Well way back in the 1880s the bicycle was the fastest thing on the road. Admittedly a horse could out-gallop it but only for a short distance. If you were into serious 'A-to-B-ing', then a good man on a bicycle was the boss!
Naturally enough (as today) people with more muscle than sense wanted to see who was fastest and so Cycle Racing on the Highway started. At first it was more akin to what we now know as road racing where all the competitors started together and him who got there first won.
Eventually some deluded bright spark invented the infernal combustion engine, fitted it to a carriage, and the motor car was born. At first a wise government, realising that nobody could ever be trusted to drive one of these new-fangled items at more than 4 mph, set a realistic speed limit for them.
So a situation arose in which people in horseless carriages started to complain about being terrorised by men, racing about on bicycles!
Further, those who could afford this motor car thing, had considerable pull with the gendarmary and so it came about that the aforementioned fuzz declared that if they caught any groups of cyclists RACING on the Highway they would be due for the chop!
This upset the Cycling hierarchy of the day so much that it was decided to take all racing off the road and only compete on closed circuits. Events of all distances even up to 24 hours duration, were thus transferred to tracks.
However there were those who still wanted to pursue their sport on the road. One of these, FT Bidlake by name, thought up a cunning plan. If each rider were to be dispatched separately and just timed over the course, he wouldn't be seen to be racing, just going about his normal business a bit quick like! Then the person covering the course in the shortest time could be (secretly) declared the winner.
So Time Trialling came into being.
In the early days (and until relatively recently) it was a fairly simple matter of finding a convenient place to start an event, measuring half the intended distance of the event up the road, noting the place where a marshal was to be stationed to turn the riders, and fixing the finish opposite the start. Traffic conditions have all but put paid to that sort of simplicity. Now courses have to be designed with turning points at convenient flyovers or roundabouts, starts and finishes are rarely very close together, and the provision of a HQ with changing (and other) facilities is high on the priority list.
As the years have passed, various changes have been made. Time Triallists no longer have to meet in secret, wearing what was quaintly called "inconspicuous clothing". Pre-event publicity, once forbidden under dire penalty has been allowed for as long as most people can remember, and prize winners are allowed to be paid Money without threat of the sky falling on them.
The general idea of individual riders riding "against the clock" and ignoring any other rider who they catch (or particularly who catches them) still holds true for the majority of events today but in addition there are a proportion of events which are for teams of 2, 3 or 4 riders who ride together (but ignoring everybody else as above). These are known as Team Time Trials - shortened to 2up/3up/4up TTTs. The basis for this type of event is to simulate a "break" in a road race where riders working together can "escape" from the bunch. The 4-up variation of this has been an Olympic and World Championship discipline but has been superseded by the (more or less) hilly circuit Time Trial.
Events held on flattish main roads and following a more-or-less "out and home" pattern are still in the majority but with the increasing level of traffic on the favoured roads there has been a tendency for more events of a so called "sporting" nature to take place. These are often on hillier roads and usually follow circuit type courses so that the route can be followed by using only left turns. By this means, the problems associated with the long "spear-point" intersections of dual carriageway roads can be avoided.
It is always a source of amazement to non-aficionados that elderly people also take part in Time Trials. However, in order to make it possible for the occasional septuagenarian to win an event the VTTA devised a system known as the "Standards". This is only for those 40 years old and more and consists of a table of allowable times at each age for all the standard distances competed at. For example, at 25 miles a 40 year old rider has a standard of 1 hour 6 minutes while a 70 year old has 1 hour 22 minutes 30 seconds to aim at. To work out the result of an event each rider's time is compared to his Standard and the difference (±) is credited. The winner is the rider with the most plus. So if our example 40 year old returned a time of 59 minutes 30 seconds he would have a plus of 6 minutes 30 seconds but if the 70 year old finished in 1 hour 15 minutes 55 seconds (giving him a +6 minutes 35 seconds) he (the 70 year old) would win on Standard.
About 1400 open events are advertised in the handbook this year. To ride in any of them you need to be a member of a club affiliated to Cycling Time Trials. There are at least that number again of "Club Events" (which are not advertised) and if you approach the club promoting one of them you could get a ride on a "come and try it" basis.