With the new season fast approaching, mechanics at Ag2r La Mondiale are flat-out at the team’s training camp in Gandia, Spain, building a fleet of just shy of 200 bikes
As a WorldTour team, Ag2r La Mondiale has a roster of 30 riders and, since each rider has between four and six bikes (training, race, race spare, time trial machines) then before the start of each season, there’s a bit of work for the mechanics to do on the Focus Izalco Max frames.
Buried in the basement of a Gandia hotel, there’s a veritable treasure trove, a grotto of bikes and components that would make any bike fan’s eyes pop.
A team of four mechanics is busy building the team’s full complement of 2016 bikes and there’s a Retul bike fit jig in the background with a steady stream of riders being checked.
“All the riders get new bikes every year,” explained chief mechanic Gilles Martinet, “and since we have riders heading to Australia on January 7, others going to Argentina for the Tour de San Luis, there’s a bit of work to do,” said Martinet in glorious understatement.
In 2016 the squad will ride with a new stem and handlebar supplier – switching to Zipp from Fizik – as well as a new tyre supplier (rolling on Continental rather than Schwalbe). Finally, there’s the new SRAM Red eTap groupset to be fitted, so the mechanics aren’t exactly twiddling their thumbs and working on their tans in the warm December sun on the Costa del Sol.
The changes are partly down to the fact that Zipp – and Quarq power meters – are part of the SRAM group and, since Zipp already supplies the wheels to the team there was a certain business and logistics sense to the change.
“To be honest, the change to the eTap wireless system has made things a lot easier for us, the lack of wires to feed through frames – and it was especially tricky with time trial frames – is a time saver.
“We’ve been working with SRAM on this new eTap wifi shifting for over a year and for sure the latest system is more advanced than the first one. We were on Campag EPS a couple of years ago and when the battery was mounted on the outside of the frame we had a lot of problems. Now, the batteries are attached to the front and rear mechs and they are interchangeable. There are a couple of lithium ‘watch’ batteries in the shift levers as well.
“We haven’t had a full test on them yet, but I think the rechargeable batteries will be good for around 1,500km of riding, but it depends on the terrain and the rider – if it’s hilly, then you’ll probably shift more frequently.
Have a closer look at the SRAM Red eTap
“Obviously the rear mech gets used a lot more than the front, so if the battery runs out of power on the rear, you can take the front one off and fit on the rear mech to get you home.
“The shifting system is like an F1 paddle shift, so the left hand shifter pushes the rear mech up – to the left – and the right one drops the mech down the block to the right, it’s so simple. To shift up and down from the chainrings, you touch the buttons simultaneously. The guys are like kids with new toys, they’re loving it. From our point of view, its easy to fit and the set up and fine-tuning is easy, so we’re happy too.”
The empty cable bosses on the downtube of the frames already look like a relic from another era.
Trivia fans might like to know that the team was training in Spain on Continental Grand Prix 4000 wired-on tyres mounted on Zipp 202 wheels and they will race on Continental tubulars in racing.
“Let’s just say that the guys are happier in damp conditions now,” observed Martinet.