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Tour Tech Talk: Dave Z’s third brake lever; Lance’s bobble; and weirdo wheels

David Zabriskie’s third brake lever probably did not play a role in Saturday’s opening time trial, although his bunny-hopping entire traffic circles instead of riding around them certainly raised a few eyebrows (just kidding). But the extra brake lever on the handlebar extensions has been a source of great interest (see VeloNews, June 27, 2005), and a number of the teams are using them. In a flat individual time trial like the one that opened the 2005 Tour de France, the third lever may not help much beyond taking a little speed off for a corner here or there. It is very useful in courses

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By Lennard Zinn

The Lampre-Caffita bikes sport a third brake lever, like Zabriskie's

The Lampre-Caffita bikes sport a third brake lever, like Zabriskie’s

Photo:

David Zabriskie’s third brake lever probably did not play a role in Saturday’s opening time trial, although his bunny-hopping entire traffic circles instead of riding around them certainly raised a few eyebrows (just kidding). But the extra brake lever on the handlebar extensions has been a source of great interest (see VeloNews, June 27, 2005), and a number of the teams are using them.

In a flat individual time trial like the one that opened the 2005 Tour de France, the third lever may not help much beyond taking a little speed off for a corner here or there. It is very useful in courses with long-radius turns that can be traversed on the aero’ extensions, provided the rider can slow down just a bit. A little braking and a downshift only when needed, rather than downshifting first and then moving out to the base-bar handles, can save considerable time and maintain speed.

Where the third brake lever can really come in handy is in the team time trial – it can allow a team’s riders to stay in line, all riding on the extensions. The riders all save energy by staying in an aerodynamic position without having to grab the base-bar handles to brake or swinging out into the wind to scrub some speed and avoid hitting the guy ahead.

So far in the Tour, the only teams using the third brake lever are CSC, Davitamon-Lotto, Domina Vacanze, and Lampre-Cafffita. The Discovery team has experimented with a little brake lever made by Steve Hed that fits just under the bar-end shifter, but none of the riders used it in the prologue. According to Trek’s Scott Daubert, Tom Danielson and Viatcheslav Ekimov love it, but neither is here. That lever is smaller and works differently than most of the third levers, since it has its own separate brake cable attached to the main cable with a splitter.

CSC, Davitamon-Lotto, Domina Vacanze, and Lampre-Caffita run cable housing up to either side of the third lever, just like a bar-top lever for cyclo-cross. As you can see from this photo of the underside of a Lampre-Caffita bike, the housing runs from the right lever up the right extension to the third lever, where it starts up again on the other side of the lever, loops over to the left extension and runs down it and back to the frame and on to the rear brake.

Other tech notes
I still do not know what the explanation is for Lance Armstrong’s foot coming out of his pedal. He appeared to have a snug shoe-pedal connection, since it was with considerable difficulty that he clipped into the left pedal while being held atop the start ramp.

Chris Horner showed wisdom in eschewing the front wheels with external fairings prepared by the Saunier Duval team mechanics. These discs of carbon were stuck onto the center of the front Campagnolo Bora wheels (labeled as Fulcrum wheels). They looked homemade and apparently were. The carbon fibers wrapped over the inside of the spokes was sticking out like they had been poked and prodded with a resin-coated paintbrush to stick them down.

Um, now, about that wheel fairing . . .

Um, now, about that wheel fairing . . .

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These fairings attracted the attention of the UCI officials at the bike check-in, and one official took photos of the wheel of one of Horner’s teammates. The rules do not allow fairings that have no structural purpose, and given that Campy Bora wheels hold together well on their own, it would seem that these wheels might cross the line as regards what the rules allow.

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