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In today’s instalment of his Le Tour Tech series, reporter Dave Everett has the latest on more new gadgets and tech that have been spotted at this year’s Tour de France.
Adam Hansen’s shoes
Adam Hansen has yet again been showing off more of his fancy homemade shoes that he’s upgraded from the ones he used at the Giro d’Italia, and made even lighter. Yes, apparently it is possible. In-between his ninth and 10th consecutive Grand Tours, Adam was busy back in his adopted home of the Czech Republic building more shoes in his “shed” for the Tour.
Hansen is a bloke who is constantly thinking while in the peloton. He’s gotten his latest lightweight pair of shoes down to a scant 62 grams a piece. The white carbon shoes that have been moulded exactly to his feet have had their weight reduced even further by dropping the bolts from his cleats. Instead, the Look Keo cleats are tied on and then set in place with a Kevlar ribbon.
Some may ask (as I did) why he doesn’t just mould or glue the cleats on? Well, as Hansen says, cleats need a certain amount of flex, otherwise they’ll just snap. And dropping the bolts alone has reduced the shoes by 26 grams!
In total, Hansen has seven pairs of shoes here at the Tour. It takes him four to five days to make each shoe but is able to make up to five at a time. The process of producing the shoes takes in four steps, with each step needing 24 hours for the epoxy to set.
Adam doesn’t just limit his thinking towards cycling equipment to his shoes. Some may have noticed that Adam wears his race radio right at the top of his back, between his shoulder blades.
Hansen has spent a bit of time researching airflow and now places his race radio in the area behind the helmet, as this is the most turbulent area. Hansen says that placing the radio here stops the radio creating more turbulence, as they do when placed on the lower back.
The other theoretical upside is that the body’s larger bones are all in the upper back so they shouldn’t break as easily as if you place the radio in the traditional spot, next to the lower rib cage. That’s his theory at least. Let’s hope it doesn’t need proving.
When asking Adam if anyone else in the peloton was as forward-thinking or placed their radio in the same place, the response of “Nah…They all think I’m stupid and crazy.”
Scott’s “Big Ed”
In today’s peloton it’s not often that any one bike gets loads of attention. Making a bike really stand out these days is a tricky process with the UCI making it obligatory that all the equipment that the pros use must be available for sale to the general public. It’s usually a unique paint scheme or a subtle custom addition that make a bike stand out from the crowd.
That is, until a rider decides to go off-piste or takes a chance with a bike other than what’s deemed to be best suited to a particular stage.
Over at Orica-GreenEdge this is exactly what happened. Team leader Simon Gerrans strolled out the team bus and mounted Scott’s latest bike that the Australian national champ was to tackle the stage on … a fat-tyred bike called ‘Big Ed’.
Speaking with Gerrans it was clear that either his confidence was high or he had some inside information that the weather at the top of the day’s tough climbs was to be either, snow, rain, sleet, or beach sand. In any case, Simon was well prepared for anything.
‘Big Ed’ had turned up a little late and Simon Gerrans told us, “If only we’d know what stage 5 was really going to be like it would have been perfect”.
Look out for shots of Simon on the front of the lead-outs with the rest of the team all tucked neatly behind his rear wheel. Or maybe not…it may have just been a clever marketing ploy by Scott and the team.
The new Polar CV650
SRM aren’t the only ones with a new computer out. Finnish brand Polar has released the new CV650 unit at the Tour. These units have been used by the Bretagne-Seche team from stage eight onwards (prior to this they had been using a selection of models from Polar’s range).
The V650 units have brought Polar away from its usual small watch-sized monitors with the multiple buttons they’re renowned for. Now they’ve headed into the big touchscreen world that most bike computers have gone towards. The GPS enabled device has a ton of features that they hope will get back on the bikes of amateur cyclists to regain some marketshare that has been lost to the almighty Garmin.
The new unit is bluetooth-enabled so it can sync with your smartphone and you’ll also be able to add extra sensors to it. It’s not groundbreaking technology, but it’s a sleek form factor and has a minimalist design. It will be available to consumers in August, but until then it’s just for the pros.
Belkin M-Line mattresses
As the saying goes, “rest is more important than training” and Team Belkin are standing by this old adage at this year’s Tour. Spotted in the team hotel in Besançon the morning after the team bus had departed was a stack of M-Line mattresses. Outside a Mercedes Sprinter van waited for all nine mattresses to be loaded into it.
It used to be that some riders liked to bring their own pillows on Tour. A familiar pillow may help them get a good night’s sleep. But for every Belkin rider the team replaces all the hotel mattresses with their official sponsor’s M-line high tech mattresses. Looking on the company’s website, the mattress that the team uses look almost as technically advanced as the Bianchi bikes they race.
Speaking of Belkin, we have an update on the piece that we ran about Bauke Mollema and his Di2 shifter hoods being taped up with cork ribbon rather than traditional rubber hood covers.
We had a word with Mollema at the start of stage 15, and he explained that he suffers from an allergic reaction to rubber. Oddly enough, it’s only his hands that are affected. He has no problems with the rubber used in his Rudy Project sunglasses or the grippers on his jerseys. But changing a puncture can cause his allergy to flair up, so it’s not a bad excuse to let someone else take that job on.
Now the weather has finally warmed up, and the French sweltering heat is beating down on the peloton it’s a challenge for the riders to keep cool.
Before and after the stages the riders may use the ice vests, but during the race a couple low-tech solutions are the answer.
First, cooling gel is placed on the wrists and on the veins at the back of the neck of some of the riders at the start of the stage. The ethanol-based gel gives the impression the area is being cooled, but as one rider told us, “it’s a psychological way of keeping cool.”
The other low-tech way of keeping cool that actually works is filling up stockings with ice, and handing them to the riders who’ll place them down their back. Simple yet very effective.