On the track, every inch counts and that means getting the most out of your legs (and your opponents’). When it all comes down to the final sprint, drafting is the key to keeping up your speed without wearing out your legs, so how do you maximize the benefits of being out of the wind? In today’s episode of Pure Fix TV, Olympic track cyclist Giddeon Massie will take us through the ins-and-outs of drafting on the drome and teach you how to ride the wind to victory!
First thing’s first, get small. Sure, the guy or gal in front of you is punching a hole through the air, but you need to be even smaller to stay in the slipstream behind them. As the air that they’re running into around wraps around them, there’s a small vacuum created in the space they’ve just ridden through before the air can “close up” behind them again. You want as much of your bike and body as possible in that gap so that the vacuum pulls you along behind the lead rider and the air doesn’t “close back up” until it’s slipped around you as well. The smaller your surface area, the further back you can be before you start hitting the turbulent air coming off the lead rider’s shoulders, so bend those elbows, tuck in your arms, and flatten out over the bars – just get tiny to stay out of the wind.
And while a smaller profile will let you feel the benefits of the draft from further behind, ultimately you want to be right on the back wheel of the rider ahead of you to max out the benefits of the slipstream. Aim your wheel right at their chainline so if there’s a sudden change in pace you won’t run over them and, if you need to check up, you can just turn up the track and let the elevation change scrub the speed for you. That positioning’s even more important in a match sprint where you want to keep the lead rider ahead of you as well.
As for your eyes, don’t fixate on their wheel. Keep your gaze up off the lead rider’s shoulder so you can see what they’re doing in the foreground and keep an eye on the track in the distance.
And when the speed really picks up, find your place in the paceline. Following the same principles as a two-rider draft, but stretched out across the group, a paceline allows all the trailing riders to benefit from the gap in the air created by the leader as the air slides around the entire group before “forming back up” behind the last rider. Most long races will start with a paceline as riders try to up the tempo and tire out weaker opponents or lose those that pop out of the draft and fall off the back. When you’re in a paceline, just stay small and close to the rider ahead of you so you don’t create a break in the slipstream. And when you end up at the front, take your pull and then slide up the track to slow down and drop to the back of the line. It’s like a reverse game of leapfrog. A really fast reverse game of leapfrog.