Tech Feature – Time trial technology at the Giro

Milram’s Focus

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By Lennard Zinn

Giro d'Italia 2009 - TTT Tech: Milram's Focus rigs, lined up and ready.

Giro d’Italia 2009 – TTT Tech: Milram’s Focus rigs, lined up and ready.

Photo: Don Karle – VeloNews

Milram’s Focus

Milram finished tenth in the opening stage of the Giro d’Italia on Saturday, a 20.5km team time trial, riding on two different models of SRAM-equipped German Focus TT bikes.

The super-aero “Izalco Chrono” ones, with knife-like trailing edges on the down tube, seatstays and even the dropouts, were built in collaboration with Andy Walser, the famously reclusive Swiss maker of skeleton racing sleds and time trial bikes for fast Germans. He was, for example, the builder of several TT bikes for Jan Ullrich.

Walser is known for using a super-narrow bottom bracket shell to reduce the Q-factor and bring the rider’s feet in closer to the frame. His rear dropout spacing is also generally correspondingly narrow, so the riders heels do not hit the chainstays. But the difficulty of coming up with short-spindle cranks in today’s age of integrated-spindle bottom brackets, not to mention disc wheels with 110mm axles, was more than Focus was willing to deal with, so the bikes have a standard 68mm-width bottom bracket shell and 130mm rear spacing.

For the Milram riders with less time trial focus, like Robert Förster, the “standard” Izalco Time Trial model was the ride of choice. The Izalco is easily distinguished at a distance by the cables dropping vertically down into the top tube rather than flowing into the sides of the top tube as on the Walser model. The Izalco considers rider comfort as much as it does aerodynamic efficiency.

Giro d'Italia 2009 - TTT Tech: The brand name says it all.

Giro d’Italia 2009 – TTT Tech: The brand name says it all.

Photo: Don Karle – VeloNews

Both bikes use the same Focus aero fork, which also the same fork on all of the team’s road bikes. Focus is a part of the German division of Derby Cycle, a multi-national holding company that also owns brands like Raleigh, Univega and Diamondback.

Milram’s Lightweight tension-disc wheels have a web of flexible carbon spokes covered by a tight, thin skin. Derby Cycle’s Jörg Arenz claims that this design creates incredible strength with very low weight. The paint job emphasizes the underlying design.

Cervélo TestTeam

The Castelli skinsuits of the Cervélo TestTeam have a feature many of us would have wanted but never figured out how to implement: Built into the skinsuit is a little flap of fabric that covers the top edge of the race number to keep air from blowing under it. The team probably had higher hopes than tying on time with Milram, 49 seconds down, but it might have been 50 seconds or more without those little flaps.

Eight riders, including Carlos Sastre, used the already proven Cervélo P3. The only rider on the new Cervélo P4 TT bike was Lithuanian national time trial champion Ignatas Konovalovas.

Konovalovas is the biggest time trial motor the team has at the race, and his efforts at the Tour de Romandie did not go unnoticed, hence the cool bike.

Phil White, co-founder of Cervélo, observed that Konovalovas “was taking monster pulls, and every time he pulled off, the speed dropped.”

Giro d'Italia 2009 - TTT Tech: Cable routing on Cervelo team bikes.

Giro d’Italia 2009 – TTT Tech: Cable routing on Cervelo team bikes.

Photo: Don Karle – VeloNews

Team mechanics mounted a standard bottle cage and a round water bottle on Konovalovas’s P4, not an easy task, as the recess in the frame meant for the aero clip-in bottle has some threaded holes for the carbon snap-in mount for its intended aero bottle, but not in the places required for a standard bottle cage.

“We have heard that the UCI was going to start banning aero water bottles, so we had to take this step just in case,” said White. “Until it gets sorted out, at least we know we have this option, and the best time to do this modification is before the Giro begins, because the mechanics will never have as relaxed a moment to work on something like this once the race starts.”

The Cervélo TestTeam’s Rotor cranks have been stiffened and strengthened. Says Rotor CEO Ignacio Estellés, “Carlos (Sastre) and the other climbers on the team loved the old cranks. But once the big guys like Lancaster and Hushovd started using them, they were demanding stiffer and stiffer cranks.

Giro d'Italia 2009 - TTT Tech: Carlos Sastre's Rotor Crank.

Giro d’Italia 2009 – TTT Tech: Carlos Sastre’s Rotor Crank.

Photo: Don Karle – VeloNews

“So now we have a crank that is stiff enough for them, light enough for the climbers, and strong enough to pass the CEN (European Norm) standards. It’s the first crank designed completely in cooperation with a professional team.”

On road stages, all of the riders except Sastre will be using the S2 aero road bike, but the defending Tour champion will be on his favorite bike, the R3 SL.

“He prefers the increased comfort of that bike, and, being the protected rider, he’s never out in the wind anyway,” explained White.

The only team with a Nokon sponsorship, the Cervélo TestTeam routes the brake cables and the front derailleur cable of most of its TT bikes through white, separable, cylinder-and-bead Nokon Housings.

Giro d'Italia 2009 - TTT Tech: Zabriskie is using Dura-Ace 7970 electronic derailleurs

Giro d’Italia 2009 – TTT Tech: Zabriskie is using Dura-Ace 7970 electronic derailleurs

Photo: Don Karle – VeloNews

DZ’s Electronic Shifting

Although the entire team got Dura-Ace 7970 electronic derailleurs, Garmin-Slipstream’s David Zabriskie is the only one racing the Giro on it, and he is using it on both road and time trial bikes.

Some other riders on the team have the 7970 systems on their spare bikes. Zabriskie’s wires are routed outside of the frame, and Felt’s Bill Duehring explained that, while Shimano makes three different lengths of cable harnesses for external routing, it only makes one for internal routing, and it is not quite long enough for the Felt bike.

ISD Transitions

The continental ISD squad went surprisingly fast, finishing fifth on Saturday and beating a lot of heavy-hitting teams in the process. Being the third Specialized-sponsored team in the race, it could hardly expect to get bikes like Fabian Cancellara’s but it, nonetheless, handily beat the other two, Team Saxo Bank and Quick Step, on standard Specialized Transition aero bikes.

Giro d'Italia 2009 - TTT Tech: ISD turned in the best time of the three Specialized-sponsored teams.

Giro d’Italia 2009 – TTT Tech: ISD turned in the best time of the three Specialized-sponsored teams.

Photo: Don Karle – VeloNews

Checking in with the UCI

If the UCI is going to be so vigorous about limiting technical innovation in bicycles, it could have a more rigorous way of applying its technical rules than was in evidence at the Giro TTT start.

As an example, when the Bbox team entered the bike check area behind the start stage, it did so directly behind the Diquigiovanni riders. The area was so crowded with riders, mechanics holding spare wheels and bikes being passed around to the commissaire lining it up on the jig, that I could swear at least one of the Bbox bikes did not get tested.

The riders wanted to sit down immediately on the folding chairs and had no motivation to be standing around pushing their bikes through the scrum at the measurement jig. It certainly appeared to me that there was not a system in place to ensure that each rider’s bike was checked.

TTT Tech: The BBox and Diquigiovanni teams crowd around the UCI check.

TTT Tech: The BBox and Diquigiovanni teams crowd around the UCI check.

Photo: Lennard Zinn

The official did not, for example, check off the bike with the rider’s number. The bike in most cases was simply passed up to him without its rider. The bikes came up in random order, too, with Diquigiovani’s Guerciottis mixed up with Bbox’s Time bikes.

In the Giro’s time trials, the bikes do not have numbers on them, and the bike-check commissaire never tried to associate a bike with a particular rider. As far as I could tell, when there were more than 22 people and 18 bikes crowded in the area, and a team could theoretically just keep passing the same bike up through the crowd of people and it’s likely that the commissaire would never have noticed the difference.

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