Tour de France 2020: Why that is essentially the most fascinating Tour time trial for a very long time
This Saturday (19 September) sees the Tour de France deal with one of the fascinating time trial programs we’ve seen for a very long time.
Although the amount and significance of each particular person and crew time trials has been dwindling in recent times, this one has the chance to essentially upset the apple cart.
The opening 30km is commonplace Grand Tour time trial stuff, however in a beautiful twist (for us viewers, maybe not a lot for the riders), the race organisers have determined to tack a mountain prime end onto the top of it, that means tech selections might be extra essential than ever.
With that in thoughts, we requested aerodynamics and time trial knowledgeable Xavier Disley, of UK-based efficiency specialists Aerocoach, to offer us his perception on the challenges the riders and groups will face.
After all, it helps that we’re going into it with a comparatively shut common classification battle between the present chief, Primož Roglič of Jumbo-Visma, and Tadej Pogačar of UAE Crew Emirates.
On the time of writing (and barring any incident on stage 19), solely 57 seconds separates the 2 Solvenians. Although Roglič is a time trialist of appreciable high quality – he’s beforehand gained time trials at each the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España, and completed second within the World Championships time trial in 2017 – Pogačar truly beat him to take the Slovenian nationwide time trial championship again in June 2020.
No matter whether or not Pogačar can overturn the deficit (a time-trial 20 levels right into a Grand Tour could be very totally different to a single day occasion, in spite of everything), the course profile means this guarantees to be an extremely fascinating day from a tech viewpoint too.
Beginning in Lure, the 36.2km course consists of a quick, flat part within the opening kilometres, adopted by a delicate climb and descent, after which a correct summit end at La Planche des Belles Filles.
Although there have been loads of flat time trials and fairly just a few mountain time trials within the Tour’s lengthy historical past, there haven’t been many who have mixed each to such a level.
For these not accustomed to the climb, it won’t be the Galibier, however at 5.9km in size, at a median gradient of 8.5 per cent, it’s an especially stiff check for a person time trial on the finish of a Grand Tour.
Consequently, equipment selection might be essential as a result of riders might want to optimise their aerodynamics, weight and rolling resistance to attain their finest efficiency.
Whereas a regular time-trial setup would be the apparent selection for the opening a part of the stage, the prospect of a major climb to complete makes the additional weight concerned with all of that aerodynamic equipment decidedly much less interesting.
After all, how arduous a rider can flip the pedals may even make an unlimited distinction, however when the most important race of the season is on the road, one of the best groups might be leaving no stone unturned.
Predicting that the quickest instances might be beneath 60 minutes, Disley defined how variations in weight, rolling resistance and aerodynamics may additionally have an effect on a rider’s time.
Skilled riders and groups are used to reducing weight – making stuff lighter continues to be a key tech trend at the Tour de France – so we’ll virtually definitely see some artistic options to getting these (comparatively) heavy time-trial bikes as near the 6.8kg weight restrict as doable.
The riders themselves may even look to be as mild as doable, with meals and fluid consumption clearly pre-defined to additional minimise weight and maximise efficiency.
“Aerodynamics are, after all, paramount with any time trial,” says Disley, “however right here, each rider and bike weight are going to have a major influence on the race too.
“For a 70kg rider, with a very good time trial place and a 400w energy output, a change in mass of 1kg could have a minimal influence through the part to the primary time verify – only a two-second time penalty.
“The second half, which incorporates the climb of the Col de la Chevestraye, is barely extra of a difficulty, with a rise of 1kg leading to a four-second penalty.
“However the remaining climb is the place it issues most. There, a rise in mass of 1kg ends in a 13-second penalty. This provides as much as a complete of 19 seconds misplaced over the whole lot of the course.”
A not insignificant quantity, however maybe not as a lot as we’d have guessed.
Possibly it might be higher to change to a street bike on the backside of the ultimate climb to avoid wasting weight? Disley’s not so positive.
“Assuming a flawless bike swap takes round 8 seconds, then together with the time taken to decelerate after which regain full racing pace, you’d want the street bike to be at the very least 1.7kg lighter than the time trial bike to make it price it,” he says.
Nonetheless, some riders might select to swap to a street bike merely to allow them to climb ready during which they’re most snug and capable of produce essentially the most energy in.
There’s at all times the possibility that, within the warmth of the second, one thing will go unsuitable with the bike change although, so riders and groups must weigh up the dangers and rewards of both selection.
In line with Disley, tyre selection might be essential, and arguably extra essential than weight.
“In line with our knowledge, a rider utilizing Vittoria’s Corsa Speed tyres will save round 27 seconds over a rider utilizing Continental GP5000 tyres, for instance, due to the small distinction in rolling resistance,” he says.
“Skilled riders and groups are, after all, ruled by sponsor commitments, however will however be wanting to make use of one of the best equipment they will to attain the bottom weight and highest efficiency.”
The latter is extra of a difficulty for some groups than others, although.
We’ve seen large groups comparable to Ineos Grenadier and Jumbo-Visma overtly utilizing non-sponsor right wheels each throughout and earlier than this Tour, for instance.
Different groups might must be extra delicate although, so we will maybe anticipate to see liberal use of the skilled mechanic’s finest pal, the black magic marker.
Whereas there’ll little question be an enormous obsession over weight given the ultimate climb, Disley warns that riders and groups shouldn’t neglect aerodynamics. It’s a time trial, in spite of everything.
The vast majority of the course is both flat or rolling, the place aerodynamics will arguably be the important thing think about figuring out a rider’s efficiency.
Buying and selling heavier, however extra aerodynamic elements for lighter, much less aero ones must be carried out strategically, Disley says.
“If a crew wished to make use of lighter elements that have been much less aerodynamically environment friendly, a 1% improve in aero drag have to be mixed with at the very least 400g of weight financial savings for there to be a web profit.
“If you happen to can’t get 400g of weight financial savings, maintain the aero equipment.”
The optimum setup
What’s the optimum setup then – a time trial bike with super-light, however nonetheless aero wheels and elements?
“I’d select a full time trial bike with a disc wheel”, Disley says, “and doubtless a tubeless model to mitigate the chance of punctures in contrast with a tubular pair of wheels (you may get very light-weight tubeless wheels today).
“Select the quickest rolling tubeless tyres you’ll be able to probably use, and get the black marker out if wants be. Aside from that, don’t make any aero concessions – it’s simply not price it except you may get large weight financial savings.”
Disley additionally has some final minute ideas for riders desperately on the lookout for an edge on the competitors:
- Think about whether or not you actually need a drink for a 1-hour effort. Ditching the bottle and bottle cage might be each lighter and extra aero (our testing tends to indicate even aero bottles can nonetheless be an aerodynamic penalty). A 100g bottle and cage with 200ml liquid that will increase aero drag by 1 per cent might be general a 13-second penalty.
- Elevating the bottom bar (whereas protecting the aero extensions and armrest pads in the identical place) will give a extra upright and extra highly effective driving place for the ultimate climb, whenever you gained’t want the extensions anymore.
- In case your time-trial helmet has a visor, chuck it on the backside of the ultimate climb. It’s a tiny weight saving, however extra crucially it would assist cease you overheating.
- Tyre strain is simply as essential as tyre selection. Historically, skilled groups have tended to make use of very excessive pressures, however we’ve discovered that decrease pressures (particularly as a part of a tubeless setup) are extra environment friendly. Over-inflating your tyres may price you as a lot as 5 watts.