Saturday, July 7, 2007

Tour Prologue Thoughts

Watching the Tour de France prologue time trial today reinforced a couple of topics I have recently discussed with athletes I coach--helmet drag and pedaling from the hips. The worst thing you can do when wearing an aerodynamic helmet is to look down. When you do that the long tail of the helmet sticks straight up in the air becoming a very effective drag device. I see this all the time in triathlons and time trials. Even many of the pros in the Prologue did this repeatedly as if they had to check every few seconds to see what gears they were in. David Millar, for someone who otherwise is a good TT'er, did this every time he was shown during his race. Several seconds could be lost even in a nine-minute time trial by looking down. Those who kept their heads locked in place very nicely were Wiggins, Leipheimer, Hincapie, Vinokourev and Cancellara.

I've also talked with athletes I coach about pedaling from the hips rather than from the shoulders. When you pedal from the hips the upper body stays quiet. Contrast that with riders whose shoulders rock from side to side as they try to get their centers of gravity over the pedals. They are pushing too high of a gear for their fitness level. The next time you see a TdF time trial notice how rock steady in the saddle world TT champ Cancellara is. There is no movement of the upper body as he drives the pedals. And, as mentioned, his head is locked in place rather than looking down at his gears repeatedly. His head is also below his back which makes for great aerodynamics.

As you watch the next few stages try to learn a few things about how to ride a bike from the best riders in the world. Occasionally check the cadences of riders by counting revolutions per minute. Notice how aerodynamic some such as Voight are even on road bikes. Watch how when climbing the smaller riders stay out of the saddle most of the time while the bigger riders stay seated. Notice where the center of gravity is relative to the bottom bracket when sprinting. How much of what they do can you adopt to improve your riding?


At January 21, 2008 4:47 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just getting caught up on old entries. Joe great info as usual re: the head position. I noticed that after long ride in the TT bars my head just feels like a lead weight and I struggle to hold the proper position you mention. Are there strength excercises you could suggest I try to implement.

At January 21, 2008 6:51 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Anon-I suppose you could do strength work for your neck much as you would any other muscle group. I think it may be more a matter of how much time you spend in the aero position in a week, though.


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