Articles, Cycling Clubs

Developing A Pacing Strategy For The Ten Mile Time Trial.


Below is a detailed examination of how one cyclist rides a Ten Mile Time Trial. Whilst I have carried out this experiment with a number of riders, I have deliberately chosen an ‘average ‘ rider to illustrate the improvements that can be made, just by looking at pacing strategy.

During the first ride our initial aim was to find out exactly what the rider was doing during a time trial. By using a cycle ergonometer to simulate a flat 10 mile time trial, we were able to measure power output, record the riders heart rate and take blood samples every four minutes to measure lactate production.

In the first trial, the rider was asked to complete the course in the way that they would normally race. This is illustrated in the graph below. What is particularly interesting is the power output. As you can see, this follows a series of peaks and troughs. The rider goes off very hard, which results in high Lactic acid production. This inhibits power output and the rider has to ease off to recover. When they begin to feel better, they then ‘go for it’ again, but cannot maintain the effort. This is repeated in a series of hard, recover, hard, recover steps. Near the end with a guts out effort, they sprint for the finish. Unfortunately they cannot maintain this pace, so they have to ease off again, before finally finishing. Final Time: 25:23.


In the second example we chose a power output that the rider could comfortably maintain (In this case 245 watts). They kept this up until near the end, when again they put in a final last effort. Time: 24:23. This strategy proved to be a minute faster over ten miles. This is quite a considerable saving. What is particularly interesting is how much lactic acid was produced. Remember that the scales of the two graphs are the same. As you can see in the second time trial the highest measured figure is still lower than at any time during the first race.


When the rider was asked to comment on each of the rides, she said the second ’10’ was the easiest that she had ever ridden, despite it being a personal best, at the time. With the information gained from these rides she has now gone on to improve this time.

Here are some practical tips for improving your ’10’ time:

Start off one gear lower than you feel you actually need.

Get down into the saddle quickly. This should be in the first 50 metres.

By the end of the first minute you should still feel fresh (not wrecked!!).

Try to maintain a constant rhythm and pace, until near the end.

Check the course out before you race to identify a marker (lamp post, lay-by etc.) near the end, so you know when to go for that last all out effort.

In addition to illustrating the effects of adopting a different pacing strategy, the above also shows the advantages of being able to measure intensity of effort in terms of power. The most common method of measuring intensity at the moment is using heart rate monitors. Whilst the information we gain from these is very helpful, in the examples above, the two heart rate traces are not that dis-similar. A combination of power measurement and heart rates gives us a much more complete picture.

A few years ago ‘Look’ developed a hub that could measure power output, but unfortunately its sale has been discontinued. More recently some professional riders, including Greg Lemond and Chris Boardman have been using the SRM Power crank. This is a wonderful tool, but its high cost £2500 puts it out of the reach of most riders.


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