Welcome to the second part of our time trial tech coverage from the first week of the Tour de France. In part one, I covered a number of bikes (including a few unreleased ones) and teased a few wheel setups. In this second part I continue with a look at fast wheels before diving into the smaller details that make these machines so fast.
Stage 5 was like Christmas morning for time trial fans with new frames, new tyres, and of course new wheels. Here is a selection of new and unreleased wheels on show.
Perhaps most interestingly, some Cofidis riders had an as-yet-unannounced Fulcrum disc brake disc wheel, which is seemingly tubeless compatible. If anything like the Campagnolo Bora Ultra, this Fulcrum should be quite lightweight also.
That’s a lot of wheels. My head was spinning trying to catch every wheel zooming past, but I did still manage to spot a few interesting tyre selections.
Time trial bars used to be simple, round, ski-pole-style extensions; now it seems they are getting more elaborate by the day. We spotted a host of new bars on show at the stage 5 time trial. Everything from carbon fibre to 3D-printed, from stock sizes to fully customisable. I didn’t dare ask for prices.
Jonas Vingegaard rolled out for his morning recon ride with this unidentified object at the front of his bike. While it is almost certainly an aero-sensor, it is unlikely the rider was making any last-minute changes to his TT position.
In all likelihood, the device was collecting course and weather condition data for race equipment selection and pacing strategies. Whatever it was the Jumbo-Visma mechanics were keen to remove it and stow it away in a tool box quickly after the end of the recon ride.
We hope to bring you more news on this sensor soon.
The following is not so much a new tech story, but rather an interesting shift. For as long as radios have crackled in the pro peloton riders have carried them on their backs. Personally, I hated seeing a rider wearing a super-fast skinsuit only to have a block-shaped box sticking up on their back, no doubt negating some of the suit’s performance gains. It seems Chris Froome and others have now taken to placing the radio in the much-less-exposed chest area.
Big plates all round. When a 58-tooth is the smallest on camera, you know its a fast day.
The bike is only one part of the aero story; clothing and helmets play a key role in the full system optimisation too.
Hydration is key in any race but round bottles are almost the opposite of aero – TT-specific bottles can offer a more aerodynamic option. However, as with all aerodynamics, it’s never just as simple as aero shaped equals improved aerodynamics. The UCI has also a stipulated minimum liquid content at the start and any aero gains from the bottle could disappear if the rider was to sit up and drink that liquid.
Nevertheless, here are a few aero alternatives I spotted.
Most important though when it comes to aerodynamics is the rider’s position on the bike. I have heard the rider can account for 80% of the total drag. While that figure likely differs from rider to rider, a dialled time trial position can offer not-so-marginal gains.
So there you have it, all the tech from this year’s Tour de France stage 5 time trial. Who cares about the actual result – here’s hoping for another tech-filled day on the stage 20 time trial!