“It drops so drastically,” confirmed DeBoom. Despite the increase in drag created by rotating the bar upward, Dye’s total position improved, probably because of the taller hand position. This position saves 30 watts over his original, which is worth roughly 90 seconds in an Olympic distance tri. Although these calculations are estimates, Dye is the rare athlete who might actually see those results on the road. His race strategy is always the same: He swims fast then tries to bury the field on the bike, so he breaks the wind for himself from T1 to T2, making these savings more real for Dye than most. He never bides his time catching a subtle draft off his competition; he’s overcoming max wind resistance the entire ride. For the final trial with the bars in this position, Dye dropped his head and looked straight down at his front hub. His savings scaled back from 30 watts to 27.
Steinmetz’s fit data taken before this tunnel test confirmed Dye’s ability to hold a lower position than the one used for the last few trials, so the crew decided to apply his fastest tuck position with the most drop he could tolerate. They removed the 15mm spacer below the stem to drop his aerobars, lowering him to a position similar to his original in stack height. Counter-intuitively, dropping his bars increased his aero resistance a tiny amount. With his head in the neutral position, Dye was facing slightly more drag without the 15mm riser. Next, he tucked into his fasted position—shoulders shrugged and head lowered—and his drag once again plummeted, registering the fastest position of the day with a savings of 32.7 watts below his baseline position. Steinmetz, the bike fit expert, was quick to point out that despite the incredible savings Dye reaps by burying his head between his shoulders, that position probably isn’t sustainable for a complete race. “Now he can train [in this position] and use it in a breakaway, trying to rest or going really fast,” said Steinmetz. He will save this fastest position for key moments in the race when wind drag can influence the outcome even more than usual.
Although his test didn’t reveal a simple change that dramatically reduces his aero drag, Dye found a moderate but substantial improvement that didn’t hamper his biomechanics, and a super-position achieved by contorting his body without moving the aerobars that he was unable to sustain for a long period at the time of the tunnel test. To see the real benefits, Dye must to return home and start training in these two positions.
Dye needs to use a different aerobar to get his hands into the position they found to be fastest. Rotating his current bar upward to accommodate this position cost him a little bit of speed, so he swapped over to the Pro Missile EVO, a bar with more adjustability, after returning home to Boulder. It’s also taller than his current bar. Situating Dye in his optimized position using the Missile EVO requires a smaller frame size. After he returned to Boulder, Dye swapped his 57cm Kestrel 4000 for a 55cm and installed the other bar that allowed him to tilt his forearms upward.
After about six weeks riding his new position and occasionally testing his ultra-aero tuck, Dye found that the basic position was easy to adopt, but the tucked super-position wasn’t. “We carried over the changes we made to the cockpit and implemented these changes on a slightly smaller frame. I’ve been working on training my body to do better in the faster aero position, as far as my shoulders and my head go, just getting used to riding like that.” Growing accustomed to the upturned aerobar was simple, but the turtle tuck is still a strain.
“I had tight shoulders, tight neck. It’s still not comfy and it’s never something that I’ll be able to implement over the entire 40k because I’m not a cyclist and have to be able to use by shoulders to swim and run afterwards… As far as something I can do in shorter spurts or into a headwind or in a flat straightaway where it’s super advantageous, it’s gotten to the point where my body can handle it better,” said Dye. He can hold the shoulder shrug position that saves him roughly 30 watts for about 2-3 minutes at a time.
And his final impressions of the upgrades: “I’m more comfortable on the smaller frame. It’s not like I go out and feel the bike moving dramatically faster or anything,” but the knowledge that he has a fast position, is riding the best helmet for his body and can scrunch into a turbo-charged position for short bursts have prepared Dye to assault the Olympic-distance tri circuit this summer.