Ride the TT Bike (aero bars) for extended periods
(This is a continuation of my open challenge to Nytro readers: Cover 40K in under one hour (link) )
I am good friends with several members of the UCSD Triathlon team, which means that I have spent time (gasp!) riding with triathletes (turns out they don't bite!) and getting to observe bike training habits.
One thing that immediately struck me as odd was how infrequently many of them rode their TT bikes (for those that have them) or ride in the aero bars, even when in small groups. At the same time, I hear complaints about how their backs often hurt during races and cannot stay in the bars the whole time.
During a race, if you're going faster than ~15mph and you're not in your aero tuck, you're losing time. There is no reason why you can't be in the tuck the whole time. It takes a little practice, but getting used to it is essential for optimum performance.
Time trailing is my core discipline. In season, I spend roughly 50% (or more) of my time riding on my TT bike. I'll go for 3hr tempo rides, intervals, and recovery rides on the TT bike. And when I'm riding, I spend as much time as I can in the aero bars. It feels as natural as my road bike under me. In fact, after my time trials I'll often cool down… in the aero tuck. It feels that natural.
At the end of the (24mi) State TT last May, one had to turn around after the finish and limp 6mi back to the start. I waited for a little while for a friend of mine, and I was amazed how many people immediately grabbed their back or made body language implications of pain in the back/shoulder area. Most rarely, if ever rode their TT bikes for more than 20 minutes in the aero tuck at a time. It seems like a no-brainer that if you want to compete at a top level (or even a good one, especially at State Champs) that you would not want "bad pain" to get in the way. If you're not used to holding the position, you'll lose power.
Riding in the TT position should feel natural. It sometimes takes some tweaking and practice (and maybe extra core work exercises) but honing your technique here is essential. Practice, Practice, Practice.