VIVIERS, France (CT) – Time trials at the Tour de France rarely disappoint, both on the racing front and with the kit that’s on display. There’s always a gaggle of tech goodies to check out, and this year’s stage 13 ITT in the Ardeche region was no exception.
First cab off the rank is Dimension Data and the new bikes the team had on display. At last year’s Tour the team had a fleet of specially painted team bikes — road and time trial — when racing under the name MTN-Qhubeka. While the team’s road bikes are the same colour as what they’ve used throughout the season, fresh new Cervelo P5s were used in the time trial.
All the tech is very similar to the version they’ve used all season, but it’s the fresh lick of paint that makes them stand out.
Being a three-time world time trial champion, Etixx-QuickStep rider Tony Martin was a rider to watch on stage 13. His team’s bike sponsor, Specialized, certainly pushed the boat out for Martin. In the pits was not one but two custom-painted Shivs for the German powerhouse.
His saddle choice — or more precisely, his choice of saddle covering — was likely a factor in Martin not retaining his title in Richmond at the 2015 Worlds. The rough grip-tape-covered saddle ripped through his skinsuit shorts and, to put it nicely, damaged his undercarriage.
To avoid a repeat of that painful situation, team mechanics covered the grip-tape-like finish on the saddle with what looked like sports injury tape. We’re not sure if it was left on for the race or removed prior to roll out. If it was left on it would infringe UCI article 1.3.002: “A licence holder is not authorised to modify, in any way, the equipment given by the manufacturer used in competition.”
Beyond the custom paint scheme and the saddle Martin was using, a huge 58-tooth chainring was matched with a 44-tooth inner ring, and an 11-32 cassette. He also had a long cage Ultegra Di2 rear mech installed to be able to use this gearing.
The riders on Direct Energie, one of the French wildcard teams, are aboard bikes from Basque manufacturer BH this season (after an apparent fall-out with former sponsor Colnago at the end of last year). The team’s bike of choice for the time trials is BH’s Aerolight, a bike that has nearly as many swoops in its frame design as the new Pinarello Bolide (more on that later).
The riders swap from Shimano groupsets, which they use on their road bikes, to the mechanical Vision Metron time trial groupset on the Aerolight. The groupset is designed to be as aero as possible, with bladed rear mech cages, and a chainset that matches the frame with its crazy amount of curves. Wheels are also from Vision, as are the bars and tribar extensions.
The choice of chainring size is interesting to note on the start line, with a huge number of riders opting for either 56 or 58 outer chainrings. Most inner chainrings seemed to be 44-toothed. These were matched with larger cassettes: 11-28 or even 11-32.
Other little tidbits we picked up on included 3D-printed headset spacers, with added aero-foils on the rear to fill in the gap between steerer tube and top tube. These were seen on several bikes used by the Cofidis team.
Cofidis also had a mix of brakes calipers, with some using the team-issue Vision Trimax, and others using the TR calipers that come as standard on Orbea’s latest TT bikes.
The Canyon Speedmax CF SLX that Katusha used had new grips on both the extensions and bull horns. These, we guess, are from Ergon, a company run by the brother of Canyon CEO Roman Arnold. The Katusha riders were also using the latest SRAM Red eTap wireless shifting with the new eTap Clics shifting buttons placed on the end of their TT extensions.
Over at the Bora-Argon 18 team pits, several of the Argon 18 bikes had a new Power2Max powermeter. Little is known about this at the moment and the mechanics were tight-lipped. We did notice there is now a USB port on the front. The latest model also looks a little less bulky.
The Tour’s first-time trial saw the entirety of Team Sky on the latest updated version of the Pinarello Bolide. The bike has seen action before though only with a few choice riders.
Pinarello has carried a few design traits over from the previous Bolide, such as the rear calipers tucked away behind carbon coverings, keeping them out of the wind. The wider fork legs also come across. The new shape is built from an exclusive Torayca T1100 1K carbon.
One major talking point in the pits came in the form of the custom 3D-printed cockpits with integrated Di2 shifters in the bull horns. The team even came prepared with a yellow version for race leader Chris Froome.