Did I say that having the camper van here meant that I didn’t have to walk to the press room?
Cancel that – I’d forgotten that the protocol is once you hook the van up to the electrics, you’re here for the duration. Kris has his electric bike – I have my shoes…
A three kilometre walk through the back roads of Limburg to the press room and back is good for the soul – I suppose.
Yesterday was ladies’ TT day, juniors in the morning with elites in the afternoon.
I didn’t attend either; I had other work to do – a piece on the MTN Qhubeka team and one on time trial bikes.
MTN Qhubeka are ‘out of Africa’ with MTN a big telecoms company; ‘the African Movistar’ says Doug Ryder, the head man, with a presence in 21 African countries.
Whilst Qhubeka is a foundation to provide bikes for African kids so as they don’t have long, dangerous walks to school (I can identify with that) and may eventually get fully into cycling and even race.
Whilst the team can’t afford the luxury coaches of the big guns they look the part and ride top spec Treks – Speed Concepts for the time trials.
TT bikes don’t come much better than the Speed Concept, in my opinion.
MTN rode to 23rd in the TTT, which wasn’t a bad ride.
Said their DS Jens Zemke, ex of Cervelo Test Team, where he worked with Dan Fleeman.
“We took our preparations very seriously. We focused on core stability training, aero testing, positioning, doing recons of the circuit, pace strategy and equipment tests.
“With our good base of training and doing some races in between, it was possible to be close to some of the Tour de France teams. (They actually beat Lampre and Saur Sojasun – who both rode le Tour.)
“Our boys did a fantastic job and the staff also worked hard and concentrated to get every percentage out of this young and inexperienced team.”
To emphasise the team’s modern approach, the team coach is female, Dr. Carol Austin, who said that the event was one of the team’s key goals for the season.
“In early September Uli Schoberer (SRM Training Systems) performed an aerodynamics camp for us at the Buttgen Velodrome.
“The athletes’ bike setups were fine tuned with average power savings of around 12 watts’ – which just goes to show how much difference good positioning on the bike can make.”
The team has just been confirmed as Pro Continental for next year which means all the financial guarantees must be in place. After the Pegasus debacle the UCI are hot on that aspect. They’ve recruited Gerald Ciolek from QuickStep and Ignatas Konovalovas from Movistar, both ex-Grand Tour stage winners.
But they’ve lost their star rider, Janse Van Rensburg to Argos Shimano.
Van Rensburg has been one of the stars in Division 2 racing in 2012 with three stage wins and the GC in the Tour du Maroc; a stage win and the GC in the Tour de Bretagne; a stage and the GC in Ronde van Overijssel and a stunning victory over the likes of Lars Boom, Mark Renshaw and Kenny Van Hummel in the UCI 1.1 Ronde van Zeeland Seaports.
Now, onto the bikes
We also took a look at the time trial bikes which were in action in the TTT and will be in action again today.
Bike design has moved so fast that what was cool and current just a few years ago now looks dated.
Front runners in the Star Wars stakes are Trek, BMC, Pinarello, Scott and Felt.
Conventional steerer set ups brand a bike as ‘past it.’
Look’s ‘external’ steerer set up has taken over and the stem/bars have to merge sweetly into the top tube to keep that all important air flow sweet.
Wind tunnels must all tell the same stories – that’s why most cars all look the same – but despite this, not all bike manufacturers go down the same road.
The most noticeable difference for us is at the fork crowns – last winter in Berlin we spotted that Roger Kluge had a “butcher’s bike” fork crown on his Felt track bike.
Jorg, one of the six day mechanics, explained to us that the design had been tested in the Mercedes wind tunnel and was much more aero.
The team GB team pursuit bikes have picked up on the design and we wonder if perhaps it’s not just about eliminating air flow turbulence around the crown – maybe there’s more to it?
Does the air flowing through the crown and onto an airfoil down tube generate lift and thereby ‘lighten’ the bike?
We asked Rob Hayles; ‘can’t tell ya!’
The BMC’s are mean looking tools, the stem/bar/head set up is neat and the wheel tucks right in under the down tube.
Marco Pinotti in particular looks extremely aero on his one.
But it’s a trade off; sometimes aero doesn’t generate the most watts and most riders’ positions are a compromise which maybe isn’t the most aero but produces the most power.
Brakes were the thing where the most variety was to be found – in front of the crown, behind the crown, under the bracket, behind the bracket, integral, hydraulic . . .
Pascal Ducrot of Scott told me that they’d done the wind tunnel tests and the best place for the front brake is in the traditional position.
But there are many adherents to the behind the front fork crown location – and ‘integral’ is becoming ever more popular.
The Merckx bikes which Dirk looks after at Topsport Mercator have integral brakes; but Dirk doubts that they’ll ever be sold to ‘punters.’
They’re complex to work on and a wrong move with a spanner or allen key could right off a set of forks which are worth a grand, or more.
The hydraulic Maguras on the Garmin Cervelos seem a strange choice – the certainly don’t look light and it’s a whole new ball game for the mechanics to fret about.
But the research and development and marketing men have to forever thinking of ways getting us to part with our dosh.
And if I was young, fit, fast and flush – I’d be laying down the greenbacks for a Trek Speed Concept.
TT this afternoon – Tony Martin?
I think so.