Time trial tactics at Tour de France involve complex interactions between the participants of the race and aerodynamics.
It’s not surprising that as riders aim to maximise the efficiency of their riding, some stage winners claim the first place by a matter of milliseconds, despite the fact that the stages stretch for dozens of kilometres.
Let’s see how these tactics work and how they make Tour de France so much of a spectacle for all cycling fans.
Tour de France Time Trial Tactics
Before we delve deep into the nuances of cycling strategies of time trial stages, we should remind you that some Tour de France races include two types of time trials.
First, we’ve got team time trial stages (TTT) where teams compete as single units, all members working together to achieve as good a result as possible by riding together.
They race in the track alone, without other team riders, but they do so against the clock and aim to get the best result of all teams. Their time is stopped as soon as the fifth member of the team crosses the finish line, so it’s not necessary for them all to finish very fast, which gives rise to certain strategies.
Another type of time trial is individual time trial (ITT) where cyclists ride alone and aim to finish the stage by their own sheer effort and skill. This is so individual, in fact, that drafting behind other cyclists is forbidden. Naturally, this type of racing comes with its own tactics for efficiency.
Tour de France 2018 will include both of these stages, so if you want to understand what’s really going on during them, keep on reading.
Team Time Trial Tactics
Team time trials are all about teamwork and decreasing the drag force of the wind that slows down the riders. As unbelievable as this may sound, riding behind another cyclist can preserve up to 50% of one’s energy.
This simple thing is achieved by riding in a single or two rows in practice. The riders often switch from one row to another and from the front to back to share the effort of moving in front (which is the most difficult part) and save precious energy to keep a steady pace throughout the long kilometres of the stage.
Individual Time Trial Tactics
While team time trials and their riders’ perfectly aligned formations are very pretty to look at, individual time trials may seem like something that includes no strategies at all. The riders are released into the stage alone by the difference of a few minutes.
They continue throughout the track alone and need to do it faster than the others. What is there to do other than simply be as fast as you can to be?
Well, time trials are quite long so riders still need to save energy so that they wouldn’t get too slow before the end of it. That’s why it’s important not to start too fast and keep an exact pace that is chosen to fit the rider’s capabilities.
Time trial tactics at Tour de France are very important as even a single second can be precious when you’re racing against the clock.