Tour de France 2021 mid-race tech round-up | Unbranded wheels, fast time-trial equipment, custom paint jobs and more

Tech trends from the biggest bike race of the year

Mark Cavendish and Mathieu Van Der Poel at the 2021 Tour de France

As the cliche goes, the Tour de France is cycling’s biggest and most important event. Every team turns up with its best kit in the hope of winning something, and every sponsor is keen to get its latest product under the spotlight.

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Luckily, for those limelight-hungry brands, we’re here to tell you about all the latest and greatest new cycling tech we’ve spotted at the Tour, and no doubt coming to a bike shop near you soon (subject to strained global supply chains).

After all, unless you’re the kind of nerd that works in the cycling media (like yours truly), wading through hours of race footage and thousands of press photographs can be time-consuming and dull. You, dear reader, are too good for that. Your time is too precious. So, with that in mind, we’ve done the work for you.

If it’s new bikes you’re interested in, check out our other story on the 10 new bikes we’ve spotted at the 2021 Tour de France, but, for everything else, you’re in the right place.

We’ve curated a selection of the most important tech stories from this year’s Tour de France, so you don’t have to worry about missing a thing.

Here’s what you can expect to see:

  • Non-sponsor correct kit is making a comeback – particularly with wheels
  • The yellow jersey is using disc brakes
  • The green jersey is using clinchers
  • New fast time-trial kit
  • All the best custom paint jobs

One thing you sadly won’t see here is a new Shimano Dura-Ace groupset. Having had an exclusive first look at what we believe is the next generation of Shimano’s flagship road groupset at the recent Baloise Tour of Belgium, we’ve so far only seen riders using the current generation Dura-Ace R9100 at this year’s Tour.

Non-sponsor correct kit is making a comeback – particularly with wheels

Just a few short years ago, non-sponsor correct kit was de rigueur in the professional peloton. It was common to see de-badged tyres, saddles, handlebars and other bits of kit on pro bikes, as individual rider tastes were accounted for.

Not all equipment is created equal, but with the rise of house brands, the ever-increasing integration of modern high-end racing bikes, and increasing sponsor influence, opportunities for fussy pros to customise their bikes had appeared to be on the wane. As we’ve commented before, pros don’t always get to choose exactly what they want.

Perhaps following the example of the most successful Grand Tour team of the past decade, Team Ineos Grenadiers (who are famously not afraid of using non-sponsor correct kit), it seems more WorldTour teams are now willing to risk sponsor ire in search of performance gains.

This year’s Tour sees Jumbo-Visma forgoing Shimano wheels in favour of unmarked Vision wheels for road stages and AeroCoach wheels in time trials.

We’re reliably informed that the Vision wheels are new models called the Metron 45 SL Disc and Metron 60 SL Disc.

Both wheelsets are said to be 20 per cent wider and around 11 per cent lighter than Vision’s previous top-end road disc brake wheels, Vision naturally claims these latest wheelsets are faster, lighter and easier to handle.

The already mentioned Team Ineos Grenadiers has been using Princeton CarbonWorks, Lightweight and AeroCoach wheels for both road and time trials, again in place of Shimano wheels.

Mathieu van der Poel got hold of a Princeton CarbonWorks rear disc wheel and an AeroCoach Titan front wheel for the crucial time trial in the first week, also at the expense of his team-issue Shimano wheels. He ditched his team-issue Abus time-trial helmet too, in favour of an unbranded Lazer Volante.

Stefan Kung of Groupama-FDJ also switched things up for the time trial, opting for a Shimano-branded Roval 321 rear disc wheel and what looks a lot like a Vision Metron 3 spoke disc front wheel – with the decals removed, of course.