Athletes update, Bike Fitting, Kit and equipment, Training Plans, Viewpoint

Just how important is it to be aero?

On Sunday 7th July 2019, was one of my target races for the year, the CTT National 100 TT 2019.  I have previously had some decent results in this.  In 2018 I was 5th and won the Vets award, in 2015 I was 4th , missing the medal by an agonising 10 secs due to two major mechanical’s.  So in 2019 I was primed and ready.

Unfortunately a fairly bad crash in a local club event the Thursday night before this race meant that due to the swelling on my elbow I was unable to ride on the TT bars – so I thought, “sod it, being a tight Yorkshire-man I am not gonna waste my £30 entry fee.. and its local’ ! So MTFU and do it on the road bike!

This then got me thinking about a ‘real life’ example of the importance of aero dynamics. Where I could act as ‘guinea pig’, riding a non aero-optimised bike or position against the very best in the game.  It was interesting for sure!

I talk A LOT about the importance of being aero dynamic, both via positions and via kit, have a check back at two articles I have written on here

Kit upgrades – what’s the best choice for ‘freespeed’?

Why should I have a bike fit?

I myself have tested quite a bit both in the studio, the velodrome and at the wind tunnel.

You can see a great video we shot with Aerocoach at my wind tunnel session below

So back to the race, I knew I was in good shape (crash injuries aside) and was confident of the power numbers I could ride for the 100m.  The change to the road bike meant a slight adjustment in time expectations, from hoping to hit around 3hrs 35mins or so I now felt a sub 4hr time would be a target.  This obviously had other effects, as I would be riding about 12% longer so had to utilise my energy for longer.

Immediately as I set off to race it was clear how much more difficult trying to ‘hide from the wind’ would be on the road bike, But also that the power seemingly came so much more easily (Typically I can put out 5-8% more power on my road bike than TT bike).

I was quite soon caught by my one minute man on a small down hill, the effortless way he pulled away left me no chance to keep up.  Interestingly though on the drags / headwind parts the increased power showed and I was reeling him back in!  At 30 miles my 5 & 6 minute men, Mark Smith and Richard Gildea (who would end 4th & 6th respectively) quickly passed me.

After that I settled into a routine,  I hit 50miles in 1hr 58.  In the second half of the race it was noticeable was how many people who had badly paced it!   The course is relentless (see profile in the Training Peaks file of my ride below).  Guys who were gaining on me hand over fist early on, I now saw them later at the passing points, meaning I was gaining back.  At 75miles the bullet that is Marcin Biabolocki came past me and promptly disappeared!  He had caught me for 25 minutes!!!

With 3 miles to go I re-passed my one minute man, and gained 40 secs back on him by the line.  I pretty evenly split the course, and finished really strong (physically) with 3hrs 57min 57 secs.


So all that’s well and good, and this is not intended to be a race report, but more analysis and comparison on the time gaps.

So this got me thinking, for Marcin to put nearly 33 minutes into me the combined, athletic power, rolling resistance, aero dynamics and positional benefits he had must be huge.  But how do they break down?

Well have a look at this video where I describe how I think the 32mins 58 secs breaks down.

So behind the video is some data – here are the two ride files from STRAVA

I am pretty happy with mine, the numbers tie closely to what I see in Training Peaks – So I am making a BIG assumption that Marcin’s do too.

Also below is my ‘breakdown’ on how that 32mins 58 secs is made up, and where ‘I lost it’ (joke – I wasn’t ever really in the game!)

rd V tt

Lots of assumptions here that could be argued over (and I don’t want to!), but they are just for direction.  I am probably wrong on the bottles, as I actually believe Marcin used a frame mounted bottle so that ‘loss’ for me, is not real.

Obviously I am making a very simplistic, ‘straight line’ comparison on ‘average watts’.  As we know this does not tell the story of HOW those watts are used,  Its very possible Marcin rode a more intelligent race than me and used his power better, thus the extra average 15w time benefit was higher, but let’s just assume (for simplicity) that we rode it in a pretty similar way.

I think this is great!  For real world validation of what we ‘know and see’ when studio fitting or aero testing someone this is absolutely stark!

So what does it mean?  Well for me it reiterates the point I BANG ON ABOUT to coached clients and riders, triathletes everywhere.  Get your fit RIGHT!  Aero optimise!

Let us assume that you are an averagely fit racer, wanting to get better.  Where are the biggest wins?  This is my simple list below, in priority order:

  1. Aero optimised bike fit
  2. Aero upgrades to the bike & your kit / helmet. As well as upgrades to reduce rolling resistance
  3. Train harder!

‘Old School’ rhetoric says, ‘ride more , go faster’.  yes this is true to a degree, but the incremental gains in training for a well trained athlete are low when compared to those for a totally un-aero optimised athlete. Of course the sweet spot, is as Marcin, and many of the best Time Trial racers in the world are;

  1. An awesome position
  2. The best kit
  3. A HUGE engine – That they can generate the power in the TT position

*This last point is no mean feat, I mention it in the video, that for me the reality of putting out the watts I did on the road bike on the TT bike are not real.  I could maybe hit 92-95% of that.  There are sacrifices in power to be made for aero speed.  Here, in my example if I’d been on the TT bike and ‘lost’ say 20w, that would have equaled  almost 4 mins ‘power time loss’.  BUT if everything else was optimised I’d have GAINED 29mins and my net difference to Marcin would ‘only’ have been 7-8 mins.  WOW that’s a huge variance!

So its all a bit tounge in cheek, loads of assumptions – BUT the direction is unarguable – AERO IS KING and POSITION is the crown.  get that right first and foremost!

Give me a call and let’s discuss how we can turn you into the next Marcin (*Caveats attached 😀 !!)

Hope it was interesting!


(*me trying to look aero!)

aero test pic



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