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Study reveals best place for Tour riders to be in the peloton if they want to make the break

Research suggests teams may need to rethink tactics and may explain why so few breakaways succeed

A new study by academics in the Netherlands has found that cyclist riding in a peloton get much more protection from wind resistance than was previously thought to be the case.

Published in the Journal of Wind Engineering & Industrial Aerodynamics, the study found that riders encountered between five and ten times less air resistance than had been assumed beforehand.

It also found that the sixth, seventh or eighth rows in the bunch were the places to be to get most protection while still being close enough to the front to respond t any attacks.

Lead author Professor Bert Blocken of the Eindhoven University of Technology & KU Leuven said that a cyclist in the middle or rear of the peloton would encounter only between 5 and 7 per cent of the air resistance a solo rider would experience.

"Put it another way,” he explained. “it is as if a rider is cycling at 12 to 15 km/h in a peloton that is speeding along at 54 km/h.”

The research was based on computer simulations and wind tunnel studies of on a peloton of 121 model riders and, according to Professor Blocken, could shed light on why so many breakaways fail.

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"It turns out that current calculation models used by some race teams to determine the best time to escape are based on the wrong assumptions,” he said.

“Perhaps these new results will lead to more successful escapes and partly explain why so few escapes succeed, and why the peloton often hauls in the riders that do escape,” Professor Blocken continued.

He said that the research could help professional teams with their tactics and where they should seek to position their riders, saying: "At the very back, the air resistance is very low, but there is less opportunity to react to attacks and chances increase greatly for getting caught in a crash.

"So for classification riders or sprinters, the best position is in row six, seven or eight: there you are sufficiently shielded by other riders and you're near enough to the front,” he added.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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kingleo | 5 years ago

The easiest place to ride in the bunch is the worst place to be if you want to avoid being in a mass pile up!

RobD | 5 years ago

I have a feeling that real world conditions are more likely to be somewhere between the often reported wisdom and this study, I find it hard to believe that the rider at the front is saving 14% just from having people riding behind them? And if the savings at the back are so huge why do riders often get dropped on quicker flat stages? surely they'd have a huge amount in reserve?

CXR94Di2 | 5 years ago

I think the Pros know this already, intuitively from years of riding in the pack.

Get in a pack and let your heart rate drop. keep alert and cover brakes always

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