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Time Trial Pacing With a Powermeter

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Time Trial Pacing – Why is it Important?

Ever wondered if you gave it your best during a time trial? I mean really be able to get a definite number if you did or did not?

One of the best features of a powermeter, besides having a complete overview of how well you are training your human engine, is the ability to pace your efforts in events such as a time trial.

Wind conditions, terrain elevation vary from race to race, however, when it comes to you as a cyclist, you have a redline, or a maximal effort you can sustain – your Functional Threshold Power. Therefore regardless of the weather or terrain you can make sure you are pushing your maximum at all times. Before a time trial you should set a goal wattage you can sustain and your powermeter will make sure of the rest. There are couple of things to make things easier.

The Lap Key is Your Friend

When you push of the starting ramp you are fresh with the adrenaline pumping and you are trying to get to race speed as soon as possible. After the 30s cranking out the big power you MUST settle down. As you look down at your bike computer you see that your average is 2x of your FTP. If you try to bring that number to where it should be you should go very easy for a while ( doing HALF of your FTP for the next 30s), than accelerate again and so on.

However, you press the lap key as you get into the aerobars, everything zeroes and now you can start pacing yourself.  The Garmin Edge 500 has a very nice “Auto Lap” feature. You can set it up at any distance, the default is 5km (~3miles), I found that 3km (1.75miles) works nice for all distance TTs from 20km (11miles) to 40km (25miles). Therefore there is no more slacking off! Every 3km you are reminded of the average power you are producing. This gets really important towards the end of a race when you get tired and tend to ease off!

Here is an overview of how I set up my “TT Screen” on my Garmin Edge 500. I have the computer positioned between my elbows so I can glance at it without bowing my head down.

Garmin Edge Time Trial Pacing Screen
Garmin Edge 500 TT Screen
  1. 30s Average Power: This is the broader overview of the power you are producing now; it should be the same as your goal wattage. It is on the top so it is always easy to see.
  2. 3s Average Power: Momentary power is very variable, so  the 3s average gives you a glance of your current effort. It should match the 30s power for the most part, unless you are modifying your power for hills, wind etc. Avoid big power spikes! (more on in my post here)
  3. Lap Power: This one is important. Think of it as dividing the time trial into many 3km short races. All should be done roughly in the same manner or you are either going too easy or too hard – neither is good. You can press the lap key to “reset” your Lap Power if are approaching a hill or after a turnaround when you need to significantly adjust your effort. (more on variable pacing)
  4. Cadence: We all have a cadence we are comfortable at. If it comes too high or too low under your comfort zone, shift gears! Pedaling smoothly saves you energy.
  5. Distance: A lot of the times when you are in the aero position you have your eyes focusing on the road immediately in front of you so you don’t see very far ahead. Therefore if there is a turnaround etc. at same point in the course, you should know approximately how far in so you can be ready.
  6. Average Power: I see it as a nice overview of the whole race when I am uploading the data. If I felt fresh at the finish I should have pushed harder overall (higher Avg Power.), etc. Than I go and look at each lap individually to see where I could have improved my pacing.

As you get better you would be able to know what your body is capable of handling, the powermeter will be giving you the data so you can learn from it for future races.

In an upcoming post I will answer the questions such as “Should I push hard against the wind or with the wind?” and “Should I start easy and push harder later on?”

Good luck with you next time trial!

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