By Zack Vestal
Among all the fantastic time trial bikes on hand in Monaco before stage 1, the team workspace with the broadest range of individuality in terms of TT bike setup was the Garmin-Slipstream pit.
Almost every variation in position, combination of components, and preference in handlebar grips could be found hanging on the racks in front of the mechanics’ truck. And until Fabian Cancellara set a fantastic time to win the prologue, Garmin’s Bradley Wiggins briefly held the best time on the day and wound up third — a testament in part to the hard work by the team to meet their rider’s needs.
It looks like an exceptional amount of extra work for the mechanics, but the culture within the team caters to every individual need in the pursuit of speed. The process begins in the winter, with wind tunnel, bike fitting, and power tests, said team mechanic Tom Hopper. And then, “It’s basically rider by rider, whatever they like, we try to accommodate and do the best we can with the product we have from our sponsors,” he said.
Team philosophy starts at the top, with team director Jonathan Vaughters. “He really enjoys the technology aspect of the time trials, the aerodynamics and all that stuff,” said Hopper. “So he’s really leading the way, in terms of, whatever the riders would like, we try to make it happen for them.”
Will that be mechanical, or Di2 for you, sir?
Some preferences affect fundamental aspects of the bike. Case in point: of the nine TT bikes on deck in the Garmin camp, four are fitted with mechanical Dura Ace 7900 drivetrains, four are fitted with electronic Di2, and one, ridden by Tyler Farrar, is split halfway — the front shifter is mechanical, and the rear is Di2.
“That was a little challenging,” said Hopper. “We were running shifter cables to the front, and electric wires to the rear. So we had to do some customization to the actual wiring harness,” he said. The wire that would normally run from the harness and battery pack to the front derailleur was amputated, he explained.
However, Bradley Wiggins takes it to a new level, literally combining Shimano Di2 time trial brake lever blades and shifter buttons with the brake hoods and body of mechanical 7900 levers.
“Bradley liked the feel of the normal hoods for standing and climbing,” said Hopper. At the Cinque Terre TT at the Giro, Wiggins rode his standard road bike with aero clip-ons, and noticed that he liked climbing with normal hoods.
Hopper explained that head mechanic Inaki Goiburu gutted a pair of mechanical 7900 brake/shifter levers, and installed the Di2 TT brake levers in place of the mechanical levers. “He (Goiburu) bolted this piece (the Di2 assembly) in place of the guts of the shifter, and then filled in the gap with black silicone,” he said. For his part, Goiburu didn’t seem bothered by the extra work, saying it only took two or three hours to assemble both lever bodies.
Get a fit and get a grip
In terms of fit, the same wide range of preference is found. Ryder Hesjedal takes the term “wide” quite literally, with aero extensions mounted almost 12 inches apart. The exceptionally wide placement is very uncommon in a discipline where narrow forearm and elbow position is usually determined to be fastest.
“It’s something he tested in the wind tunnel over the winter, and it turned out to be a pretty fast position,” said Hopper. “Getting those elbows in front of the knees helped aerodynamics, plus the power output he could do in that position is better than what he did before,” he explained.
“It’s definitely something that we did custom, on top of the 3T bar,” said Hopper. “3T made it easy for us because they sent us the base bar that was drilled and tapped with all the holes, and then we made a separate bracket to sit on top, and it’s all regular hardware after that.”
Other variations in bar placement span the range. Like Hesjedal, Julian Dean runs wide aero extensions. The rest of the team leans toward average or narrow. Farrar has elbow pads that are swiveled in, toward the aero bars.
By contrast, just a few doors down at the Euskaltel-Euskadi team, every base bar, brake lever, shift lever, and aero extension position looked nearly identical in every aspect. European mechanics are often resistant to change and prefer uniformity in the fleet of team bikes.
Another preference within the Garmin rigs shows up on David Millar’s bike. On the bullhorn base bar grips, he’s got fat rubber mountain bike grips instead of bar tape. “He was looking for something a little bit thicker, for when he’s standing and climbing,” said Hopper. “That’s something that we worked on with him when we did team time trial training for the Tour,” he added, noting that it’s a more recent change to Millar’s bike.
Other notable bits
The Garmin team uses Vittoria Chrono Evo tubular tires, in 22mm width. Many people think that narrower 19 or 18mm tires are faster, but with the Zipp wheels the team uses, the wider version fits the wheels better. Zipp and Garmin have found that wider tire beds and tires not only improve ride quality and glue surface area, but aerodynamics as well.
Speaking of Zipp, the team is on full Zipp Zed Tech wheels this year, including the dimpled hubs and ceramic bearings.
Other new bits for the team include pre-production carbon Shimano Dura Ace pedals, as well as revised brackets for the Garmin Edge 705 computers used by the riders.