About a month ago when Craven; Team Holowesko-Citadel director, sent out an email to the team asking who wanted to participate for a day of testing at the A2 Wind Tunnel following camp, well I jumped all over it.  Throughout my years of racing my time trial discipline has been holding me back a bit in the stage races compared with my other aspects of racing, mainly climbing.  This past off season I have really made it a case to focus more on my TT bike at home, also with certain exercises in the gym to help this area as well.  The time trial discipline is the one area where you can basically “buy time” unlike other areas in cycling, and this is where you see people with their fancy wheels, the new aero helmets, etc etc.  That all goes only so far though, if you’re not fit on your bike and in the best position you can be, well you’re just giving up time right there.  I haven’t had the chance to do much work with my position, it’s more or less been make it UCI legal and I’ll race it as is.  That sort of thinking bodes well on the road bike, but on the TT bike it doesn’t always end up with the best results.

Fast forward now to the A2 wind tunnel test, I basically went in with no knowledge of what or if I am aero.  Basically a blank canvas.  Arriving at A2 from the outside it looks more or less as a typical building, walking in once again nothing too special as they have all their computers set up and lining the walls with many different types of aero helmets & wheel choices.  But on the other side of this room is a much larger room with the tunnel, basically a very large warehouse with a very big tunnel inside of it.  Looks a bit almost like something out of Batman.  Talking with the guys at A2 I really wanted to soak up as much information as I could since I more or less have no knowledge in this area, and could really make the most of it.  One piece of info that I really took away from this was the fact on how everyone is so different, which means what may work for me more or less won’t work for you.  That new fancy aero helmet that just came out, well that could be slower than your helmet from a few years back.  You’ll notice this if you look at some of the bigger World Tour teams in the time trials, sometimes not all riders will be wearing the same helmet in the TT.  For example, the new helmet from company X may be good for rider A, but the helmet from last year from company X may be better for rider B.  It’s all about which suits your position the best.

Spending up to 2 hours in the tunnel each, only 3 of us would be there for the first day.  Myself, Mac, and Brennan.  Mac and Brennan are both larger guys and a bit better at the TT discipline so with that they have spent some time tweaking their position and working on it, mainly Mac.  They both made some good improvements in the tunnel as I sat and watched and listened.  Once it was my turn I kitted up in my skin suit and putting on my new Giro TT helmet, which is super bad ass with the magnetic front shield.  We walked out to the tunnel and put my TT bike on the platform which gets bolted onto a moving platform, also with a computrainer integrated into it.  I was told to get into my position and start pedaling once the fans came on to begin the test.  The fans blow at you at 30 mph so it really does feel as though you your pushing a descent pace outside, and not stationary.  The tests would be 3-4 minutes while riding at a sub-threshold zone 3 pace.  The first half of the test would be at zero degree with no drag; perfect scenario which isn’t possible in real life, then it would change 10 degrees to get a more accurate reading with the wind hitting from the side now.  This is where my “blank canvas” excuse really came into play.  To get the first reading I needed to be still, and for all future readings be still.  At first I was moving a bit too much forward and back on my saddle trying to get comfortable.  This brought the guys back in telling me they couldn’t get a reading until I was still.  Okay let’s try this again, working on being still while we started again I was only to have them come back in a few minutes later saying my head kept moving now.  So lets try this again, again after three times they came back in telling me that they couldn’t get just the base setting until I was still.  Apparently this is a common problem but I still felt like an idiot and not so much a professional cyclist.  Also in the tunnel are many cameras, these cameras portray different images of you onto the ground in front of you so you can see yourself from all different angles.  To keep me still they took out a white board, put me in the position they wanted me, and then outlined in red marker around my image on the ground in the position that they wanted me to stay in.  Now my job was to watch myself and make sure I didn’t move out of that red outline of myself.  I felt like a toddler.  But it did work and we were finally able to get my base reading as I just worked onto stay inside those lines.

Now time to actually get to work.  Once we got my head in the right position already a major improvement.  That new head angle though is gonna take some time to get used to.  Next up was helmet choice.  We have two separate helmets from Giro which we can use, luckily the new helmet is faster for me which was awesome to hear because that helmet is just badass.  Next up as the guys came back in was to drop my saddle a bit.  That made a major improvement as I already felt more comfortable in that position, also it made keeping my head in that new position easier.  Okay well now let’s bring up my bar extensions to help block my frontal area.  After every adjustment they would hurry up, shut the door and then come on over the loudspeaker.  Shortly after the fans would start and I would begin another effort.  By far the best part was that having no adjustments made prior to my position everything they tried with me I got an improvement out of.  It was almost comical as after every new adjustment, they would go inside and look at the numbers and then just come back grinning as to how much better I was in this new position.

Overall we changed just about everything.  The list includes, new head position, lower saddle height, extensions raised, bar pads moved inward, hands moved to on top of each other, and also how to arrange my hands depending on wind direction.  Even where its best for a bottle.  Basically don’t run a bottle.  So they test you at what output of watts you must do to sustain 30 mph.  From there they check your position in the wind, and hopefully with the changes your wattage drops which means its less of an effort to hold that speed because now you are more aero.  My blank canvas was more or less a blank sail as out of all the changes I made I walked away with a 10% increase.  That’s massive in that world and now I’m actually really looking forward to getting to the races, mainly the time trials to test out this new position.

A2 was a great experience from all that I learned and the help those guys gave me.  Let’s hope I can repay them with a bump in my time trailing results this year which will just help those GC aspirations of mine.

Jon Hornbeck

Holowesko-Citadel Racing