Weight vs. aero: Utah’s uphill TT stirs up questions

Kristen Legan captured the scene before Wednesday's 9km race against the clock that climbed 1,725 feet.

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BRIGHTON, Utah (VN) — The Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah’s 9-kilometer uphill time trial shook up the GC race with Sepp Kuss and Brent Bookwalter losing time and dropping to sixth and 10th, respectively. Rally Cycling’s Rob Britton climbed into the leader’s jersey with a blazing 18:29 effort up Big Cottonwood Canyon.

The course climbed 1,725 feet at an average gradient of 5.5 percent, but it wasn’t a steady grade the whole way. The route started with flatter roads on which riders reached speeds upwards of 35 miles per hour.

At speeds like that, aerodynamics matter — just ask any company that makes an aero product. However, many riders shied away from using aero equipment like TT helmets and skinsuits — a surprising call in a race where top riders are separated by mere seconds.

The Tour of Utah implemented special regulations preventing the use of big-ticket aero items like time trial bikes, disc wheels, and clip-on aero bars. And most teams and riders seemed happy with this decision. When asked if they’d use anything different if those regulations were not in place, the top two riders of the day (Britton and Jelly Belly’s Serghei Tvetcov) would not.

“The setup today is what I would have used regardless if we were allowed clip-ons or TT bikes,” Britton said after the race. “You’re going uphill the whole time, there’s no way I’d carry two extra kilos up the hill.”

UnitedHealthcare’s Gavin Mannion, who took third on the day, disagreed. “I would have probably run some aero stuff for sure,” he said. “I’m a little bit smaller than these guys [Britton and Tvetcov]. I lose a lot more time when it’s flat and fast, so I might have minimized some losses there.”

The perpetual battle between weight and aero lives on at the Tour of Utah.

We scoured the field for aero equipment as riders warmed up for the undulating climb up Big Cottonwood Canyon. Roughly half of the riders used TT helmets, including long-tail, bobtail, and aero shields over regular road helmets. BMC Racing focused its aero efforts on wheel choice. Despite the different setups, every team believed they had the weight-to-aero equation right.

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