Stage 3 of the 2020 Paris Nice tested riders against the clock. Known as course de la vérité — the “race of truth” — riders left the start house one at a time for a 14.4-kilometer solo effort.
At the end of the day, there were big changes in the general classification which now has already seen three different leaders in as many days.
The route, on paper at least, looked to be flat but was in fact rolling and had very technical points, and some sharp turns to test riders’ skills. And the final 4oo-meter stretch tested riders’ determination while their legs and lungs burned from the sub-20-minute all-out effort.
All used wind-cheating bikes, wheels, various slippery components, helmets, and apparel to try to decrease wind drag.
Here’s a look at the tech in use in this early-season stage race.
Andrey Amador of Ineos-Grenadiers was riding a sponsor-correct rear wheel from Shimano. That front wheel is a Princeton CarbonWorks Wake 6560.
Many of the Ineos Grenadiers, like two-time world time trial champion Rohan Dennis, have taken to Princeton CarbonWorks front wheel with a scalloped profile which has been proven to decrease the effect of crosswinds.
Tao Geoghegan Hart was tuning his time trial skills and equipment setup for a Tour de France debut later this season.
It’s unusual in 2021 to see narrow wheels, rim brakes, and especially an aluminum brake track on WorldTour bikes. The Hed tri-spoke is not new technology, but it has been road-tested and race-proven for more than a decade.
The leader of the mountains classification, Fabien Doubey of Total Direct Énergie, was also riding a bike equipped with a tri-spoke front wheel. However, unlike the Hed wheel used by Andre Greipel of Israel Start-Up Nation, Doubey’s front wheel features newer design elements and a rotor for a disc brake.
Jos van Emden of Jumbo-Visma was wearing shoe covers with different texturing throughout. This design may be to gain an additional aero advantage by smoothing the “dirty” air coming off the back edge of that deep front wheel, as well as to lower the drag across the part of his body disturbing the most wind.
Tony Martin — the “Panzerwagen” — is a four-time world champion in the individual time trial, but he only gets one set of rainbow bands on his sleeves.
The different panels on his long-sleeve skin suit are meant to let air slip over his forearms while creating a little bit of turbulence on his shoulders to decrease overall drag and go faster for a given power output.
The water bottle on Brandon McNulty’s Colnago was not meant for hydration. The placement of this bidon — with its aero dimples — is purely for aerodynamic advantage.
In 2021 Team BikeExchange is riding Bianchi—which had been the bike parter for Jumbo-Visma for the past few seasons.
The Bianchi Aquila does not have disc brakes; the front brake caliper is hidden behind a removable service panel in the front of the fork.
Primož Roglič looked to be very comfortable on his Cervélo after several years on Bianchi bikes. He and his Jumbo-Visma squad were running some of the deepest front wheels spotted today.
The Slovenian finished third for the stage and also moved into third in the general classification, just six seconds back of the new race leader Stefan Bissegger.
Rémi Cavagna of Deceuninck-Quick-Step had posted the fastest time of the day when he stopped the clock for his effort.
While standing up is not as aero as a seated position, the course required riders to navigate turns and rolling parcours, so getting the bike back up to speed meant sometimes getting out of the saddle.
Michael Matthews, an accomplished sprinter now riding for Team BikeExchange, put in a heroic effort to defend the yellow jersey.
His effort against the clock today netted him a 17th place finish, ceding just 23 seconds to the winner. But these were precious seconds, and Matthews dropped to fifth on the GC.
At the recent UAE Tour, Stefan Bissegger of EF Education-Nippo posted a time to rival that of world champion Filippo Ganna, so his performance today was not a surprise.
Bissegger wore a POC Tempor helmet, and while this is not the latest aero gear, we can guess he’s very aerodynamic in it.
He had specially printed cockpit extensions on his Cannondale SuperSlice, which put his hands in an aerodynamic position. But we’re just not sure about that exposed rim brake and cable.