In 2014 our women’s team executed a series of team time trial mini-camps, scheduled at key points of the season. The ultimate goal of these camps was to prepare the team for the World Championship team time trial in Ponferrada, Spain. Their effectiveness was proven at Worlds – the team missed the podium by just six seconds on the 36 km course, drastically improving on their 2013 result in the same race. That podium near-miss on the world’s biggest stage certainly hurt. It also showed the effectiveness of this these mini-camps, and provided extra motivation for a top finish at the World Championship this year in Richmond, VA – the first fight for the rainbow jersey on American soil in thirty years.
We talked with Performance Director Patrick McCarty about the team’s training philosophy and the unique nature of the discipline at the first dedicated TTT mini-camp of 2015, centered around the pristine roads of Thousand Oaks, CA.
TTT is a very unique discipline within cycling. What are some skills integral to achieving success?
The TTT is a very delicate beast, and one of my favorite events in cycling. To be successful, riders must have a good understanding of what they and their teammates are capable of and know how to adjust their effort, positioning, and timing on every inch of a road. Simply put, its a skill that takes A LOT of practice while riding with 100% effort, in race formation. The TTT requires a calm head, patience, excellent bike handling, trust and the ability to manage all of these while riding absolutely flat out. I wouldn’t say any of these skills are different from any other aspect or discipline of cycling, but they must be executed with a much higher level of concentration. A good performance can look calm and almost boring from behind, but looking at the speedometer of the follow car and the suffering on the rider’s faces gives a better sense of the sheer intensity and effort.
What was the training program like at your first TTT mini-camp?
We generally execute intervals of varying length and intensity, progressing towards a full-length “race” effort on the final day. We start camp with 5-7 km efforts which we call “starts.” These are about maximizing speed at the beginning of a race without wasting too much energy. The following days are short and mid-distance work – 10-15 km efforts with rest in between. We stack up to four of these into a ride, and ride them at a strenuous pace to pinpoint any kinks in the lineup and rotation that could arise during an actual race.
Repetitions allow us to incrementally modify technique and try different lineups of riders. Between reps, we hold mini-meetings to go over the interval as a whole and discuss what was good and bad. Finally, on the last day, we do a World’s course length simulation. This is a really hard effort – we put together everything we worked on the previous days, and try to go fast.
What are the important lessons these mini-camps can teach riders?
We try to get everyone more experience in what a fast, proper TTT should look and feel like. Even though only six riders compete in a TTT, we bring the full team to camp to make sure everyone gets a lot of experience in the discipline, and uncover some hidden talents in the process. We are much past the basics at this point, and are working on speed – going as fast as possible while allowing for enough recovery in the line to keep the pace going strong all the way to the finish. It’s not just a great exercise for the TTT – we learn lessons that carry over tremendously through the rest of the disciplines.
Are more mini-camps planned for the future?
Absolutely. We will do as many TTT camps as financially and logistically possible. I can’t emphasize enough how much the riders learn from these concentrated bits of training, from both mental and physical standpoints. There is simply NO way to substitute the work the ladies do at these camps any other way.
Which TTT events are you targeting this year?
We gained a lot of experience from last year’s TTT mini-camp work, and we came close to a medal at the World Championships, which gave the team more confidence for 2015. There are two awesome opportunities in the discipline on American soil this year. We are having the first-ever US National Championship in the discipline next month in Greenville, which is very exciting and a great mid-way point to judge how whichever six riders selected to compete there will click in an actual race setting. The World Championships, back in America for the first time in thirty years, will be our ultimate goal. We know we can build on our 4th place finish last year in Spain. We have added some very talented time trialists to the roster are we are doing to work to give us the best possible chance at the rainbow jersey later this year.