To go aero or not to go aero? This is the question facing the riders ahead of next Wednesday’s time trial between Embrun and Chorges.
The 32-kilometre stage includes two second-category climbs and technical descents apiece and features very few flat roads.
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Several teams rode the stage before the Tour began, with getting to know the course seemingly as important as obtaining feedback on equipment.
“We want to be as aero and light as possible, so while time trial skinsuits and helmets will be worn, the weight of the TT bike is something to consider,” Sky mechanic Gary Blem told Cycling Weekly.
“The stage basically features one long climb with a short descent in the middle, so you’re not going to gain anything there with a time trial bike. I imagine our riders will all be on road bikes with aero extensions on handlebars.
“We’re also looking at whether or not a disc wheel will help or because the speeds on climbs are relatively slow and on the descent riders will need to use their brakes frequently. There does not appear to be a big performance increase.”
Garmin-Sharp directeur sportif Charly Wegelius echoed Blem’s sentiments. “It’s a much easier choice than it would have been in the past because we have aerodynamic road bikes, which are perfect for a mid-terrain time trial bike,” he said.
“Because a lot of the top riders are so used to riding in the time trial position, they can ride fairly steep hills like that on their road bike without any problems.”
Richie Porte won this year’s Paris-Nice time trial on Col d’Eze using a modified version of his Pinarello Dogma road bike.
However, had Lotto-Belisol’s Jurgen Van Den Broeck have made it to the stage instead of retiring from the race injured, his directeur sportif Herman Frison said he would have opted for all-out aero performance.
“Jurgen he saw the course, and he said he was going to go for a time trial bike. Nowadays the GC riders are so used to that bike, they can climb and descend on it without any problems,’ said Frison.
When Jean-Francois Bernard won the mountain time trial in Mont Ventoux in the 1987 Tour, he started on a time trial bike and then swapped to a road bike at the bottom of the climb.
“We’ve looked at that as well, and we estimate you will lose 25 seconds,” said Blem. “Would you really want to enter a race knowing you’re going to lose that time before you have even started?
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