Alberto Contador spent time in San Diego's wind tunnel last week as part of his bid to improve his time trialling for next year's Tour de France.
Although next year's Tour has just 55 kilometres of individual time trialling in the route, Contador knows he can't afford to lose any time if he is to win the race again. The Spaniard won the 2007 Tour (after race leader Michael Rasmussen was sacked by his team mid-race) but was not able to compete this year when his Astana team weren't invited.
Although he is already one of the favourites for next year's race after winning the Tours of Italy and Spain this year, his task has been made harder by the return of American Lance Armstrong, who was also in San Diego, California last week.
Contador spent most of last Thursday working in three and five minute sessions in the wind tunnel in order to improve his position and to test out different types of saddle.
Although Contador had already spent time in the wind tunnel back in 2005 when he raced with Liberty Seguros, and was working on the Palma de Mallorca velodrome on his time trial position this February, he says he?s discovered there?s still room for improvement.
?They went through my data and the it turns out I can improve my time trial position a little more by being slightly further forward on the bike,? Contador told Spanish sports daily ?AS?.
?This was a continuation of work that I had already done last year on the track, also in different positions. The results have been crucial for the great season I?ve had this year.?
For Contador, wind tunnel work is fundamental to his future success ?because the time differences in major Tours these days are often measured in seconds, not minutes. The slightest advantage can mean the difference between winning and losing.?
To that end, Contador?s helmet manufacturer, Giro, have recently designed him a new more aerodynamic model.
The next step, Contador says, is finding out whether he can maintain the new, slightly more advanced posture on the bike, for an hour at a time - the duration of a long time trial.
?If it gets very uncomfortable when pedalling, then obviously that?ll be counter-productive.?
The previous major Tour champion from Spain, Miguel Indurain, had the same kind of problem when doing wind tunnel work. Wind tunnel scientists calculated that if Indurain adopted the perfect aerodynamic posture he could turn in an Hour Record of 60 kilometres. There was just one slight hitch to Big Miguel?s perfect position on the bike, though: he couldn?t breathe.
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