Team Sky debuted what looked like a new Castelli skinsuit at the Giro d’Italia’s first time trial on Tuesday, a skinsuit that could be the specially designed kit Chris Froome will wear at the Tour de France this summer.
The new suit, which was worn by Mikel Landa and Geraint Thomas was noticeably different from the Castelli Body Paint 3.3 suit being worn by the rest of Team Sky.
Team Sky and their clothing partner Castelli have been working with researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology for the last year to develop a new skinsuit for this season, ahead of Froome’s attempt to win a fourth Tour title this July. Castelli replaced Rapha as the team’s clothing sponsor for 2017.
The skinsuits worn by Landa and Thomas on the Giro’s stage 10 time trial on Tuesday featured visibly different fabrics and construction to the existing Castelli Body Paint 3.3 suit, as well as featured an integrated number pocket.
While unable to confirm whether this exact suit will be worn by Froome this July as it could evolve further and change before then, it is evidence of new technologies being tested by the team and Castelli in the run up to the Tour.
Sky started working with researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology at the start of 2016, a collaboration that came about after staff at Sky read the thesis of one of the researchers in the department of physics, Luca Oggiano who has a PhD in sports aerodynamics, and got in touch.
Although details of the technology used in the suit are being kept closely under wraps, speaking to Cycling Weekly earlier this spring, Oggiano said the team had tried to take a “completely new approach” to what has been done before; rethinking the fabric and way the suit is put together.
The researchers also have a replica model of Froome in his time trial position for round the clock testing, and have been testing prototypes in indoor velodromes.
“We’ve been doing almost a year of intensive testing, we test different technologies and different ideas that we have and that we are either going to implement in the prototype,” Oggiano said. “It’s about one year of intensive testing through the university and some students and researchers.
“I think that what we tried to do here was have a completely new approach to what has been done before. We set up a table together with Castelli and Team Sky to think about what was done, what was the feel of the item, and try to rethink the way things were done.”
Watch: How much faster does a skinsuit make you?
This year’s Tour features two time trials at both end of the race; a 14 kilometre test on stage one, then a crucial 23 kilometre TT on the penultimate stage in Marseille after which the race winner will be all but crowned. Though there are significantly fewer time trialling kilometres this year than in recent editions of the race, the time trials remain as important to the general classification.
Simon Jones, speaking as Sky’s head of performance support and innovation before he took over as performance director at Cycling Australia in April, said they were hoping to see “continuous improvements” rather than a “step change” in performance with the suit.
“It will always boil down to seconds, we’re not going to suddenly take a minute off a 40km time trial but you can win or lose a Tour on a matter of seconds,” Jones said.
Froome however, is hoping he won’t even get to wear the suit by the time the second time trial comes around in France, as if he’s in the yellow jersey by that point he will be required to wear the official, race issue yellow skinsuit provided by the organisers.
“[We’re trying to] make sure things we can control we’re absolutely all over,” Froome told Cycling Weekly of the suit. “If everything goes according to plan hopefully I’ll be in a yellow skinsuit by that point, so I probably wont even get to use it.
“I guess if I need to make up time then all these little things can add up, it’s something we’re looking at now. I’ve done several fittings already, I’ve still got a couple more to go.”