Riding an Open Time Trial

Although open events attract a lot of fast riders there is still a good mix of young and old, fast and not so fast. The majority of riders are just local club racers, so no need to feel intimidated if you've never ridden an open. The main benefit of open TTs is that they have CTT approved timekeepers and marshals along the course to help keep you on course and warn you of potential dangers. Nevertheless, be aware that time trials are usually held on public roads, with no road closures, so ultimately riders are responsible for their own safety.

Inevitably, entering an open involves a certain amount of bureaucracy, so here's a few notes to guide you through it, plus a few do's and don'ts if you've never ridden one:

Where to find out:
All open events are listed on the CTT website www.ctt.org.uk (go to 'Events') and are also published in the CTT Handbook, currently £10 from the CTT on-line shop. The handbook also has current rules and lots of info about the CTT, previously known as the RTTC.

Types of events:
The majority of time trials are for solo riders, starting at one-minute intervals, with distances varying from a few miles up to 100. Some events are time based, ie. how far can you ride in 12 hours or even 24. The most common distances are 10, 25 or 50 miles. Some events are on hilly courses (so-called sporting courses!) and then there are hill climbs. There are also events for tandems, occasionally trikes, 2-ups, or 3 or 4 person team time trials.

The minimum age is 12 years old. Usually it's up to the organisers to decide on prizes, but most use standard categories such as juveniles, juniors, espoirs, seniors, women, veterans and sometimes a handicap competition. Time trials are particularly attractive to older riders as there is a scale of standard times v distance for veterans, ie. over-40s, according to age, so there is often a prize for 'Vet on Standard' where all vets compete on a level playing field, ie. trying to beat their standard time by the greatest margin. Most organisers use times calculated by the Veteran Time Trials Association (VTTA).

Entering online:
Assuming your club membership is up to date, go to the CTT website and register. The system will issue you with a unique number, so once registered the system will remember you when you next wish to enter an event. Note any special conditions which an organiser may apply. You will also be asked if you're prepared to have your name on a reserve list if an event is over-subscribed (see below). Once the system has your details, it is very quick and simple to enter on-line. You can also enter multiple events at once if you choose to. The system has search filters, so, by filtering on "K" district, you can find all the local opens very quickly. It works a bit like Amazon, in that it creates a shopping basket. You add as many events as you want, then pay for them in one go. (Of course all this assumes you remember your password!)

You will usually be asked to provide your previous best times for a specific distance. This sometimes referred to as 'LTS' (last three seasons). This helps the organiser with field placement (see below) or if there is a handicap competition operating.

You can add any special message (eg. 'early number please') and hope the organiser spots it. You are then required to enter your debit/credit card details with the appropriate fee, usually £10 - £12). Apart from obvious expenses like hire of the hall, prize fund, etc., the fee also covers a 3rd party insurance to protect you and the CTT. Remember that entries to most event close 10 days before the event, so that usually means at midnight on the Tuesday or Wednesday of the preceding week. The reason for this is the long established principle that every competitor should be aware of every other competitor in advance of the event, hence the need for of a start sheet. This precludes late entries or entries on-the-day.

Usually a couple of days after entries have closed you will receive an email telling you whether your entry has been accepted or rejected (see below). A few days after that you will receive an email containing a link to the CTT website enabling you to download a start sheet, together with details of HQ venue, course, prizes, etc. This will indicate your start number and start time.

Usually the maximum field in an open event is 120 and organisers are required to give priority to 25% of places to female riders. Organisers are then required to accept entries on the basis of previous best times, not in the order that entries were received. If there are less than 25% of female entries then the remaining places can be filled by male competitors.
You may find you've been placed on a 'reserve' list which can be up to 15 riders. If you attend the event as a reserve you will usually get a ride as there are typically 10% of 'no-shows' on the day. If you turn up and don't get a ride you will have your entry fee refunded; if you're a reserve but don't attend you will forfeit your entry fee. Once the entries have closed no entry fees can be refunded, except in the case of a reserve unable to get a ride.

If you're unable to ride it's a courtesy to notify the organiser, thus enabling the vacant slot to be taken by a reserve. A non-notified 'no-show' means the organiser has to keep the slot open for the intended rider as late as possible, by which time it's usually too late to offer it to a reserve.

Hint: if you are a reserve and keen to ride, contact the organiser at least the day before and you may get slotted into a cancellation which has been advised. This could prevent a wasted journey.
In the event of an event cancellation, usually because of road works or similar, entry fees are refunded, although the organisers are entitled to deduct some expenses from this. However, once an event has started, no refunds are payable, whatever the cause.

Postal Entries:
You are not compelled to enter online and can still enter an event using the postal system. Things will take longer, but procedurally you should follow the guidelines below, 'Entering by post'.

Entering by Post:
Some organisers have not signed up to the online entry system and still use the traditional postal method. The process is similar to above, but you have to complete an official CTT entry form and post it, together with your entry fee, and send to the event secretary. The closing date is as above, so allow sufficient time for the pigeon to make the delivery. You will then receive a start sheet by post, approx one week before the event. If your entry is rejected the organiser still has to contact you, but it is an additional burden and cost to the organising club.

Field placement:
There are certain rules in terms of field placement which organisers should follow. Theoretically this means that consecutive riders should be placed so that their speeds are not closely matched, thus avoiding close riding. This means that the fastest riders are allocated a number ending in zero, eg. 10, 20, 30, etc. The next fastest are allocated numbers ending with a five, eg. 5, 15, 25, etc. The slowest will therefore be allocated numbers ending in '9'. This usually means that the fastest rider, based on previous times, will often be given no.120 if there is a full field. The full list, known as a number group, is 0, 5, 1, 6, 2, 7, 3, 8, 4, 9. However, the CTT have recently relaxed the rules to allow the whole field to be given numbers in reverse order, ie. no.1 being the slowest, progressing to the fastest rider being the last to start. This of course can result in 'bunching' and can be a nightmare for timekeepers as riders approach the finish sometimes side by side. This process is standard practice in national championships where the speed differentials are much smaller and fewer riders catch their 'minute man'.

On the day:
On the day of the event you should report to the HQ and sign-on. You don't have to arrive before the actual event start time, but remember to allow yourself enough time to sign-on, collect your number, and reach the start before your designated time. It's not unlike a club event, no airs and graces, just more riders.
You should wear appropriate clothing which includes having the shoulders covered (a CTT rule). Most people wear a club jersey or skinsuit. You can wear plain clothing, but do not wear anything which carries advertising (eg. a club sponsor) unless this has been registered with the CTT. Incidentally that rule doesn't apply to the clothing maker's name or logo. Helmets are optional, but strongly advised, unless you're under 18 where it is compulsory.

Pin your number to your clothing on your back as low as possible. Pinning it high, like a footballer, means the timekeeper can't see it if you're bent over in a racing position as you finish. Remember also that as you're wearing a number you can be identified as a competitor so avoid remonstrating with other road users. Any follow-up could result in you, your club, or the organisers being penalised either by the police or by the CTT.

Be aware that you should avoid warming up on the actual course as you risk disqualification. Sometimes riding to and from the HQ it's unavoidable, but make sure the timekeepers know you're not competing and don't obstruct another competitor.

Report to the start with at least a few minutes to spare, but remember if you miss your start time (you must be stationary!) the timekeeper will only allow you to start when a gap appears due to a 'no-show'. What's more your official time will be based on when you should have started, not when you actually started.

From a safety point of view it's essential to keep your head up while competing. Many other road users underestimate the speed of a rider in a time trial, so in your own interests keep a clear view of the road ahead. Also remember that 'drafting' or 'slipstreaming' is against the rules. If you are overtaken you should allow the faster rider to get at least 50 yards ahead. Similarly if you catch a slower rider you must not take shelter, either overtake or drop back to a safe distance. Ideally ride no further than one metre from the kerb, unless approaching an island with a right turn. As you cross the finish line it helps to shout out your number as it's easy for your number to be obscured by clothing.

After you've finished report back to the HQ and sign-off (this is now compulsory) and don't forget to hand in your number. Most events have refreshments on sale and have a results board within the HQ showing provisional times as riders finish. Sometimes final results will be announced and prizes presented on the day, but usually organisers are reluctant in case there is a protest or disqualification to be sorted out.

After the Event:
Organisers are encouraged to send their results to the CTT a day or so after the event and a listing should be posted on the CTT website. As with the start sheet a link will enable you to see all the results details and prizes. Normally any prizes will be sent in the form of a cheque. The law only allows for an entry fee to be refunded to the original payment card, but not any additional payments such as prizes.

For postal entries everything else is as already described, except afterwards you will receive the results through the post, together with any prize money. The rules say that results should be posted within 28 days so be prepared to wait a while. Even though the organiser does not accept entries electronically it may be that they will still send the results to the CTT, so it's worth keeping an eye on the CTT website.

So, all set for your first open? Good luck!