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Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Brad Vs Andy TT Position

An interesting picture has been doing the rounds comparing the positions of Brad Wiggins and Andy Schlek. Obviously these comparisons are entirely hypothetical; the picture of Brad is slightly from in front, both riders are traveling at 30 something mph, we’re assuming they’re the same distance from the camera and we have to make rough guesses at body landmarks. But to the naked eye, it’s obvious that Brad is cutting a lot smaller hole through the air compared to Andy.

To achieving a fast TT position is a fine balancing act between power and aerodynamics. Go too low and long: aerodynamic drag may be reduced but power production is also reduced and you have to work harder to maintain the position. Sit too high: Power production increases but is negated by increased aerodynamic drag. All of this while working within the UCI’s restrictive rules on position.

Both riders are quite tall (1.9m for Brad plays 1.86m for Andy) and are therefore both probably running on the maximum reach of 75cm in front of the bottom bracket. Brad does have longer legs, especially in the calf. But Brad’s upper arms are only slightly shorter than Andy’s, so how is he able to punch a significantly smaller hole in the air?

So what is Brad doing to achieve the more extreme position? Well, even though his hips (saddle) are higher because of his long legs, the more acute back angle drops his shoulder almost as low as Andy’s. His shoulder angle is a little more stretched out by holding the very ends of his shifters. Finally, he is retracting scapulars (pinching his shoulder blades together), which drops his head lower out of the airstream and narrowing the gap between the head and the arms.

So would Andy be quicker in Brad’s position? No, probably not. Brad has been riding in extreme aero positions from a very young age. When I rode with him as a junior, we would spend entire days training at Manchester track down in this position. Years of riding in this position develops the flexibility and muscle activation needed to produce power at extreme joint angles. Andy is first and foremost a road climbing specialist. He has spent his career developing the muscle activation in a lot more open position. Andy has been Retül fitted and he would probably go slower in a more extreme position and jeopardise his road riding by having to try to adapt his body to the TT bike too much.

So how does this relate to the average racer? To ride an aggressive TT position involves working on you flexibility and ability to activate muscles at extreme angles. This can be fast tracked off the bike with specific exercises to target restriction. To ride a fast TT, you need to train in your TT position. The more time you spend riding in the position, the more power you’ll be able to produce in this position. And the biggest take-saway of all – there is no such thing as a ‘PRO’ position. Every fit should be based around the rider in question, and take into account the numerous factors that will affect the position that is the ‘ideal’ mix of aero and power production.

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