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Garmin-Chipotle fall camp means plenty of new stuff from suppliers

To a cycling enthusiast, the fall Garmin-Chipotle team camp may look like Christmas for the 28 riders on the squad, but to them it’s another day at the office. Whether they’re thumbing through Fi’zi:k’s ‘Blackbook,’ the brand’s 2009 saddle catalog, trying to decide which saddle to choose or test, or they’re submitting sizes for 2XU compression gear, or sitting through a lecture on wheel selection by sponsor Zipp — it’s all work. [nid:85344]

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By Matt Pacocha

Camp Garmin Tech: Fi’zi:k’s brand new time trial saddle, the Ares. It’s modeled after the Antares, but with a shorter nose.

Photo: Matt Pacocha

To a cycling enthusiast, the fall Garmin-Chipotle team camp may look like Christmas for the 28 riders on the squad, but to them it’s another day at the office.

Whether they’re thumbing through Fi’zi:k’s ‘Blackbook,’ the brand’s 2009 saddle catalog, trying to decide which saddle to choose or test, or they’re submitting sizes for 2XU compression gear, or sitting through a lecture on wheel selection by sponsor Zipp — it’s all work. [nid:85344]

Looking in from the outside, though, it’s easy to be awestruck by the amount of product these guys are inundated by from their sponsors. The hall outside the St. Julian hotel conference room in Boulder, Colorado, where the sponsors met with the team, was filled with mountains of product; compression wear from 2XU, bottles and hydration packs from Camelbak and boxes upon boxes of Crocs footwear.

The riders didn’t just hold their arms out and let the sponsors fill them up. It was much more serious — this is their day job. Think if you had to pick the saddle you were going to put more than 15,000 miles on in the coming season. Imagine how you would feel if the saddle you used last year was to be discontinued — the case for Christian Vande Velde, who will no longer have access to his favorite Fi’zi:k Nisene. What if your bottle becomes plugged with road grime at Paris-Roubaix, a concern brought up by the classics riders and soigneurs during Camelbak’s presentation. How about trying to get your compression wear sponsor, 2XU, to bump up the pressure rating of your recovery socks past the pressure limit set by the FDA?

Garmin’s athletes take these problems as seriously as the rest of us take filing our next report at the office, maybe even more so. It’s serious business and these guys know if they slack now, or cut their sponsors slack now they might not have the right tool for the job come crunch time in April, June or July. The interaction between the riders and the representatives from their sponsors in this four-hour session proved dynamic and ranged from introductions, to requests for feedback, to feedback itself and even gratitude — in both directions. Here are some of the highlights.

Camelbak

“We’re known as a rebel brand,” said Lane Rigney, VP of sales for Camelbak, addressing the team from the front of the meeting room. “We started in mountain bikes and we didn’t have a ProTour team until last year. We picked your team because of your proven efforts in clean racing and your willingness to embrace technology.”

Camp Garmin Tech: Camelbak’s bottles and Fi’zi:k saddles.

Photo: Matt Pacocha

Some of that technology is found in Camelbak’s Podium bottle, which is at the upper end of the market in both price and features. The main feature is the bottle’s self-sealing valve. The point of contention for the soigneurs and classics riders is that the valve has a little cup to catch road slime, which could possibly plug the bottle. Camelbak reps mentioned that they already have a mud cap in the works that should be ready and available to the riders this spring.

Camp Garmin Tech: What the soigneurs are worried about.

Camp Garmin Tech: What the soigneurs are worried about.

Photo: Matt Pacocha

Camelbak also has a new insulated bottle called the Podium Chill Jacket, which incorporates double walls with insulating foam in between. It will be available to the riders to keep cold drinks cold on hot days and hot drinks hot on cold days and utilizes the same valve. Part of Camelbak’s sponsorship includes an extra 40,000 argyle Podium bottles printed with all of the riders’ signatures that will be sold to the public.

Arguably, one of the reasons the team is most excited to have Camelbak on board as a sponsor is its Raceback hydration shirt. The Raceback incorporates a 72-ounce bladder sleeve into a base layer that’s meant to be worn under a jersey or skinsuit for time trials and other specific applications. The team, however, may be using a different model dubbed the ‘Race Front.’ The concept for this is the same, but orients the bladder to the front of the rider’s chest where there is potential for greater aerodynamic gain.

Zipp

Garmin’s wheel sponsor Zipp was excited to present its new products to the team, which included its new hubs, 404 and 808. Key points of the hubs are larger axles, better finishing details, and greater range of preload adjustment on the bearings. For the wheels, all of Zipp’s rims now incorporate its Carbon Bridge technology, which is the molding of Kevlar into the outer edges of the tire bead for better impact resistance. Zipp also incorporated a new spoke-lacing pattern, where the drive side is radially laced, to achieve a better bracing angle for the wheel’s dish and greater stiffness. Zipp says the new design is upwards of 20 percent stiffer.

Camp Garmin Tech: Christian Vande Velde signs a blemished Sub 9 disc wheel to be auctioned for charity.

Camp Garmin Tech: Christian Vande Velde signs a blemished Sub 9 disc wheel to be auctioned for charity.

Photo: Matt Pacocha

Zipp’s representatives also touched on recommendations for choosing the right wheel for a stage. The basic tenets of this discussion centered on Zipp’s wind tunnel data and weight. The conversation boiled down to this: A climbing wheel won’t provide a greater benefit than an aero wheel unless there is sustained climbing above 8-percent. On the flats, Zipp told the Garmin riders go deep, by using its 808, since it will save upwards of 10 watts over the 202 and for hilly stages with fast climbing that averages around 5 percent, the lighter 404 still offers an aerodynamic advantage that outweighs its additional weight over the 202.

2XU

‘Two times you,’ the name of Garmin’s compression wear sponsor, refers to how much better, faster, stronger you would be if there were two of you. On the professional circuit compression is accepted as a fundamental part of the recovery process, thus it’s important for a team to have access to compression clothing.

The Garmin team is initially outfitted with 2XU’s Elite dual denier tight and Recovery sock. The tight combines two different fabrics woven in a circular net — made from American Dupont Lycra, which Richard Verney, 2XU’s marketing director, considers the most durable and powerful — to better conform and compress muscle groups.

The Recovery socks support fewer muscle groups, but offer slightly higher compressive pressure, upwards of 40mmhg, at the ankle; the tights are 37mmhg. Verney considers the socks better for travel since they are more comfortable when sitting on a plane during long flights. For race recovery, however, he recommended the socks and tights be used together.

Magnus Backstedt asked questions about compression tops, which Verney said could help in rough races like Paris-Roubaix and can help the riders be aware of, and maintain, better posture. Other questions included the possibility of the team having special items made that exceed the FDA’s over the counter 40mmhg compression limit. Verney said that the brand would entertain the idea.

Finally Felt

Camp Garmin Tech: Allen Lim and Jim Felt talk over Vande Velde’s position and how he will adopt 3T’s aero bar.

Photo: Matt Pacocha

The juiciest presentation for the riders was the talk Jim Felt gave. Felt described his company as a young, small company that is becoming a thorn in the side of the industry’s biggest manufacturers. Felt has just six engineers, he said.

The team’s bike order is already placed; it’s something that Felt said takes up to five months to fulfill, so riders have already, mostly, chosen the models they want to ride. Felt told a story centered around a new high modulus carbon the manufacturer just got it’s hands on. The carbon allows them to use a new undisclosed process to mold the bikes, shaving massive amounts of weight from the bikes.

The team’s 2009 F1 model will lose over a half pound from last year’s model and the AR aero road frame loses an entire pound. In both cases, the stiffness goes way up via the use of internal supports, says Felt. His candor with the riders was impressive.

“We’re pushing limits,” he said, “at those weights we’re going to break some bikes.”

Felt said that the bikes are most susceptible in their paper-thin seat and chainstays, not so much when riding, but when crashing. Pushing the limits, however, is something that both the team and Felt seem comfortable with.

The team’s tour riders have their fingers crossed that the new prototype DA time trial frame, which engineers have been working on for over a year already, will be ready for July.

“I wish I could tell you that you’ll have this for the Tour,” Felt told the riders, but he didn’t make a promise. Later in the presentation, he said that the new DA is a priority, as is a total redesign of the stalwart F1 road frame.

“By the middle of the year we’ll have some new bikes for you guys to ride.”

Felt’s talk ended with genuine complements in both directions.

“Internationally, you’ve made our job (of selling bikes) a lot easier,” he said. “So thanks.”

Felt’s gratitude was met with telling sentiments from the riders.

“The way you’ve listened to us has been pretty impressive,” said Julian Dean, to which the rest of the riders followed up with a big round of applause.

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