Cyclists’ Pacing Strategies Should Consider the Wind

Both Tour de France racers and recreational cyclists can improve performance by riding hardest into the wind.

As the elite riders of the Tour de France race towards the finish line of the grueling, 21-stage race this weekend, they are looking for any little tactical advantage they can gain over their rivals. New research from a team of sports scientists in Sweden could help them find that edge.

Road cyclists need to adapt their speed and energy expenditure during a race to account for changing conditions such as wind. Previous studies have shown that a cyclist who maintains an even power output, slowing down into a headwind and speeding up with a tailwind while working at the same effort throughout, will lose more time in the headwind segments than they will gain back in the tailwind segments. So the best strategy is to go a bit harder into the wind and then recover at an easier pace when riding with the wind. Read more in Inside Science.

Slippery Coating Makes Snake Bellies Slither

Fatty layer covering snakeskin protects animal’s underside against scrapes and wear.

Snakes can slither smoothly over almost any surface, from jungle branches to desert sands, without damaging their skin – an ability that has fascinated researchers.

“How can snakes move across very harsh and abrasive environments and still have belly skin that is shiny and smooth?” asked Stanislav Gorb, who studies biomechanics at the University of Kiel in Germany. “Is it the material the scales are made of? The tiny microstructures on them? The molecules they are coated with?”

Gorb and his collaborators have performed research exploring many of these questions. They are presenting it this week at a meeting known as the AVS International Symposium and Exhibition in San Jose, California. Read more in Inside Science.