As final preparations are made for the cycling season's curtain-raiser, the Milan-San Remo road race, riders and teams may be studying recent European research on wind resistance and aerodynamic posture. Jim Drury reports.
Chris Froome won his third Tour de France last year. But his strange downhill stance during stage 8 raised eyebrows. Some experts said he gained aerodynamically by leaning over his handlebars. Professor Bert Blocken set out to disprove this. He set up wind tunnel tests and computer simulations of four stances - including Froome's. SOUNDBITE (English) BERT BLOCKEN, PROFESSOR, EINDHOVEN UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY AND KU LEUVEN, SAYING: "The conclusions of this research were that first and foremost this position is not the most aerodynamic, it's not aerodynamically superior compared to others, not even by far. And this position, of course, and I think this is generally known, is more dangerous than other positions which are better from the aerodynamic point of view. So the final conclusion is don't try this at home, but also don't try it in real races because it yields no benefit." The position of former Tour legend, the late Marco Pantani, scored well. But this classic stance, with a rider's back horizontal, proved best. SOUNDBITE (English) BERT BLOCKEN, PROFESSOR, EINDHOVEN UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY AND KU LEUVEN, SAYING: "If you want to be really fast downhill this is in fact a better position even than those two. It's safer also, because your weight is distributed over two wheels, you're just sitting on the saddle. Here your upper body and your head are most horizontally oriented; and that's actually what reduces your frontal area very substantially and also reduces the total air resistance." In a separate study Blocken found the presence of photographers and camera operators on motorbikes can skew results. Wind tunnel tests showed motorcycles riding behind could cut air resistance by up to 14 percent. There's a sting in the tail for those wearing the yellow jersey......motorbikes riding alongside as you lead the field could create air deviation and cut your speed. Blocken wants the International Cycling Union to factor his findings into future race guidelines.