What’s the difference between a Road Race and a Time Trial?

Most of the cycle racing shown on television falls under the category ‘road racing’.

Road races are mass start events where competitors pit themselves directly against one another. The person who crosses the line before anyone else is the victor.

Often this leads to a bunch sprint at the end. Sometimes an individual or small group will form a ‘breakaway’ and manage to hold on until victory. Particularly strong riders can even manage this feat on their own; That’s extremely impressive.

A lot of one’s success in road racing is determined by choosing the right group to sit in with and positioning oneself well at corners, on hills etc. Many tactics have to be decided upon ‘on the fly’ in a road race; Experience counts for a lot.

Time trials are run with a very different structure to road races.

In the case of a time trial the participants are set off individually rather than in a bunch.

Usually there is a one or two minute gap between the start times of time-triallists. This is to stop them gaining an advantage by slipstreaming one another.

Time trials (aka TTs) are also known as ‘the race of truth’.  This is because it is ‘one man (or woman) against the clock’. There is nowhere to ‘sit in’ – the participant’s result depends primarily on his or her form and personal abilities without anyone else able to interfere.

Another popular, somewhat charming and possibly pretentious (unless one is from a country where French is the predominant language) name for a TT is the rhyming term ‘contre la montre’. Translated literally that means ‘against the watch’. You can clearly see why it merits such a name.

Of course there are Team Time Trials (aka TTTs) too. In their case a group will cycle together ‘against the clock’ and deliberately share the workload at the front. As with the Individual Time Trial (aka TTs or ITTs) the groups will be set off a minute or two apart to stop any ‘cross pollination’ between teams.

Most people participating in TTs on a regular basis will ride a TT bike. This is an extremely aerodynamic bicycle the design of which practically ignores comfort in favour of all out speed. TT bikes can be almost otherworldly in appearance. They certainly would not be bicycles suited to a standard group cycle.

The majority of local time-triallists will start off doing 10 mile TTs on a flat circuit but can move on to 100 miles+ TTs if they so wish.

Unlike most of our club runs, Road Races and TTs don’t have a coffee stop in the middle.

Posted in: Misc