Check the date. Nope, it’s not 1 April. This really is happening. Endura, Movistar‘s clothing supplier, is creating of a life-sized model of yellow jersey contender Nairo Quintana as the Colombian aims to improve his time trialling ahead of next year’s Tour de France.
The reason for doing this? To allow Endura to continuously develop its skinsuits and other clothing, ensuring that there is absolutely no loose material creating unnecessary aerodynamic drag when Quintana is trying to limit his losses during the 54km of time trialling in the 2016 Tour de France.
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The start of the process took place at Movistar’s recent pre-season training camp in Pamplona where each of the team’s riders were subjected to a 3D scan by Endura Director Jim McFarlane.
“Our software maps the 2D patterns that we cut from the fabric, and it virtually stitches it over a 3D avatar”, explained McFarlane. It shows us tension maps across the body, using specific fabrics with known stretch characteristics.
“It looks like a heat map, but it shows the amount of stretch across the body, and it means that we can essentially refine each of the rider’s garments to fit them more accurately.”
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While most of the riders data is just fed into the software to create virtual models to help with clothing development, but special exceptions are made for the team’s most important riders, including Nairo Quintana and British time trial champion Alex Dowsett. This process allows Endura to continue to refine the design of its clothing without having to have the riders available.
“Scanning is the solution to two problems” continues McFarlane. “The first is that you can’t necessarily get access to take riders physically to a wind tunnel. The second is that they fatigue when they are there, and aero testing is all about consistency and repeatability, so the idea was, we scan Alex, we then take his 3D avatar or ‘scanatar,’ as we call it, and use that to 3D-print a mannequin of Alex that we can then build into it a physical working model with adjustable limbs
“We get to repeat the process that we did with Alex, but on Nairo, so that we can refine his clothing.”
The plan for the next few months is for Endura to take the 3D printed Quintana and place him on a time trial bike at the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 wind tunnel at Silverstone, where the company will get to test and refine its skinsuits.
As far as marginal gains go, this is one of the most extreme examples that we’ve heard of. But will it pay off? We’ll see come July.