The first stage of this year’s Giro d’Italia couldn’t have been any more exciting. On the streets of Belfast we saw Orica-GreenEdge take the win in conditions that were more favourable than those faced by other teams.
There were gasps of shock and then sadness as we saw local hero Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) crash out on a slippery grid and break his collarbone, with his teammate Andre Cardoso suffering the same fate.
Before the race we had a quick trip round the pits to see if there were any new developments in tech, or just any good looking bikes we could catch a glimpse of.
For a start, wildcard team Colombia were aboard the Willier TT Twin Blade. The frames have been around for a while now, having got their first airing back when the Worlds were held in Denmark back in 2011. The name refers to the twin blade fork that rises straight to the bars.
With many of the TT bikes on the market (and some of the road bikes now too) stems are becoming integrated into frames — flat and flush would be one way to describe it. Canyon, Focus, Cannondale, Giant and Specialized are just some of the many manufactures that are heading down this route.
AG2R-La Mondiale were another team with a frame that included an integrated stem. The Focus Izalco Chrono was a prototype at last year’s TDF but this year it has been refined and is available to the whole team.
With a hinge-type headset/fork the frame looks fast just standing still. The rear triangle come close to half way up the seat post, another trend among several bike manufactures. The junction between seatstay and downtube has been shaped to be extremely aero.
The rear brake sits under the rear chainstays and again many manufacturers are now incorporating this design into both TT and road bikes. I’ve asked several of the riders that get to use this equipment whether they like and on several occasions the response has been less than positive.
From what I’ve been told, flex in bottom bracket and chainstay area is a problem. With only a small amount of adjustment possible for brake clearance (on some of the manufacture’s models anyway), this can result in the wheels rubbing on the brake blocks when under extreme stress, such as during a sprint.
Another trend seen in the pits is the wider use of TT-specific saddles. These are shorter at the nose area as to get around UCI rules that dictate the setback of saddles. Previous years have seen mechanics take a saw to the saddle and remove the nose of it. Fizik and Specialized both have saddles at this year’s Giro that didn’t need the mechanics’ handiwork. Rigaberto Uran, for example, is on the latest Specialized TT saddle, the Stero, firmly in place on his Shiv.
Selle San Marco sponsored riders all seemed to be using the Concor TT, which almost looks like a junior version of the road saddle.
Frames that previously had fairings covering the front brakes on the forks have had to have this plastic covering removed, again due to new UCI rules. This can be seen best on Team Sky’s Pinarello Bolide where the cable and callipers are now open to the wind.
Both Belkin and ProContinental team Androni Giocattoli are using the Bianchi D2. This has a radical port in the rear of the chainstays. How effective this is at reducing pressure on the wheel is under question, though the mechanics of Belkin stated that the team loved the bike. No surprise there then.
The look of the new frame is very clean and looks almost skinny and lightweight compared to several of the other teams’ machines. The rear wheel cut-out and the gap between wheel and fork on the D2 look exceptionally close. Bianchi have clearly been spending some time in the wind tunnel.
With pretty much every team (bar any SRAM-sponsored team) on electronic shifting the neatness of the cables leaving the tri-bars is becoming an art form.
Custom pads are commonplace. Riders clearly ask mechanics to take the Stanley knife to pads to get a perfect fit.
Tape measures and plumb lines are a thing of the past too. Mechanics on many of the teams could be seen using specially designed jigs to get the perfect fit on not just the TT bikes but all the team bikes.
Millimetre-perfect adjustment can be replicated on any number of bikes using these jigs. Giant-Shimano was using such a produced by Dutch company BikeSettings. These fitting systems don’t come cheap either, costing around €1,500. Trek Factory Racing were also busy putting the finishing touches to a bike using a similar measuring system. Three staff were involved to help get the position correct.
When teams spend tens of thousands of dollars in wind tunnels to get a perfect position, the use of a simple tape measure when setting a bike up away from the wind tunnel could quite easily wipe out all the money and time spent in getting the right fit.
No major new kit was on display; if there were prototypes they were clearly well hidden. The latest POC helmets were one item that hadn’t seen race action before this stage. Team staff had even been given strict orders to not let journalists take close-up shots of the lid. Strange when the video is already online explaining the product.