In Rio, American Kristin Armstrong won a historic third Olympic gold medal in the time trial, following up on her victories in London and Beijing. Armstrong turns 43 on August 11, and was a controversial selection for the 2016 Games after placing third in the US national time trial in May.
BikeRadar took a look at the Felt DA1 her husband and mechanic Joe Savola meticulously assembled for the US TT. Her Olympic bike features a different paint job, but is largely the same build.
Armstrong and Savola have a unique relationship with the bike in the middle. While some racers can say their husbands help with the bike here and there, how many can say their husband machined parts for their first Olympic gold-winning bike and then turned said parts into a company?
The now ubiquitous K-Edge chain catchers seen on WorldTour bikes began as Savola’s obsessive project for the 2008 Beijing time trial course that feature a sharp transition from descent into a climb. Savola wanted to make darn sure that Armstrong’s chain did not drop as she shifted from the big to the small ring.
A few months ago, Savola sold the company he helped found, and is now focused again on perfecting Armstrong’s bike.
“Kristin and her coach take care of her body,” Savola said. “I take care of the bike. It’s my project. I get a lot of help from [USA Cycling’s] Jim Miller and others in the bike industry.”
Armstrong has spent the first half of the year doing stage races that feature time trials. Besides the training and the chance to show her form to USA Cycling officials who will pick the Olympic team, Armstrong said these events are also a good mental exercise.
“Every race I have targeted, being in the start house and overcoming those nerves, that’s a good thing,” Armstrong says. “Whether it’s San Dimas, Redlands, Gila or California, overcoming those nerves gives you confidence and relaxes you. It’s all for third gold medal.”
Wax, two tubular widths and oval chain rings
At the US national time trial championships in May, Armstrong had her Felt DA1 bike — well, two, actually — with a specially prepared chain coat in Moulton Speed Wax.
It’s a tedious process to put on race wax — think half a dozen cleaning steps including ultrasonic cleaning and alcohol cleaning of the chain, then melting wax onto the chain, then breaking up the solidified wax.
“It’s far easier to glue a tubular,” Savola points out. “But based on the testing that [FrictionFacts] Jason Smith has done, to hundredths of a watt, it’s the fastest system out there. “
Savola draws a parallel of waxed race chains to expensive waxes for cross-country ski racers: it won’t last long, but if done right it will make you faster.
It also looks surprisingly messy for a pro bike, with a dull gray sheen on the chain and everything it touches.
Armstrong was an early tester of SRAM eTap, and her Felt has remote shifters on the extensions and the cowhorns. “SRAM eTap stuff makes it a dream to build,” Savola says.
Armstrong has a Quarq power meter tucked inside Rotor Q rings on the SRAM Red crank, with CeramicSpeed pulleys replacing the standard Red options.
A Zipp disc and Zipp 808 front wheel roll on Vittoria Chrono CS tubulars, 22mm in the front and 24 in the rear.
Armstrong likes the feel of these tubulars, and Savola said his research has found them to be the fastest in terms of aerodynamics and rolling resistance.
“With time trials, it’s more about aerodynamics than rolling resistance,” he said. “At 25mph, aero trumps resistance every time. That’s why you don’t see 25mm on most top riders’ bikes.”
For complete coverage of the Olympic Games, be sure to visit Cyclingnews.