The countdown to the 2016 Tour de France is almost over and the teams are ready to fight hard for the next three weeks.
In order to win stages and potentially placing some riders high in the GC, Giant-Alpecin concentrated on three different aspects to give its best at the next Grande Boucle: aerodynamics, safety and overnight recovery.
Already tested last year – and according to Giant-Alpecin having had good feedback from riders – protective fibre Dyneema (developed along with brand Etxeondo) has been improved and used also in the aero jersey. The new material is claimed to be more stretchy and less thick.
Giant-Alpecin’s technical R&D expert Tom Davids said: “We managed to incorporate the protective fibre into our aero jersey.
"Our technological challenge was to keep the same level of comfort, because the Dyneema fibre is extremely tough – it’s normally used as bullet protection.
"The aero jersey offers protection to the shoulder area, one of the most vulnerable areas for cyclists, and will be used when they need it the most: during the flat stages where speeds are sometimes up to 70 km/h as riders fight for position in the final kilometres.”
According to Alpecin’s coach Adriaan Helmanten, the protective fabric used in the shorts and the jerseys will help to reduce the wounds and the injuries sustained in crashes.
A further tech development that will be used by Giant-Alpecin’s riders will be the new Pursuit helmet, a products conceived both for the hot days of July (with specific ventilation features) and optimal aerodynamics.
But the time-gaining process also goes through marginal gains (which can mean the diffeence between success or the defeat in time trials) and futuristic techniques, like laser test combined to helium-filled soap bubbles used to develop the team’s skin suit.
“We wind tunnel tested different types of fabrics with different structures to understand why one suit is faster than another and to determine what fabrics should be placed on which parts of the body for optimal results.”, scientist Teun van Erp explained.
He added, “we used the unique PIV (Particle Image Velocimetry) technique, which is only available at TU Delft [Delft University of Technology, in the Netherlands, with whom the team started to work in 2015].
"This technique allows us to record and analyse the airflow by the use of helium-filled soap bubbles, laser technology and special software. We need soap bubbles and a laser to make the airflow visible and apply helium to let the bubbles drift, because the molecules in soap are heavier than air and would otherwise drop.”
Last but not least, as the overnight recovery is a crucial part of the recovery process along the more than 3,000km of the Tour de France, Giant-Alpecin also partnered with the high-quality mattress brand Auping, and each rider will be sleeping on a mattress tailored to his particular body, which were scanned in order to fit the mattress to the body.
“Rest and recovery,” Helmantel says, “are crucial for all human beings and especially for athletes tackling the toughest stage race in professional cycling.
"Making sure they get a good night’s sleep after the hard stages will obviously result in better performance the following day.”
The partnership Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) is focused on innovation improvement and the first projects started in 2015.
One of the projects developed between Giant-Alpecin and TU Delft is the “sensorbike”, a sensor that traces the rider’s movement and enables the team to analyse his descent and improve his descending and cornering skills.
The other aspects that Giant-Alpecin and TU Delft are developing together are data analyses applied to cycling, optimisation of power distribution and aerodynamics
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Nick Busca is a freelance cycling and triathlon journalist. He is also a certified triathlon coach and personal trainer.