A team time trial (TTT) is a road-based bicycle race in which teams of cyclists race against the clock.
Teams start at equal intervals. Late starters have the advantage of knowing what times they need to beat (and this also makes the event more interesting to spectators).
Unlike individual time trials where competitors are not permitted to ‘draft’ (ride in the slipstream) behind each other, in team time trials riders in each team employ this as their main tactic each member taking a turn at the front while team-mates ‘sit in’ behind. After their turn, the lead rider will swing over, allowing the next rider to take the lead, while the leader goes to the back of the team.
Should one team overtake another, the overtaken team would be expected to drop back.
The main principle behind a TTT is that a few riders can ride at the front of the formation slightly above their aerobic threshold while others draft behind these riders. The riders then rotate, allowing some riders to recover while drafting behind fresher teammates. A rider who is riding at the front is said to be taking a ‘pull’. A rider who needs more time to recover may take a longer time at the back of the formation while the other teammates rotate in front of this rider. With increased desired speed, the riders take harder but shorter pulls at the front as to not burn themselves up.
The recorded finishing time in a team time trial is often based on the N-th rider of that team. For example, in stage races such as the Tour de France or Giro d’Italia the finishing time is based on the 5th rider of the team, out of a total of 9 riders per team. Therefore a team may choose to have a few of its riders take a death pull towards the end of the TTT event, in which the riders take as hard a pull at the front to lift the pace at the cost of exhausting themselves with no hope of being able to latch onto the back of the formation for drafting. They then drop back and leave the remainder of the team to finish the time trial.
A motivation video