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WHAT'S YOUR SECRET TO TTT SUCCESS?
Ariel Herrmann, M.S., '06: We've realized that the team time trial isn't about power; it's about efficiency. In a 15- to 20-minute race, it's hard to increase power output by 5 percent, but increasing efficiency by 10 percent isn't that difficult.
THE WIND TUNNEL GIVES YOU A BIT OF AN ADVANTAGE OVER YOUR COMPETITORS.
Cote: Well, it's not like we hang out there at night figuring out whose sideburns have less drag. It's not so much using the wind tunnel as it is being able to understand and apply the information we get. We've learned that your bike accounts for only 15 to 25 percent of your overall drag; 75 percent of how fast you go is determined by how your body gets in the way of the air. But there's a push and pull between aerodynamics and power-output efficiency. We look at the biomechanics and the power output, and then we say, "Okay, that looks good aerodynamically, but you can hold it for about 30 seconds and we need 30 minutes."
ANY OTHER TRICKS OF THE TRADE YOU'D CARE TO SHARE?
Cote: Most people don't realize that a nonaero helmet creates four times the drag of a nonaero wheelset. So you can spend two thousand dollars on a wheelset, or spend two hundred on a helmet and be faster. How you put your race number on matters more than having an aero wheel; today, we glued on our numbers to get them to fit flatter. Then there's water bottle placement: On a round-tubed frame, having a bottle on your seat tube is more aerodynamic than not having one at all, and it's much more aero than putting it on the down tube. And wearing gloves in a time trial will slow you down more than using a nonaero front wheel.
RUMOR HAS IT THAT YOU BUILT THOSE AEROBARS YOURSELVES. ARE THEY SAFE?
Herrmann: Our aerobars are all custom built; we like to call them modified. My original stock aerobar was touted as the most aerodynamic setup available, but it didn't get me into the position I needed. The handlebar accounts for maybe 3 percent of drag. We'd rather make our own aerobars and get our bodies 20 percent more aerodynamic as a result. Are they safe? I hope so: If I can't make a handlebar that works, I don't think I'd feel good about going into an industry where I had to make a plane that takes off with 100 people on board.
MIT ISN'T EXACTLY AN ATHLETIC POWERHOUSE. DO YOU EVER FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO PROVE AT RACES?
Cote: It's not as much about proving that we're strong cyclists as it is about proving that it's not just being strong that makes you a good cyclist.
COLLEGIATE CYCLING IS AN INTERESTING SCENE--THERE'S A FESTIVAL VIBE.
Jason Sears, fourth-year Ph.D. candidate: Collegiate cycling is a gem; the atmosphere is incredible. We have men and women on the same team--which is good because some of us wouldn't have girlfriends otherwise.
SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT: ARE SHAVED LEGS FASTER THAN HAIRY ONES?
Cote: Shaved legs? I think they're faster, but we haven't really tested them in the tunnel. I did try to convince Ivan Basso to shave his head when he came to MIT. He wouldn't do it, even though it was for science.
CAN YOU TELL HOW FAST YOU'LL GO EVEN BEFORE YOU GET ON THE BIKE?
Cote: Believe it or not, last night I calculated how fast we would race today, using a spreadsheet and everything. Based upon the aerodynamic profiles we've determined in the wind tunnel, our average power output for that distance, and the course profile, I predicted that we'd cover the 10-mile course in 16:47. We rode it in 16:51.