Time trials are sometimes called – rather ominously – ‘the race of truth’ because the only thing that matters is each rider’s strength and endurance, not the tactical and team-working factors that can be so important in road racing.
What you’ll need
- A bike!
What you don’t need
- To spend a lot of money! Although you can buy highly specialised (and thus highly expensive) time trial bikes, you can also just turn up to any time trial on your everyday road bike. You don’t even need tri-bars, although these undoubtedly can make quite a difference to your times and a simple set of clip-on bars can be bought quite cheaply.
- A helmet – although most race organisers recommend them
- Any form of license – time trials are governed by a separate body from road racing: Cycling Time Trials. Some types of events do require you to be a member of a CTT-affiliated club. Handily, Brighton Mitre is just such a club!
Types of events
There are two categories of time trials:
Club events – these are fairly informal events and generally take place on evenings from the spring to late summer. There is no need to pre-enter and riders are set off in the order in which they turn up at the start line. Costs are very low, normally just £2-£3. Distances vary but most club events are either 10 miles or 25 miles.
Open events – these are much more formal and require pre-entry, usually at least two weeks before the event. Events are held over a range of standard distances or times, e.g. 10, 25, 50 or 100 miles; 12 or 24 hours.
Riders are seeded according to their previous performances over the race distance with the seeded riders setting off every fifth rider and the fastest starting last. Entry fees are higher for open events but there are also generally good prizes, including cash, across a range of age categories as well as team prizes.
Where are time trial events held?
The good news is that there are lots of club and open time trials organised within close reach of Brighton. However, due to a quirk of history, figuring out exactly where they are can be tricky. Time trialling has its own, uniquely British, sub-culture which stems from the 1930s, when all forms of cycle racing were banned on public roads.
Time trialling arose as a clandestine way of getting around this ban by starting events very early in the morning, requiring all riders to wear black, starting riders at timed intervals and by labelling courses using an arcane coding system so it wasn’t immediately obvious where a race was being held. Of these tactics, only the coding system and the early morning starts remain (although the latter is as much about traffic volumes and road safety these days).
Course codes can be very off-putting to a newcomer, especially as CTT also combines them with a non-intuitive system of ‘districts’. For example, Brighton is in the ‘London South’ district and all courses in the district start with the letter ‘G’. So, our nearest used regularly used course is G10/97 which is better known as the Steyning to Shoreham 10 mile course! Thankfully, CTT do provide an online tool for finding courses.
How to enter
To enter an open event you will need to complete a CTT entry form and send it to the race organiser along with a cheque for the entry fee. Online entry is slowly becoming more widespread. There will still be a closing date about 14 days before the event in order to give the organiser time to work out seedings and start times.
Don’t worry if you haven’t raced at a certain distance before, most events are under-subscribed (except the really fast courses) and you will usually get a start. The organiser will either email or post you a start sheet a few days before the event with the course details and start timings.
A word of warning: if you know you will not be able to make an event you have pre-entered, or if you pull out on the day, it is considered courteous to inform the organiser by email or phone. Failure to do so on more than a couple of occasions will likely result in word getting out and you may struggle to get accepted for other events.
Events local to Brighton
Brighton Mitre organises a large number of time trials over the year.
- The evening series consists of four hill climbs, two 25 mile TTs and four 10 mile TTs. There is a trophy for the overall winner of the series and there is also a road bike category. All events can usually be entered on the line.
- The Open Time Trial series of events. These can all be entered online at least two weeks in advance. About a week before the event you will receive a start sheet with full details of the entrants, course and prize list.
- Brighton Excelsior cycling club also holds time trialing events. These races take place on Tuesdays throughout the year. For all events races the fee is £3.50 on the line and riders are required to be members of a CTT-affiliated club. The 25 mile TT Championships in July is an open event where riders must enter in advance.
- Worthing Excelsior is another local club that organises time trials. You’ll find more information on their time trialling page.
Hill climbs are simply time trials that go up hills! Sounds straightforward doesn’t it? But because of the local topography these events tend to be short, brutal climbs often only lasting a couple of minutes but which can be as physically demanding as much longer events.
The traditional hill climb season runs for about six weeks from the start of September, culminating in the national championships in mid-October.
Apart from the nature of the courses, the entry details are exactly the same as for regular time trial events.
Brighton Mitre stages a number of hill climb events through the year, from April to the end of August.
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