Ask Nick: Olympic bikes, TT support logistics, more on Mavic bikes and washing helmets,

Tech editor Nick Legan takes another look at neutral support bikes, as well as time trial support and Specialized's un-branded branding

Photo: Watson

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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.

I had several great emails following last week’s column, both regarding Mavic’s yellow spare bikes and helmet washing. Below are a few of them.

On yellow bikes

The first response is from Jeff Rowe, operations manager for Focus Bicycles USA and a seasoned Mavic neutral support mechanic:

To Kai’s point, it is true that yellow Mavic bikes are seldom seen in the Tour. They are used often in the U.S. to keep riders in races; sometimes for a few kilometers while the team sorts out a replacement, sometimes for the rest of a stage race after a small team loses a bike. Each U.S. Mavic car has a box of every pedal type. Mavic often communicates with a team or rider, speed up the road, set a saddle height and install correct pedals, and effect a cyclocross-style hand-off to the rider. And yes, bikes were often set up for GC riders who, for whatever reason, did not have a spare. Levi exhausted his team’s supply of very, very small frames at one Tour of California and the yellow team had a 48cm with his pedals and saddle for a couple of days. Making sure that bike is on the correct car and swapped to another car should a break contain a particular rider is done exactly like a team. – Jeff Rowe

Helmet cleaning ideas

In regards to the helmet cleaning question, I have been using Febreeze Sport. I keep it handy and give my lid a good spray upon returning from a ride. Even after riding here in Florida, dripping with sweat, it’s always fresh smelling for my next ride. Give it a try!
– Ken

As a longtime cyclist, the best way to clean a helmet is to shower with it on, then rinse the inside and let it air dry after removal of all the lining. Works awesome!
— Reginald

Now on to this week’s questions, selected for clarity, punctuation and interest:

Can you give some insight into the red Specialized bikes that I have seen different competitors riding during the men’s and women’s Olympic road races? It looked like most riders were using their own bikes except for some that seem to be riding those red Specialized bikes.
— Robby

Specialized managed to make its athletes look obnoxious by delivering them the bikes you mention as well as matching helmets. It isn’t just the road races where you’ll see them; triathletes and mountain bikers have them too.

You see, the International Olympic Committee has very strict rules on the number and size of brand logos on helmets, bikes, even wheels. That’s why you’ll see Zipp, Shimano and other wheels with only a single decal on each side of the rim. It’s required. Most stock team bikes have far too many logos to meet the requirements, so sponsors supply most Olympic athletes with a new bike for the Games. Most, however are either low-key (Christian Vande Velde’s Felt for Beijing was matte white and black) or painted to match the country colors.

In what is a highly visible (and therefore probably very effective) move, Specialized decided to brand its athletes with bright red/orange bikes, helmets, and, in some cases, shoes.

I noticed that Mark Cavendish, Bradley Wiggins and others on Team GB were on aero bikes (with unique bars) in the Olympic road race, which were clearly not their normal Sky Pinarello Dogma 2 bikes. Is there any insight you can share on what they were riding and how they can ride these non-Sky team issue bikes for the Olympics? Do the UCI requirements for the equipment to be commercially available also apply to the Olympics?
— Keith

If you follow track racing, those bikes will look a bit more familiar. Team GB has produced carbon frames for its track athletes for many years, for use in sprints, mass start and pursuit events. The frames are UCI-approved, listed as Metron Advanced Equipment Limited, as of May 9, 2012. The team produces seven sizes of each of its models for track, road and time trial.

The frames do meet the commercially-available rule that the UCI sets out, which does apply to the Olympic Games. They are for sale on the U.K. Sport website, but no pricing is listed and availability involves long lead times.

While Sky is sponsored by Pinarello, it seems that the British riders have decided to sidestep that small item and use whatever they like. Only Sky knows all the details of its contract with the Italian manufacturer, but I’m certain that the folks at Pinarello aren’t happy that Wiggins won the Olympic time trial aboard an unmarked British carbon machine.

For more background on the bikes, I encourage you to read Joe Lindsey’s excellent article on the matter.

I wanted to ask a question about team cars in time trials. Correct me if I’m wrong, but in road stages, a team has two cars on the road, that way if a rider gets into break, one can follow, while the other stays with the peloton. However in time trials, where the riders are going off at regular intervals, how do the teams follow each rider? I assume there are extra cars for the soigneurs to use so they can get to feed zones in road stages, but does each team really have nine cars for a grand tour? Also, how many mechanics are involved in a grand tour? Once again assuming there’s one in each car for the TT, it would be nine, but there never seem to be that many around when you see photos of team busses; there’s usually only two or three in shots.
— Jon

In a stage race, there are two follow cars allowed in the caravan for each team. In single day events, teams are only allowed one follow car. For time trial days at stage races, teams will use all the cars they can collect. With two directors’ cars and two soigneur cars, four riders are easily covered. Sometimes it’s possible to follow a rider and return to the start to follow another. If this is the case, you can support eight riders if you hustle.

But the fact of the matter is that not every rider will be followed. And that’s ok, as for some riders, the time trial isn’t a priority. They simply need to finish it in a decent time to avoid time cut. But they aren’t left alone out on the road. The race organization provides neutral follow cars and often a team will hand off a set of spare wheels to those cars to make sure they have compatible wheels.

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.