Is there any aero benefit riding in the drops (vs tops or hoods) whilst at the back of a large group? Sometimes you are basically freewheeling with such a big draft, so I would have thought it doesn’t really matter, but if there are watts to be saved I would be more inclined to roll along in a lower position. It could add up over a multi hour race. Ignoring all other factors (control, braking etc).
Depends on how tall you are. I’m 6’ and go to the drops when I’m behind someone shorter than me or top 3 wheels - otherwise, I’m on the tops recovering.
Now, this is only for races or race training rides. For group rides or club rides, I’m trying to hold steady watts and I’ll sometimes pop way up or to the side or go to the front specifically so I’m not coasting or soft peddling when I should be getting in some TSS.
A more aero position will always save you watts…always. The laws of physics apply at the back of the group just as they do at the front…but to a lesser degree.
Is that difference enough to be meaningful? Dunno…maybe some have measured it or tried to extrapolate it.
My advice would be not to worry about it too much…use that time to sit up, relax a bit and ditch the tension in your neck and shoulder muscles. Unless the heat is on…in which case being in the drops is probably the right move. But not for aero gains, but from a defensive position of protecting your HB’s and being more stable in case you get bumped.
Your drag doesn’t go to zero drafting folks. So yes it does matter
Stay in whatever position you will have the best control. Remember, you are responsible for your front wheel in a group. No point being aero if you’re not aware of what’s going on around you and you clip a wheel taking the group down!!
Don’t ignore all other factors! If you are as comfortable, powerful, in control, able to take a drink, digest food, etc in the drops as you are on hoods or tops, then by all means ride the whole race on the drops.
Most people aren’t. In which case it makes sense to use parts of the race where the penalty for being less aero is minimal (sitting in a pack, climbing) to take a drink or change position to relieve any comfort issues or get a bit of extra recovery. For crits I tend to stay in the drops nearly the whole time as the pace is always high, they’re short enough that any comfort issues don’t become a problem, I’m not eating, and probably not drinking either. For longer races there are often periods where the group is cruising along and there’s not much happening, and I’ll take those opportunities to get some calories in and move around a bit. It’s probably costing me a few watts, but that’s a trade off I’m happy to make.