Professor Bert Blocken about drafting Pogacar: ‘Has certainly saved him ten to twenty seconds’

When Ben Healy leaves co-pursuer Tom Pidcock behind on the Geulhemmerweg and he suddenly makes up the necessary time on soloist Tadej Pogacar, it seems to be exciting. The Irishman has momentum and is still behind by around twenty seconds. Until Van Vliet and driver Walter Planckaert drove close to Pogacar a number of times and the lead quickly increased again.

Afterwards there was a lot of criticism from Thijs Zonneveld and Jonathan Vaughters, among others. The race director himself was not aware of any harm, but aerodynamics expert and professor Bert Blocken, who is also involved with Jumbo-Visma, has a different reading of the final of the Amstel Gold Race. “A study shows that when a cyclist drives in a straight line behind a car, the air resistance decreases remarkably,” he says in conversation with Knack.

Blocking also gives numbers. “If the distance is ten metres, the air resistance drops by twenty percent. If the distance is forty meters, it still drops seven percent. The time advantage that the rider derives from this can add up to a few seconds per kilometre.”

After the race, Blocken calculated how much Pogacar – about which he says he is not to blame – has benefited. “In the final he was able to drive close behind the race director’s car and a motorcycle for at least two minutes, a distance that varied between ten and forty meters. That gave him at least a ten second advantage. The most prudent estimate, because Pogacar was not always in the picture. So I estimate a total time gain of somewhere between ten and twenty seconds.”

And then there was also the penultimate passage at the finish. “The car of race director Van Vliet drove barely ten meters behind Pogacar. This is an advantage because the car partly removes the underpressure behind the rider. In that case, the following also applies: the smaller the distance between the cyclist and the car, the greater the following car effect. As a result, Pogacar also cycles a few seconds faster.”






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