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By Matt Pacocha
While some team mechanics were scrambling to deal with the UCI’s clarification of equipment regulations, others were still building special bikes for the prologue late Friday afternoon. With dinnertime rapidly approaching Aussie Michael Rogers of T-Mobile was seen in conference with his team’s mechanics. They were speaking in front of a half-built aluminum time-trial bike.
Across the parking lot, Saunier-Duval Prodir mechanics were busying themselves with tidying up the team truck. All of the bikes were snugly packed and ready for tomorrow’s ride into the heart of London.
The common bond between these two teams is that each has equipped its time-trial star with a third time-trial bike that’s specially built for Saturday’s prologue through the downtown streets of London.
The course is said to only have one corner that requires braking. So these riders have refined their regular positions for maximum aerodynamics and maximum rear wheel traction.
A bike for the Scott
Saunier-Duval mechanics were kind enough to remove the custom painted Plasma, already packed away in the truck, that its sponsor Scott USA supplied David Millar with for the prologue. The bike’s graphics pay homage to Millar’s Scottish heritage. While the frame is said to be identical to his long course race and back-up time-trial bikes, the cockpit of the special prologue bike has a few modifications for the presumably bumpy city streets.
Millar will use longer aero‘ extensions than his usual for a traditional long-course time-trial. His mechanics have also fixed small homemade stops at the ends of the bars to keep his hands from slipping off. Below, at the crankset, Millar’s bike has a chain watcher affixed to his braze-on derailleur mount. The tires, from the French manufacturer Hutchinson, are larger than expected for time-trialing.
Thunder from Down Under?
It’s said that Rogers has spent less time honing his time-trial ability in an effort to match his climbing ability to those off the front in the mountains. But with the effort his mechanics were making in the last hours before the prologue, one can only assume that he still has the aspirations, and the confidence, to contest races against the clock.
The mechanics at T-Mobile were working on an aluminum bike made specifically for Rogers and the London course. They were tight lipped as to how it was different. But the major changes presumably pertain to the bike geometry.
“It’s a special bike for the prologue,” said one mechanic. “I can’t tell you anymore.”
The rumor floating around the pits were that Rogers tested some of his competitors’ bikes prior to the start of the Tour and found at least one faster. This new Giant supposedly mirrors the geometry of the fastest one. Visually comparing Rogers’s back-up TCR Advanced time-trial bike and the new bike, it looks as thought the new one has slightly shorter chainstays. But making a visual assessment of millimeters is obviously a less-than-exact science.
Eyeballing bike metrics aside, Rogers’ new bike, like many at the start of the prologue, has a custom time-trial specific saddle from Selle Italia. The saddle uses the basic Flite TT team shape but has a chopped nose to conform to the geometry rules set by the UCI.
Both riders have aspirations, but if either fulfills them this afternoon, you can be sure we’ll delve deeper into the equipment that helped them get there.