Often called “The Race of Truth,” the time trial pits individuals or teams against the clock to determine the winner. In the individual time trial, racers start at specified intervals and try to post the fastest time over a preset course. The course is usually an out-and-back route with a single turnaround, though some courses may cover a circuit or run from point to point.
In the team time trial, teammates work together to cover a designated distance as quickly as possible, alternately rotating through the lead position and resting in the draft of the other riders.
The race to shave seconds in events where only hundredths of a second often separate the top riders, has triggered a flood of development in aerodynamics. Aerodynamic tubes, smaller front wheels and carbon fiber disk wheels have all been seen increasingly in competition in recent years, contributing to the fall of many time trial records. Even clothing plays a part. The one-piece skinsuit time trialists use, instead of the standard shorts and jersey, clings like a second skin. Teardrop-shaped aero helmets, wind-tunnel tests indicate, can save as much time as the aero handlebar.
Team time trials were both national championship and world championship events and up until 1992, also an Olympic event. In 1996, the “TTT” was replaced by the individual time trial in the Olympic Games. The “ITT” was contested for the first time at the world championships in 1994, where American Karen Kurreck won the gold medal.