You cant get ripped off by being out sprinted, miss the vital break, find you don't climb as well as others, sprint as well as others, draught as well as others etc...it is just you and you have to "leave everything on the road" which is my way of saying you cross that line with nothing left in the tank..it is ALL LEFT ON THE ROAD.
On the day of the time trial there are a couple of things that I find important:-
1. Great Warm Up - you have to have a serious warm up and have raised your heart rate a couple of times above threshold. I warm up for a minimum of 30 minutes, with three one minute threshold intervals - usually on a windtrainer.
2. Food and drink - be hydrated and have good nutrition on board.
3. Relax at the start - Focus on the road and gather your thoughts - don't be ditzy in the head - you are going to be feeling pain
4. Once I start I have a simple race plan.....On a 20km time trial, basically the first kilometre is about a rhythm...You should be riding hard, but not feeling lactic in your legs(you have warmed up well remember). The first km is about settling into the race remaining calm and finding a rhythm.
.....The first half of the race is about pushing yourself, but not taking your legs into the red pain zone....just ride hard, keep focussed and try to keep getting an extra 0.5kph out of the legs......try another gear bigger - if it hurts too much...back off...but keep your eye on the ball. The second half of the event is the pain stage, this is where legs become tired and we push them into the red zone. At no stage during a time trial do you bludge along and just ride..it is always pushing but you don't want to bury yourself in the first half. The final 3km is knowing you only have about 5 minutes left and making sure you go as fast as you can. You will probably have done intervals in training of 5 minutes flat out at some stage (probably longer intervals too), but the 5 minute ones are above threshold and you should be maximising what is left in this last three km.
.....You should cross the line exhausted and should not be able to raise much of a sprint at the end....I used to use my HRM but now it is more about perceived effort, my speedo and legs. Your legs will tell you if that extra bit of speed is going to cook you. All the reports say Power Meters are the go and I dont doubt that for one minute, but in the world of "budgeting and having a life" then your mind and your speedo and effort are your guides.....
During the event I keep thinking about extra o.5kph, how fast my competitors are going, trying to catch the person in front of me and avoid being caught by the person behind me and think about how good it will be at the end if I ride a great time.
That is my basic race plan, which I change if there are hills or headwind out/tailwind home etc...Fundamentally you want to ride an even time - translated you want a fast time and the first and second halves should be the same...you should not be riding the first half faster etc etc....
So if you ride time trials and never have a race plan, there are some things here you might want to think about...have a plan, know when to ride hard and then when to open the gas and feel the pain. YOU WILL RIDE FASTER....think aerodynamic position, think focussed and most of all ride your best time....that is the best part of all!