you are dehydrated, in which case you need all the help you can get).
13. Get to the line early. Most people who have done this enough have missed/nearly missed their start times. Try to avoid that mistake.
14. You will be provided a hold at the start line (if it is USCF. Local and practice tts may vary) so that you can clip in. Please do not over-gear your start, or you will fall over. Cross chaining is allowed.
15. Do not start too hard.
16. DON’T START TOO HARD.
17. See numbers 15 and 16.
18. Yes, you will suffer. Yes, you need to leave everything on the road. If you can sprint in the end, you did not go hard enough.
19. Race against yourself. Don’t blow up trying to catch anyone or stay with someone who has just passed you. Your goal should be to be able to ask yourself the question at the end, “Could I have gone faster?” and have the answer be, “No.”
20. Overall, have fun. You should try to get better with each successive TT.
For returning sufferers:
Wind tunnel is not cheap (roughly 1k plus airfare) but will make you faster than most anything out there. If you have to choose between bling wheels and wind tunnel, the tunnel will provide you more benefit every time.
Negative Splitting is almost always the best policy (with the exception of significant climbs/wind which should bias your power output toward these slower portions of the race). Negative splitting is the art of increasing power over time such that each subsequent distance should take less time (due to increased power output). Divide into halves, thirds, or quarters. Start reserved, end strong.
Cadence selection should be done according to what you feel. However, be aware that most people will have lower HR with lower cadences, but will feel fatigued more quickly. There is a reason that almost every hour record that has been set in the recent past has shown the rider to have a cadence of right around 100.
Never sacrifice your power meter because it is heavy. Never sacrifice your power meter because you have a more aero wheel. No, Eddy did not need a power meter, but if you have one, why throw away the advantage?
Finally, the little things really do matter. Exposed cables can cost upwards of 10 watts on the road. Poor rolling resistance tires or improper (often too high) tire pressure can cause you on the same order of wattage. This is a LOT. On average, clincher tires have better rolling resistance figures, though tubulars are lighter and can be ridden with a flat. Gloves, short-sleeved skin suits (compared to long sleeved), and certain sunglasses slow you down. Cooling vests have been shown to be of benefit if you want to take things to the extreme.
For Hill Climb TTs
Negative splitting is VERY important here. Also realize that yes, your power output will likely be higher than you can achieve in a flat TT, perhaps on the order of 20 watts or so. Take this into consideration.
Weight is important in a hill climb...usually starting at around 4% or so. Thus, if you have a choice between lightweight and aero, choose lightweight.
Now, if you still have questions, start a “first TT need help” or whatever thread. But chances are, you no longer need to do that.