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By Matt Pacocha
Alexander Vinokourov was clearly feeling better during stage 13’s individual time-trial. He had been suffering through a weeks worth of stages after a brutal crash on stage 5 that left him with dozens of stitches in his knees and elbows.
Vino and the rest of the Astana team raced on a brand new time-trial machine from BMC. The new bike seemed to pay off. It allowed the team to place three riders within the top four in the first race of truth in this year’s Tour.
While it’s hard to improve upon a custom time-trial bike that’s custom made to complement the unique physique of each Astana rider or any customer, for that matter, who has $12000 to spend on a time-trial frameset. But BMC has made improvements to the TT01’s unique design.
Astana’s top riders now have two TT01 time-trial bikes. The first is BMC’s original model, but the second is a brand new and updated version. BMC upgraded the carbon’s modulus and eliminated the top layer of 12k weave formerly used to finish the bike. The new team model made entirely from uni-directional carbon shaves roughly three quarters of a kilo off of the first generation bike. The new bike also has a new seatpost and one-bolt top clamp that offers a greater amount of adjustment than the older model.
BMC also had a special set of time-trial specific components for Astana. BMC supplied Astana three of its custom time-trial cranks, which we first saw in use by Phonak last year.
“We made 10 pieces last year for the Phonak team and we made another three for Astana at the moment,” said Andrew James, BMC’s product manager.
James did concede that BMC uses another manufacturer’s crank as a basis of its own.
“The basis is a Campagnolo crank,” he said.
The massive amount of carbon added to the Campy crank contributes considerable stiffness to the crank. That added stiffness counts as a structural component of the component therefore it conforms to the UCI’s rules.
“We have done a very limited run of them,” said James. “The company that does it is extremely high tech, it’s done only for us. It’s fully enclosed, there’s carbon piece in between the rings and a carbon-backing piece. It’s a fixed spec’, you can’t actually take it apart without breaking it. We use the most common chainring gearing, which is 54/44, but if they race a special time-trial where they need something else then they have to change the crank.”
The Astana bikes are finished with Campagnolo’s Record Titanium transmission, Easton’s Attack TT full-carbon fiber ’aero bar and, interestingly, an Easton branded Zipp 999 tubular wheelset.
Vinokourov rode a custom painted wheelset from an unknown manufacturer, though the front looked much like a Hed 3C.
With a stage win in his pocket, Vino seems to be in the situation he prefers: Not as a favorite but as an underdog with only one thing to do — attack.