Race tech: Uphill time trial inspires unique bikes

Road/aero hybrids at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge

Yesterday's USA Pro Cycling Challenge stage 3 time trial wasn't your average race against the clock. Though the course climbed a significant 530m (1,738ft) over its 16.1km (10.0mi) length, the first half was only mildly uphill and many riders were treated to a healthy tailwind – making it neither a blisteringly fast individual effort nor a pure hill climb. Not surprisingly then, many of the bikes used were novel hybrids tailored specifically to the day.

One of the most creative machines was Christian Vande Velde's Garmin-Cervélo rig. Built around Cervélo's ultralight R5ca frame – a roughly 700g featherweight normally reserved for big mountain stages – team mechanics dressed it up in full aero gear, including a disc rear wheel, deep-section front wheel and integrated aero bars mounted on an adjustable stem. According to team sports scientist Robbie Ketchell, Vande Velde's position was nearly identical to that of his full-blown P4 time trial rig.

Given the nominal gains offered by even the best aero frames, the trick setup likely represented only a slight increase in drag. More importantly, though, the ultralight chassis yielded a final package that was unusually light for a time trial bike – a key performance advantage for the second half of the course. According to team mechanic Geoff Brown, Vande Velde's aero-dressed R5ca was well under 7kg (15.4lb). 

Tom danielson (garmin-cervélo) also had his own trick road/time trial hybrid setup: tom danielson (garmin-cervélo) also had his own trick road/time trial hybrid setup

Tom Danielson (Garmin-Cervélo) had his own trick road/time trial hybrid setup

Many teams stuck to their standard time trial bikes, preferring to just tweak the setups with slightly taller bar heights and/or larger rear cassettes to better handle the climb. But road/time trial hybrids like Garmin-Cervélo's machines were definitely present en masse – just in more mild incarnations that typically involved a set of aero clip-ons and deep section, or disc, wheels. 

One thing we were surprised not to see, however, were Shimano Dura-Ace Di2-equipped teams taking advantage of the group's plug-and-play satellite bar end shifters. While we haven't tried the combination ourselves, mechanics should have been able to add clip-on bars to the riders' road bikes and add a very useful set of shifters out on the ends of the extensions to save a few valuable sections on the faster lower section of the course.

At least in theory, skil-shimano team mechanics could have added bar end shifters to this hybrid setup: at least in theory, skil-shimano team mechanics could have added bar end shifters to this hybrid setup

At least in theory, Skil-Shimano team mechanics could have added bar end shifters to this hybrid setup

James Huang

Technical Editor, US
James started as a roadie in 1990 with his high school team but switched to dirt in 1994 and has enjoyed both ever since. Anything that comes through his hands is bound to be taken apart, and those hands still sometimes smell like fork oil even though he retired from shop life in 2007. He prefers manual over automatic, fizzy over still, and the right way over the easy way.
  • Discipline: Mountain, road, cyclocross
  • Preferred Terrain: Up in the Colorado high-country where the singletrack is still single, the dirt is still brown, and the aspens are in full bloom. Also, those perfect stretches of pavement where the road snakes across the mountainside like an artist's paintbrush.
  • Beer of Choice: Mexican Coke
  • Location: Boulder, Colorado, USA

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