Words - Chris Hall // Photography - Dan Hearn
With gaps like 0.581 of a second splitting Loic Bruni and Troy Brosnan for gold and silver medals at the 2019 World Champs in Mont-Sainte-Anne, and 0.94 of a second separating Eddie Masters and Richie Rude after 43 minutes of racing in Les Orres, it’s clear that marginal gains have a role to play in competition. These small gains can definitely impact the results, and change the makeup of the podium.
So with that in mind, where do riders look for these marginal gains? Clearly there are myriad things a rider can and does do, in order to be their best when it’s time to compete. One area that has had much speculation over the years is aerodynamics. If you’re as old as me then you’ll remember the days of skinsuits and riding without a helmet peak which certainly created some controversy. Both were effectively banned as a lot of people felt it damaged the look of the sport, but that’s not going to stop people looking for gains. Rules are always open to interpretation.
Trek World Racing put Tracy Moseley, Justin Leov and Andrew Neethling in a wind tunnel back in 2009, in 2016 Specialized Gravity carried out wind tunnel testing with Loic Bruni and Loris Vergier, and who knows what other teams might have done behind closed doors. Clearly no one is going to share their results, but it would be hard to miss the move from shorts to full pants, and a clear trend towards tighter fitting clothing, especially when race runs come around.
Are there still aerodynamic gains to be had? Well, that’s what I wanted to find out, and after a recent podcast episode
with Formula 1 aerodynamics guru, Tony Salter, the door was opened on a way to do just that. It turns out that Tony’s ex-boss had been involved in setting up a sports specific wind tunnel and Tony was wondering if I knew of any teams that might be keen to come and do some testing. I didn’t need asking twice and was straight on the phone to Tony Seagrave from FMD Racing to see if he’d be keen to put Tahnée in the wind tunnel. Not surprisingly he was, so early this year, we headed to Silverstone Sports Engineering Hub to see what we could find out.
So are there still aerodynamic gains to be had? Well let's just say we were pretty surprised at the impact of some of the changes that we made throughout the day. Eye-opening indeed!
Keep a close eye on Tahnée at the races this year and see if you can spot any aerodynamic changes from her 2019 set up.
If you want to hear more about the wind tunnel testing, along with interviews with Fabien and Tahnée, then listen to the latest episode of the podcast by using the player below.
You can also listen by searching for ‘Downtime Podcast’ on iTunes, Spotify, or Google Podcasts, by asking Alexa, or over on our website www.downtimepodcast.com/wind-tunnel/
and you can follow us on Instagram @downtimepodcast