Power vs Penetrating the Wind
A few days ago I wrote about power, penetrating the wind (aerodynamics) and pacing. Getting the balance right between these is critical to success in time trialing and the bike leg in multisport. Seeing lessons on such topics play out in real life helps to drive home the point.
Remember this? In the 1989 Tour de France Greg LeMond beat Laurent Fignon by 38 seconds in the final time trial stage to win the overall title. That day LeMond opted for better aerodynamics by using the new "triathlete bars," as Phil Liggett called them on the TV coverage that day. Fignon decided not to use aero bars and instead relied on his power to win. He lost.
Today's final stage of the Giro provided another good lesson on this same topic. Race leader Dennis Menchov used aero bars and a very low position. Danilo Di Luca, in second place and only 20 seconds back at the start of the day, went the Fignon route. Menchov crashed on the rain-soaked cobbles inside of the final 1km and stll beat Di Luca by 21 seconds on the day to win the Giro. I doubt if Di Luca will make that same decision again.
To time trial well you need balance between power and aerodynamics. They are trade offs. If you opt for more power you will need to make position changes that increase drag and thus sacrifice aerodymanics. If you want to go for the most aero-possible position you'll give up some power. You need to balance these. And the balance is somewhat dependent on the course you are racing. The hillier or more technical the course, the more you need power. And the opposite is also true: The flatter and less technical the course the more you should shift the balance toward aerodynamics.