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A Triathlete’s Experience of Time Trials

Martyn Brunt is a member of Coventry Triathletes and has competed at ironman level. His success has meant that he has represented Great Britain and Europe on separate occasions. Here he explains why he got into riding time trials, and the benefits that riding with Coventry Road Club has given him.


How did you get into triathlon to begin with?

The voices in my head told me to do it. Joking (ish) aside I did a triathlon for a bet in 2003 and got hooked. I only intended to do one and was bet the princely sum of a tenner that I couldn’t, and I’ve now been doing them for ten years in races all over the world, which have cost significantly more than a tenner.


What made you decide to take up time trials?

My background is as a swimmer so I had no cycling experience at all when I started triathlons. I thought time trials would be a good way for me to improve my speed and skills in a proper race against the clock because a TT is very similar to the bike leg of a triathlon - it’s just you against the clock (and the headwind), hunched over your tri-bars going as hard as you can. Racing against the clock tends to make you drag that extra bit of effort out, because just like in triathlons, the clock doesn’t lie.


What was it like when you first rode time trials with Coventry Road Club?

Initially I was slightly concerned how I’d fit in with “proper” cyclists but fortunately I have an ego the size of a planet which helps me avoid any social awkwardness. It also helped that everyone at CRC was incredibly friendly and didn’t bat an eyelid if I was slower than them or appeared inexperienced. Within minutes of me finishing we were swapping anecdotes about windy sections of the course over a cup of tea and listening to Lee Pannozzo’s excuses about why he’d ridden so badly again. I was back the following week and within a short time was treated as a regular, especially at the start line where a friendly word from the timekeepers makes a huge difference.


What difference has it made to your triathlon training and performance?

In a nutshell, I’ve got much faster on my bike as a result of doing time trials. This is not only the case in TTs but has transferred to triathlons as well where my bike times have tumbled. It also makes you much smarter in races, knowing how to pace your effort and to ride a particular section of road in a particular way (although I still frequently get this wrong because basically there are two types of riders in TTs, those who start too quickly, and those who don’t start quickly enough – you NEVER get it spot on).


What other aspects of Coventry Road club have you enjoyed?

I’ve already mentioned the friendliness of club members who make you feel very welcome irrespective of experience, but I also like the informality of CRC’s time trials a lot. Coming from triathlons where everything is organised-to-death it makes a pleasant and refreshing change to see something that works efficiently and safely but in a much laid back way. You turn up, sign on, pay a very cheap entry fee, pin your number on, take to the start line and you’re off. You ride the course, go past the finish line (timekeeper in chair with stopwatch) then head back to the start for a cup of tea and a cake, a chat and some bragging/excuses before heading home. I cannot think of a more pleasant way to spend a summer evening.


As a result of doing TTs I also started going on CRC’s Sunday club runs, and again found these enormously useful both in terms of bike handling skills, road behaviour/confidence and fitness. You can go as fast or as slow as you want to because different groups go at different speeds, so if you want a long steady ride you can have one of those, and if it’s a hard ride you want then by God you’ll get it! There’s a mindset in triathlon which says that riding on your own is the way to get faster because you have to ride on your own in triathlons. As such triathletes tend to avoid “drafting” at all costs by riding solo or trying to stay on the front. However I have never – never – ridden as hard as while I’ve been trying to hang on to someone’s wheel in the “fast” group when it gets motoring. The other benefit about club runs is that you quickly pick up how to ride with others, and members will freely give advice on the way to ride in groups which really brings you on as a cyclist.


What advice would you give to a triathlete considering time trials?

Give them a try! You don’t need to worry about having all the right kit, about pre-registering or paying out fortunes for races, and you certainly don’t need to worry about whether you’d be welcomed. They are tremendous fun and they certainly appeal to the competitive streak that lurks in every triathlete. Please note though that if, after crossing the line, you jump off your bike and go for a run, you will receive a large dose of (good-natured) mocking and shouted questions about whether you have brought your wetsuit with you.


Coventry Road Club hold weekly time trials from April to October. Non-members are very welcome on a ‘come and try it’ basis. Lots more information on this website and updates on our facebook site.