Tour de France 2020

Why did Michael Rogers drop his chain?

Michael Rogers dropped his chain off the small chainring in the stage one time trial, not once, but twice, forcing him to dismount and put it back on. He was on a Scott Plasma3, as were all his teammates, and he was using a Shimano Dura Ace Di2 grouppo, the same as on all the team TT bikes. What went wrong? According to team mechanic Perry Moerman, a relatively last-minute equipment change, compounded by the nature of Di2 front shifting, conspired to cause the problem. Normally, Di2 is set up and programmed to shift perfectly between a 53- and a 39-tooth chainring.

By Zack Vestal

2009 TdF Tech, Rogers' bike: Team Columbia-HTC uses Shimano Di2 shifting exclusively on its stable of Scott Plasma3 bikes.

2009 TdF Tech, Rogers’ bike: Team Columbia-HTC uses Shimano Di2 shifting exclusively on its stable of Scott Plasma3 bikes.

Photo: Zack Vestal

Michael Rogers dropped his chain off the small chainring in the stage one time trial, not once, but twice, forcing him to dismount and put it back on. He was on a Scott Plasma3, as were all his teammates, and he was using a Shimano Dura Ace Di2 grouppo, the same as on all the team TT bikes. What went wrong?

According to team mechanic Perry Moerman, a relatively last-minute equipment change, compounded by the nature of Di2 front shifting, conspired to cause the problem. Normally, Di2 is set up and programmed to shift perfectly between a 53- and a 39-tooth chainring.

But shortly before the stage start, Rogers opted to use a 46-tooth chainring, and the shifting didn’t cooperate on course. Said Moerman, “There’s a small computer that calculates (the amount of derailleur movement required), but of course we changed the gear settings. We put on an inner chainring that is much bigger than the computer could calculate.”

2009 TdF Tech, Rogers' bike: For now, the team zip-ties the Di2 batteries under the saddles.

2009 TdF Tech, Rogers’ bike: For now, the team zip-ties the Di2 batteries under the saddles.

Photo: Zack Vestal

He added, “But that’s not a combination that is in the system precalculated. It was just as much of a surprise for us as well, because it was working well (before the start). But just before the start he decided to go with the bigger chainring, but we didn’t realize it was preset, everything,” said Moerman. “Now we know. Because it’s still so new we didn’t know.”

“Most importantly it was nobody’s fault,” team mechanic Nic Vandecauter said. He pointed out that things happen, and nothing was loose or misadjusted on the bicycle. “I was behind him, and it looked like he might have hit a small bump at the same time,” he said.

No matter the cause, the mishaps cost Rogers at least 20 seconds. From now on, look for every bike to work perfectly — good mechanics never let the same mechanical fault happen twice, and it’s safe to say the Columbia-HTC mechanics are every bit as good as their riders.

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