Cav’s helmet, mountain bike weight rules, those mysterious initials on the maillot jaune, and more.

Cav's helmet, mountain bike weight rules, those mysterious initials on the maillot jaune, and more.

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Editor’s Note: VeloNews tech editor Nick Legan is a former ProTour mechanic who most recently wrenched for Team RadioShack at the 2010 Tour de France and elsewhere. His column appears here every Thursday. You can submit questions to Nick at, and be sure to check out Nick’s previous columns.

First off, a correction from last week’s column. I was incorrect when I stated that the UCI weight regulation applies to mountain bikes. Randy Shafer, of USA Cycling, who literally helped write the race officials’ manual, sent me this email to help me out. Thank you, Randy!

“Just a comment on your recent explanation regarding weights of bikes.

“Actually mountain bikes are not subject to the same 6.8 kg weight minimum that road, track and cyclocross bikes are. (UCI Article 1, Ch 3, Subsection 2)

“Except where stated to the contrary, the following technical specifications shall apply to bicycles used in road, track and cyclo-cross racing. The specific characteristics of bicycles used in mountain bike, BMX, trials, indoor cycling and paracycling for riders with disabilities are set out in the part regulating the discipline in question.”

“I participated recently in discussions with a leading material scientist and a carbon fiber frame manufacturer in Lausanne. In current carbon fiber technology, there is a direct correlation between brittleness and weight based on strand orientation. The lower the weight, the more brittle (though quite strong until failure) a piece of equipment may be. I believe that there needs to be a strength test relative to a particular frame or component’s weight.

“I agree with many of the commenters here that currently, the weight of 6.8 kg is largely “stuff” attached to the bike and does not necessarily correlate to a safe product or presumed safer bike.” — Randy Shafer

Q. Nick,
In the UCI road championship in Copenhagen Mark Cavendish took the gold medal. But I noticed, that he was wearing a special black helmet. The special thing about was the plastic coating. It looked like it was closed, maybe for the aerodynamics. But what is the reason for this special helmet?
— Jónas Thor Björnsson

A. Jónas,
Cav as well as many others, particularly those on Team Sky, rode in helmets with covers. They are indeed for aerodynamics and Team Sky has used them in cooler races throughout the season.

2011 UCI World Road Championships, Mark Cavendish
Cavendish's lid - was it legal? AFP Photo

What baffles me about them is whether or not they are actually legal. As a fairing or aerodynamic aid, especially one NOT sold to the public, they are illegal. Clearly the officials didn’t take issue with them.

As I understand it, if the outer shell of the helmet is permanent, like the Team Sky Kasks, they are allowed. But Cavendish appeared to have a clear cover over an existing Specialized Prevail helmet.

Cavendish used every item in his aero arsenal to help in Copenhagen, with the exception of shoe covers. He rode a Venge McLaren, Zipp 404 rims laced to Shimano hubs, his helmet cover and a very slick looking ¾ sleeve skinsuit.

Second place Matt Goss raced on a Tarmac, in a normal Prevail helmet and wore a jersey and separate bib shorts. In a race decided by inches, Cav may have won before he started the race.

Q. Nick,
Do members of Cavendish’s winning team get to wear some form of rainbow recognition on their jerseys?
— Gary Balsam

A. Gary,
Nope. To the victor go the spoils. The rainbow jersey can only be worn by the world champ, and then only in the discipline in which he or she won it. For instance, the time trial world champ can only wear the rainbow bands in a time trial.

Q. Nick,
Here is a tactical question. Why would a GC contender want to have one of his teammates in a breakaway? What is the benefit to the contender?
— Dave Hiller

A. Dave,
As I read it, there are two advantages. On certain days, having a teammate in the break means that the GC contender’s team doesn’t have to do the chasing of the breakaway. This makes other teams do the majority of the work.

The other advantage is that if a team leader plans on attacking, or following attacks, he will have an ally up the road. In essence it gives the domestique a head start. Once word comes that the attacks are happening behind, the domestique can sit up, recover a bit and get ready for the race to come to him. This can make a huge difference if other GC contenders are isolated.

Q. Nick,
On the Tour de France’s yellow jersey, on the right breast, there is a very scripty looking ‘H’ and a sideways ‘G’. I’m sure that’s not what they are, but what are they for? I’ve seen them on the jersey al the way back to the LeMond days. — Stephen White

Q. Stephen,
What you see, and what does indeed look like an “H” and a “G,” are in fact the initials of Henri Desgrange, the founder of the Tour de France. In bygone years, those initials were the only items to decorate the wool yellow jerseys. Crédit Lyonnais began its sponsorship of the jersey in 1987. “LCL” adorns modern jerseys and is simply a rebranding for Crédit Lyonnais after it was taken over by Crédit Agricole in 2007.

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