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It’s at the Tour de France that you’ll spot the most new kit and equipment, but spend a bit of time digging around at the Giro d’Italia and you’ll spot a few little gems as well. These include custom paint jobs, kit that’s being tested by riders ahead of a launch at the Tour, and even the odd new bike. There is also the usual selection of interesting tech on show, from odd uses of grip tape to the choice of unbranded wheels.
CyclingTips’ roving reporter Dave Everett spend some time at the team hotels before the start of the Giro to see what he could find.
My first port of call was Tinkoff-Saxo. The team is in Italy with one goal — to take the overall win with Alberto Contador. Team owner Oleg Tinkov is renowned for getting out on the bike and training with the team and it was Tinkov’s training bike that had pride of place in the carpark where the mechanics were working.
The new frame with a fresh one-of-a-kind paint job stood out among the standard team-issue Tarmac and Venge frames from Specialized, the fluoro camo design resembling the team’s winter training kit. Talking with a few of the guys from Specialized I was told it was a rush job at company HQ in California to get the frame ready in time for the start of the Giro.
Several items on Tinkov’s hastily built bike were not team sponsored kit. We were informed that the proper sponsored components were due for delivery and would be added to the already expensive build-up.
I’ll aim to get a full bike shot when Specialized and Tinkov give us the nod that it’s to the team sponsor’s liking.
Alberto Contador is the only rider actually on the team to have a bike with a custom paint job. His Tarmac has already had a few outings at smaller races but the predominately white bike was on show for all in the team car park.
The build is quite interesting with Contador opting for mechanical Dura Ace as apposed to the Di2 electronic version. Weight-saving seems to be the reason here as other noticeable adaptations had been made to lighten the bike, including the lightweight and slick-shifting Alligator outer cables.
Still at Tinkoff I spoke with Danish rider Chris Juul-Jensen about his new all black shoes. Chris apparently has problems with fitting and pressure on the outside of his feet. Specialized have relieved his problem after working out that the third-tier Audax model shoe would allow him greater comfort. Chris seemed pretty happy with them.
Tinkoff-Saxo and Etixx-Quick-Step use Roval wheels on their road bikes but both opt for FSA’s Vision time trial wheels. More precisely, Tinkoff-Saxo uses Vision’s tri-spoke wheels at the front and unbranded Lightweight Autobahn disc wheels for the rear.
Etixx-Quick-Step riders were using various Vision wheels for their TT bikes, including multiple depths of Metron clinchers up to the wavy-looking disc wheel.
Tinkoff-Saxo aren’t alone in using Lightweight’s super pricey disc wheels — BMC clearly had several sitting against the team mechanic’s truck waiting to be placed in the team bikes for the team time trial. BMC had placed large black decals over the very distinctive carbon layup. They obviously didn’t want to upset team wheel sponsor Shimano too much.
Tinkoff-Saxo and BMC were both using a selection of Specialized’s Turbo tyres. If rumours are to be believed they are amazing on the road but get chewed up quickly when used on a turbo trainer.
Skateboard-style grip tape was seen on many of the TT bikes handlebars in place of regular tape. Rigoberto Uran was one of many to do this. Most riders that opted for the this tape only had it on their bars but several had carried it through to the extensions as well.
Bumping in to Steve Smith of Sportful at the Tinkoff-Saxo hotel lead to a little inside information. Contador spent plenty of time in a Milan wind tunnel over winter, testing and helping to refine the cut and materials of an all new Sportful skinsuit. Contador is apparently a hard man to please with kit — if he finds something he believes in and has had success with, it takes something special to persuade him to use a newer version. It’s clear that the numbers from the Sportful wind tunnel test have shown a clear advantage over the older skinsuit.
Giant-Alpecin had their new time trial helmet drying in the Italian sunshine when we visited. A chat to the mechanics revealed that it is still a work in progress — certain areas have to be modified including sharp ends of the plastic shell which need small rubber lips placed on them to allow the helmet to pass UCI standards testing. As you might expect, the lid is extremely light.
Also spotted at the Giant-Alpecin camp was a singular new Pro disc wheel. It differed from Pro’s current TT disc wheels in that it was much wider and wasn’t flat across its surface. So much so that it had deep scratch marks around the non-drive side where it had clearly rubbed against either the chain or seatstays.
The mechanics may have let slip that Giant is working on a new TT frame that the wheel is more suited to. This is something we very well may see come July and the Tour de France.
It may not be classed as bike tech but it’s still worth a mention as it got a giggle out of us. Giant-Alpecin has a slushy machine on tour with them, the team bottles stored close to the Slush Puppy dispenser. With no riders about it looked to have been in heavy use by the team mechanics.
Over at the Ag2r-La Mondiale camp, one rider was on the SRAM wireless electronic groupset. Chatting with representatives from SRAM at the team hotel lead to very little information about how far it is from being released to the public. They are keeping very, very tight-lipped about the much-hyped addition to the ever-growing electronic shifting market.
There is no visible difference in the shifters or rear and front mech compared to what we saw at the Tour of Flanders last month. To us the finish is close to what you’d expect from a production version of a top-tier groupset.
On-bike camera footage is being used this year by the race organiser, TV broadcasters and in TV highlights packages. Many teams have two riders kitted out with cameras; one with a forward-facing camera, one with a rear-facing camera.
The majority of the cameras spotted are from Shimano but Cannondale-Garmin was obviously using the Garmin Virb camera. Their mount was a modified PRO and Virb mix. It looked a lot bulkier than the simple Pro version.
Over at the Cannondale-Garmin hotel the majority of team bikes were being washed so I managed to get a quick look at the inside of the team mechanics’ truck. A quick poke around revealed a work and storage place that many budding mechanics would kill for. Check the accompanying video to see what they store in the draws and the sheer number of wheels they have to carry.
The FDJ.fr mechanics were kind enough to dig out the new Lapierre Xelius SL Ultimate for us. Team leader Alexandre Geniez is using it throughout the race. It’s a pretty striking bike and an update on the old Xelius. The main talking point will be the junction between the seat tube, top tube and chain stays, or to be more precise the lack of junction.
The seat stays bypass the seat tube by wrapping around it then joining directly on the top tube. A gap of approximately 5mm separates the chain stays from the seat tube.
As with many of the mechanics, they were not up for giving much information (more than their job is worth I’m guessing). The limited info I got though was that it’s a bike that has been in development for over a year and is significantly lighter and stiffer in the bottom bracket and head tube than the older model. From the looks of the seat tube it should also allow some amount of flex for added comfort.