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A keen eye may have noticed a slight change in the bib shorts and jerseys of Garmin-Cervèlo’s Tyler Farrar, Johan VanSummeren, Heinrich Haussler, and Matt Wilson at Milan-San Remo this year. That’s because they weren’t wearing bib shorts and jerseys anymore – at least not as we know them.
Castelli, clothing sponsor for Garmin-Cervèlo, used La Primavera to debut their new San Remo speed suit, the first ever skinsuit designed for long-haul road racing. The new suit is, at its core, a pair of Castelli Body Paint shorts and full-zip Aero Race jersey stitched together.
The debut at San Remo and the reason for the suit’s name is related to Heinrich Haussler’s narrow defeat to Mark Cavendish at the race in 2009. Castelli’s goal was to create “something that could certainly erase that desperately small three centimeter margin between triumph and tears,” said Castelli brand manager Steve Smith.
The upper jersey uses a slightly different fit and a new material on the shoulders to further enhance aerodynamics. This modified jersey is then stitched three quarters of the way around the waist to a regular Body Paint short. The bib straps are scrapped because the jersey itself takes care of holding the shorts up, and the front of the jersey (the part not stitched to the shorts) slightly overlaps the shorts, allowing riders to take a nature break on the bike.
The jersey is still full-zip, allowing riders to completely expose their chests for cooling. In addition, Castelli says the three pockets hold just as much as their Body Paint jersey, and actually hold it more securely.
The suit is designed to eliminate the only real aerodynamic problem area remaining with modern aero jersey/short combos: the side panels. It’s nearly impossible to get these panels to lie perfectly flat since they’re usually only under tension in one direction (around the body), and therefore tend to wrinkle. The San Remo suit tugs the sidepanels from below, “making an area that was once a weakness now extremely aero,” according Smith.
Garmin-Cervèlo general manager Joop Alberda inspired the new suit, which as two patents pending. Alberda comes from a sports management background that includes numerous Olympic medals and world titles, all outside of pro cycling. In fact, it was his cycling-equipment naiveté that led to the idea. He asked Castelli why the team didn’t race in their skinsuits, and in the process of answering they began wonder if the problems with skinsuits – the impossibility of mid-ride nature breaks and pockets that are far too small for a day on the road – could be solved.
The new San Remo suit hasn’t been in the wind tunnel yet, but Castelli estimates benefits in the range of 8-10 watts over their own Aero Race jersey.
Availability for the public is set for summer 2012, and prices haven’t been set yet, though Castelli says “definitely under $380.” That’s expensive, but not beyond the pale for a high-end pair of bibs and a jersey.