Belgian researchers spend ten months comparing different descending positions

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Chris Froome hit the headlines at the Tour de France with an unexpected attack on the descent of the Col de Peyresourde, employing an unusual descending style to win by 13 seconds, but a study has found that he could have won by more if he’d used a different technique.

Researchers in Belgium looked at a number of different descending styles, including those of Froome, Peter Sagan, and Marco Pantani, concluding that Froome’s position was only the fourth fastest of the six styles tested, with Sagan’s technique of sitting towards the back of the top tube proving the fastest.

>>> Chris Froome: How I won the Tour de France (video)

To reach that conclusion, the study compared the different positions in a wind tunnel as well as using computerised simulations, enabling the researchers to calculate how much faster the different position are in comparison with a standard riding position.

Based on the assumption that all riders either aren’t pedalling while descending or are pedalling with the same amount of power, the researchers found that while Froome’s descending position was nine per cent faster than a standard riding position, Pantani’s style of putting his backside over the rear wheel and the saddle in his midriff is 14 per cent faster, while sitting further back on the top tube like Sagan is 19 per cent faster.

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Finally the researchers applied these findings to the descent off the Col de Peyresourde as a “crude example”, finding that Froome could have descended more than a minute quicker had he sat further back on the top tube.