Some teams aiming for victory in a mountain stage in cycling take control in the uphill sections of the stage. While drafting, the team imposes a high speed at the front of the peloton defending their team leader from opponent’s attacks. Drafting is a well-known strategy on flat or descending sections and has been studied before in this context. However, there are no systematic and extensive studies in the scientific literature on the aerodynamic effect of uphill drafting. Some studies even suggested that for gradients above 7.2% the speeds drop to 17 km/h and the air resistance can be neglected. In this paper, uphill drafting is analyzed and quantified by means of drag reductions and power reductions obtained by computational fluid dynamics simulations validated with wind tunnel measurements. It is shown that even for gradients above 7.2%, drafting can yield substantial benefits. Drafting allows cyclists to save over 7% of power on a slope of 7.5% at a speed of 6 m/s. At a speed of 8 m/s, this reduction can exceed 16%. Sensitivity analyses indicate that significant power savings can be achieved, also with varying bicycle, cyclist, road and environmental characteristics.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors acknowledge the partnership with ANSYS CFD. This work was carried out on the Dutch national e-infrastructure with the support of SURF Cooperative.
© 2021, The Author(s).
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