We’ve seen the Pinarello Dogma 65.1 under Team Sky riders before, and the Bolide very briefly under Bradley Wiggins, but what makes the Grand Tour contender Chris Froome’s bikes his own? We caught up with Team Sky mechanic Alan Williams [below] to find out.
The newest addition to Team Sky’s stable is the Bolide Time Trial bike. There are currently only four in existence – Bradley Wiggins and Richie Porte have one each, Pinarello another and the last one belongs to Froome. So how does Froome like his Bolide set-up?
“To start with it’s an 11-speed, and there aren’t a lot of 11-speed groupsets around for time trials,” says Williams.
“Special to Froomey is having his shifter buttons on the inside. Most riders have them pointing upwards on top of the bars. Froomey doesn’t hold his hands any differently to others – he just prefers to have the thumb shifters on the inside.”
The TT bar’s extensions are also bereft of bar tape as Froome has chosen to use minimalist abrasive grip tape, similar to the stuff you find on skateboards. Williams also confirms: “He has his own arm cups, and own arm padding, which we made out of a mouse mat!
“We had the Pro Missile EVO bars on the old Graal – but we did have these bars before too, they were similar to what G [Geraint Thomas] was riding, but now we’ve had Pinarello make them for us, so when all the guys are on the bikes later on, and when they do become available to buy, they will all come with these bars.
“The thumb shifters on the drop bars are completely bespoke. We stripped down the actual Shimano parts of a shifter and put them in. We used to do this in house, back at the service course, but Pinarello do this for us now.”
Designing a frameset and bar combo means the whole bike looks a lot more cohesive, allowing for things like smooth cable lines. The electronic cables run internally down the arms and around the sides of the stem. One really intriguing element is the vinyl-like extended top cap. It effectively cups and covers all of the headset and cabling area where bars and bike meet. We’re not sure how this manages to get round the UCI ruling on fairings, but it’s there all the same.
It’s not the only fairing aspect to the bike either. Both front and rear brakes have aerodynamic-looking smooth coverings, covering bolts and cabling. This means the rear brake has been positioned in the more traditional place above the seatstays, as opposed to behind the bottom bracket like many time trial bikes.
Talking of seatstays, you’ll notice that they are wider than the Graal. “Froomey is using the wider Pro Textreme disc,” Williams continues. “We’ve got five of them in total. Other teams do have them but they don’t fit all of the frames.
We originally had it for the Graal but we couldn’t get it to fit in the bike so we totally redesigned the bike to get it to fit.” It’s still a super-tight fit with the 25mm Veloflex tyre just clearing the rear brake. The front wheel is a standard-looking HED tri spoke but with the stickers removed.
Lot of bottle
Back to the standard equipment and Williams tells us: “The internal battery is mounted in the down tube, with the junction box below. We’re using the newer-style round battery designed for seat tubes. It takes a long time to get to, so if there is a battery issue then the bike will just become a spare.”
The other down tube addition is the three bottle-cage screw holes. This allows for two bottle cage positions. “The lower one is more aerodynamic,” Williams confirms.
Drivechain wise it’s a press-fit Shimano BB with a 7800 crank arm, but this time using the corresponding 7800 generation SRM power meter. “As Froomey uses Osymetric chainrings, his 56/42t chainrings work out at about a 55t on a normal chainring. It’s the same as some of the other guys in the team.”
The only other non-standard addition is an interesting-looking chain catcher. “We stuck a bit of foam inside to act as a chain guide,” Williams explains. “It’ll be painted black for the Tour; it was a last-minute thing we made today.”
“This frameset is a light frameset as we took all the paint off it,” Williams says. “We’re not totally sure how much it saves but it’s probably over 50 grams.
“Froomey likes to ride 40cm centre to centre compact bars, with a 125mm stem,” he adds casually, but we noticed the 126mm sticker on the side, the outcome of Sky’s own fabricated stem measuring device, demonstrated when we visited the team’s service course last November. It’s this level of fastidiousness with riders’ positions and equipment that allows Sky to make adjustments with pinpoint accuracy.
We also noticed that the Pro bars that Froome is riding appear to be custom carbon, which is rare, as most riders tend to stick to an alloy bar/stem combo, generally a lighter, more resilient choice.
“He’s got Shimano 11-speed Di2 with an internal battery with 54-42 Osymetric chainrings. Froomey’s the only one on them now, as Brad doesn’t ride them any more. He’s also got his SRM cranks,” Williams continues.
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Mix and match
It’s a combination that Shimano would have you believe wouldn’t work – equipping the bike with Osymetric chainrings using a Dura-Ace 7800 crank arm and an SRM power meter spider may not be pretty but it’s effective and gets over the issue with Osymetric only coming as a five-bolt chainring option.
“I’ve not been aware of any issues, it seems to work OK,” says Williams, clearly unfazed by the fact that this was one of the hottest topics of pundits who speculated as to why Wiggins stopped using oval chainrings at this year’s Giro.
“Oh and we’ve got a custom chain catcher. We’ve had it made just for us, with another version coming for the Tour,” Williams says. It looks like a lightweight alloy catcher that’s bolted on via the front mech braze-on mount.
“Froomey uses the same team edition Antares saddle as the rest of the team; it’s been strengthened with a bit more carbon underneath which means it has less give.” The extra carbon looks like an ovalised flat disc adhered to the underside of the saddle directly below the central pressure-relieving channel of the Fizik Antares.
Note half measures
“He’s riding on Dura-Ace C50 wheels with 23.5 Veloflex tubs.” 23.5? Yes, you read that right, 23 and a half! It’s not that the tolerances of mass-produced tyres aren’t acceptable to Team Sky, it’s just that they present another variable that can be measured, recorded and then utilised. The C50s are the outcome of the mechanics’ handiwork – we recall having a chat with the guys building them up when we last visited Sky’s service course.
“Other than that, it’s pretty standard equipment really,” says Williams, confirming that money on its own can’t buy results – at this level it’s down to talent and hard graft.
This article was first published in the June 20 issue of Cycling Weekly. Read Cycling Weekly magazine on the day of release where ever you are in the world International digital edition, UK digital edition. And if you like us, rate us!