Specialized working to improve Contador’s aerodynamics, identifies faster bike position
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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Specialized working to improve Contador’s aerodynamics, identifies faster bike position

by VeloNation Press at 7:11 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
“We found raising his arms helped to reduce frontal profile and cut drag”

Alberto ContadorDouble Tour de France winner Alberto Contador and Specialized’s engineers have come up with a bike position that they believe will be faster and more efficient for the rider, with work in the Morgan Hill wind tunnel said to have produced good results.

Chris Riekert of Specialized has talked about Contador’s recent trip to the tunnel, saying that a number of different areas were studied.

“One of the things we examined was yaw sweep,” he said. “This is where we test the impact of wind on the rider and bike over angles of +25° to -25° in increments of 5°.

“We also tested Contador on the hoods, drops and tops; with different helmets; in different body positions; and with both his favoured Specialized bike, the Tarmac, and the Venge. We’re trying to build up a profile of what his specific needs are at all speeds and every training scenario.

“We can then take that aerodynamic data and plug it into, say, what happens if Contador’s climbing Ventoux and there’s wind coming from this angle. What’s going to be the best product for him?”

Although Contador won the final time trial in the 2009 Tour de France, beating Fabian Cancellara, he hasn’t ridden as strongly against the clock in recent years. Losing out in this area to rivals such as Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins (both Sky), he is aware that he needs to raise his game in time trials if he is to boost his prospects of taking another Tour.

Riekert said that after the road data was collected, they moved the rider to the Shiv time trial machine. “We
looked at many things including changing his saddle. We moved him onto our new snubbed-nose saddle, the Sitero. He rode it for about a month and a half and then we switched back. It didn’t work for Contador but he has to be comfortable.

“We also moved through high positions, low positions and raising his arms. And that was really interesting as, with Contador, lowering him wasn’t faster. We found raising his arms helped to reduce frontal profile and cut drag.”

Specialized’s BG Fit crew have found the same with several other riders in the past, including Karsen Kroon. It shows that the ‘lower is better’ philosophy adopted by some can be inaccurate; sometimes bringing the rider’s arms up both increases aerodynamics and also increases power output.

Riekert said that once a faster position has been found in the wind tunnel, it is important to see if the rider can maintain the gains while actually out on the road. “That’s why a few years ago we opened up the door to testing telemetry in a velodrome, so the guys behind performance testing set up a bike with GPS-actuation software that tracks the bike in real time,” he said.

“It features a laser sensor that sits on the top tube and records where the rider’s chest, chin, head, hands and arms are, and measures whether it’s changing. It helps to see if they can maintain the original position for the duration of the test. So we have them ride at different speeds and see how they adjust themselves.

“Mixing wind-tunnel testing with on-track testing is brilliant – and even better when we take that telemetry software and test it out on the road, too. You can see how the rider works on uneven roads or winds. All of those things are necessary to improve a rider.”

Contador has been a Specialized rider since 2010 but Riekert’s comments show that the company is continuing to adjust his position and to try to gain seconds where possible.

The efficacy of that – plus his reported better buildup this season – will be seen during the Tour de France and Vuelta a España, his two main gaols for 2014.


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