At the 2014 Tour de France we have seen all manner of unique modifications, as riders and teams seek to eke out the best performance, highest comfort and most information from their tools – while still remaining inside the UCI rules that govern the sport.
A common sight in recent years is a domestique dropping back to a team car, and absolutely cramming his jersey — all three pockets, down the neck, up from the bottom — with water bottles to take to his teammates. Tinkoff-Saxo Bank and clothing sponsor Sportful have a better solution.
On stage 1, a Tinkoff-Saxo Bank rider dropped back to the car and, instead of grabbing bottle after bottle, just grabbed a mesh vest loaded with seven bottles. With five bottle holsters one the back and one on each side of the front, the Sportful vest clips on with a single plastic buckle like on a backpack stabilizer strap.
Tinkoff-Saxo Bank team boss Bjarne Riis said he spoke to Sportful about the novel idea a few weeks ago.
“We asked if it would be possible to make such a thing, and they said yes,” Riis said. And the rest – and perhaps the old jersey-stuffing tradition – is history.
Featherweight meets lead weight
One UCI rule is the minimum bicycle weight regulation, which specifies that all bikes must weigh at least 6.8kg (14.99lb). Trek just introduced the Emonda, a road bike that weighs – when built to a certain spec – just 4.65kg / 10.25lb. That weight is with hyper light Tune wheels, but even with the team’s taller-rimmed Bontrager hoops and an SRM power meter, many Emonda bikes are still underweight. So, Trek has a modular system of cylindrical weights that are inserted into the crank spindle.
Using a mix of solid aluminum and lead as needed, Trek mechanics can get the bikes exactly to minimum weight, taking into account the particular wheels to be used that day. Using all lead pieces, it weighs 350g. For smaller frames, sometimes an additional piece of lead is needed, which can be bolted underneath the water-bottle cage.
The rule, originally instated as a safety measure, is now outdated and widely regarded as silly; adding lead weights clearly isn’t adding safety. “The UCI knows the rule needs to be updated,” Trek Factory Racing team liaison Jordan Roessingh said. “They just don’t have a solution yet.”
Less is more
We have seen a few variations of shifter configurations over the years, but we have never seen a rider remove the rubber hoods. Bauke Mollema of Team Belkin prefers the feel of a naked lever wrapped in a bit of handlebar tape. While a continuous wrap of bar and lever would probably be smoother, team mechanics use the team green on the bar and black on the lever to somewhat disguise the fact that the hood cover is missing.
Dropper posts on the road?
Adjustable-height seatposts at professional bike races aren’t new — on the mountain-bike circuit. But a dropper post on a road bike? Well, Vincenzo Nibali has one on one of his spare bikes. As one of the very best descenders in the peloton, the Italian probably appreciates the dropper post for the same reason mountain bikers do; it makes whipping the bikes around on descents easier, and you can get your weight lower while still keeping contact with the saddle. The FSA EB13 model works by twisting the thick part with one hand, raising or lowering the saddle.
And that's not all…
Check out the massive gallery above for dozens of up-close details on the bikes and gear of the 2014 Tour de France peloton.