The art of the time trial

Doug Pensinger, Getty Images
Timmy Duggan at a Denver time trial

machine and clock. That’s the brutal simplicity of bike racing’s time trial, an
event that pits cyclists against not only the rest of the peloton, but against
their inner demons and the relentless enemy that is time. Conquer your
weaknesses and mentally battle through the pain and beat the clock and you’ve
won. But only for a day. Because the next time trial always looms. Will the
legs give out, the march of time become too relentless or will the mind crack?
This is the rarefied world of the time trialist, a lonely place of suffering,
misery, pain and, occasionally, joy.

year Colorado residents are lucky enough to have the opportunity to catch some
of cycling’s best in the world. And like all great races, the event features a
time trial. Returning after a one-year hiatus is the Vail time trial, a stage
that’s built around an interesting and relentless course. The stage starts in
the town of Vail and heads East, the first few miles will be gradual, perhaps
lulling the riders to complacency. But then the fun begins as the climb passes
through the East Vail neighborhood and pushes up the pass on some truly steep
gradients. This is where the athletes will be truly tested and there’s plenty
of opportunity for drama.

last time the USA Pro Challenge was in Vail, in 2011, this stage proved crucial
to the outcome of the race. After a day when he gifted away the leader’s yellow
jersey in a stage marked by nasty conditions including icy rain and wind, Levi
Leipheimer bounced back to win the Vail time trial stage by a mere 0.5 of a
second to reclaim the yellow. The American, who rode for Radio Shack, would go
on to win the race.

looked at through the lens of history, it’s pretty obvious that the Vail stage
has the potential to be a game changer again this year. The course is the same,
a 10-mile test that climbs an impressive 1,800 feet from Vail’s elevation of
8,022 ft. The relentless incline
at altitude means that this time trial has all the elements that make time
trials so a compelling. Riders will start individually, without their teams or
teammates to support them, and then, riding alone, must battle the fatigue from
four stages of racing leading up to the Vail stage, the altitude and the clock.
If you are a spectator, it doesn’t get much better than this and the course
offers everyone — from cycling aficionados to neophytes — the perfect
opportunity to experience a world class time trial featuring world class
athletes up close and personal.

For spectators from Boulder, this year’s
Vail event holds some real interest. Former Boulderite (recently relocated to
Aspen) and solid time trial rider Tejay Van Garderen enters the race in the
lead with just four seconds on his BMC teammate Mathias Frank. Christian Vande
Velde, who won the 2012 Pro Challenge and was 2011’s year’s second place time
trial rider, will also be competing. The Garmin-Sharp rider currently sits at
23rd overall. His teammate, Tom Danielson, a favorite to win the overall is
ranked fourth, but admittedly is better suited to mountain climbing than time
trialing (that said, in advance of the 2011 race, Danielson told Boulder Weekly the thing that first
caught his attention in the inaugural Pro Challenge was the uphill time trial).

The field is
deep with local heroes and world champions alike, as well as this years Tour de
France winner Chris Froome and the Tour’s highest points earning, who has
already won two of the seven stages for the Pro Challenge, Peter Sagan.

Local heroes
and world champions: that’s enough reason to pack the car and find a prime spot
along the old highway 6 as it climbs out of Vail to enjoy this unique type of
bike racing


If You Go:



Check out

Austria Haus-
$250/night (Lupine Room with King Bed)
Arrabelle- $288/night (Deluxe Room with King Bed)
Lodge at Vail- $245/night (Hotel Room with Two Double Beds) or $262/night
(Hotel Room with King Bed)


There will be
restricted access for pedestrians only to the best viewing points, along
Bighorn Road and up on the steeper climbs where Bighorn Road exits the East
Vail neighborhood. Get there early and bring plenty of food and water.

Vail has free
parking in the town’s parking structures during the summer months. Get there
early and use the free town bus system to head out to East Vail to find your
ideal spot to watch the race.