Which cyclist hill descent position is really superior? Froome, Pantani, Nibali or Sagan? This is the question professor Bert Blocken of Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands tried to answer.
The study was incited by the end of stage 8 of the 2016 Tour de France, in which Chris Froome descended the Peyresourde climb and won the stage.
Blocken’s researchers set out to answer this question using wind tunnel testing and CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) simulations.
They created scaled models of riders in six different positions: Froome’s position on the Peyresourde, Peter Sagan’s top-tube tuck (top tube safe), Vincenzo Nibali’s head-down while on the saddle (back horizontal), Fabian Cancellara’s riding position (back upwards) and Marco Pantani’s famous off-the-back-of-the-saddle style (Pantani).
Froome’s position was the fourth-fastest position tested. In the study, Peter Sagan’s similar tuck position was found to be the fastest, producing the least amount of drag in both wind tunnel testing and CFD.
Cancellara’s position ranked the slowest due to the more upright position and the drag caused by the larger frontal area of the rider.
You can read the complete study here.