Aero-Aware

LeMond1990

Bike racers have been aware of the advantages aerodynamics gave them for decades, perhaps from the very beginning of competitive cycling itself. Up until the 1989 Tour de France, nothing had made the differences more stark, than a colourful mix of imagery, marketing & race winning choices, to propel Greg LeMond to an 8 second advantage, turning around a 50 second deficit & winning the Tour de France on the final Paris time trial stage. Things have never been the same since, it set the scene for the public’s awareness of the importance of aerodynamics in cycling, which is still influencing professional racers, club riders, sportive riders & marketing departments to this day.

80’s to 90’s

Up until the 80’s, it was perhaps the UK time trialing scene that you could have looked to for some extreme examples of bicycle aerodynamics, Rouleur recently ran a story on Alf Engers & his realisation that drilling holes in everything actually made him slower (Rouleur issue 62: Drillium). Aerodynamics had been progressing right through the 1980’s, silk jerseys for time trials were replaced with full lycra skinsuits, we had carbon disc wheels, and we had Francesco Moser, pushing the limits with radical bike designs & wind tunnel testing (amongst some other stuff). Moser2These changes could all be considered ‘marginal’, the position was still relatively the same, just finer tuned with the help of technology. Once we got to the end of the 80’s, LeMond started working with Boone Lennon from Scott USA in developing a position using an innovation from triathlon (there’s also an argument it was first used in 1984 in the RAAM). The advantage this new arm, shoulder & body position, allowed by the use of tri-bars provided a ‘step-change’ in aerodynamics, almost overnight in cycling terms, this wasn’t a ‘marginal gain’, it was a Tour winning gain. The advantage of containing the arms within the frontal area of the body was so large that within a few months almost everybody was using the new position in the pro peloton, even Sean Kelly, still riding toe straps until the bitter end, took it up relatively quickly.

Wind Tunnels

The factor which multiplied the gains from the 80’s onwards was wind tunnel testing. Although the emerging aeronautical industry had been using these since the late 1800’s, their commercial availability & cost were out of reach for sports people, especially cycling, which had traditionally been poorly funded & relied on internal sponsors (i.e. bike manufacturers) to fund most of the top teams until a few decades ago.

As we now know, small changes can make all the difference, with the advent of wind tunnels cars completely changed shape & pro riders could now quantify every single change in equipment, components, position & clothing material, if they had sufficient funding. This introduced a new aspect to pro cycling, but wind tunnel time was expensive, so teams with bigger budgets could now use their cash to outperform their rivals, with very significant gains being made in this early period, compared to the current marginal gains we hear about in todays peloton. This was a game changer, 1989 shook the teams who hadn’t embraced the change, or hadn’t realised what could be achieved. We still saw riders with their jerseys flapping in the wind, you won’t see that now in your local race such is the level of knowledge available now.

Greg LeMond V Past & Present

1986-tdf-19-Lemond

A rider at the top of his game (for the 2nd time) during this transition period of aerodynamics was Greg LeMond, he was also the most prominent rider embracing it in the pro peloton, but he wasn’t the only one. If we look at how his position & the technology he used developed we can see the innovations that appeared in greater detail. The photo above is from 1986, differing from todays TT setup, note the shallow front rim profile, drop handlebars on standard road frame, no shoe covers, non protective aero shell helmet & more importantly, the lack of tri-bars. On the other hand, the skin suit looks as fitted as todays, but lacking the longer legs & sleeves we see in todays peloton.

Fignon-FrontLemond-Front

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The contrast displayed in the 1989 photos above, of LeMond’s tucked position, his arms in line with his legs & an aero helmet (which we now know is much faster than a bare head), to Laurent Fignon’s more classic time trial style marks a turning point in position, a stark contrast between the old & the new. It also marks the beginning of pro riders not just looking for small advantages in equipment & clothing, it marks the realisation that technology could provide huge gains over your rivals, not just refinements. Also note that LeMond’s skin suit has grown longer sleeves ahead of its time, which is standard now, as we know lycra is more resistant to drag than skin. Fignon’s position looks very similar to Lemond in 1986, but he’s perhaps gone for a front disc in desperation rather than common sense, while it may work in a windless velodrome, it may have cost him energy outdoors fighting any crosswinds, as we saw him “bouncing of the barriers” in the final 200m.

For comparison, just look at the image below of Tom Dumoulin in his aero position on a modern time trial bike. His position is further refined, rotating his body around the bottom bracket while maintianing hip-torso angle & therefore power development. Dumoulin’s helmet seems profiled to be in line with his back, LeMond’s was a last-minute UCI approved shortened (hacksaw presumably) version of a Giro triathlon helmet. Unlike LeMond in ’89, Dumoulin has a deep section front wheel with carbon spokes & an aerodynamic frame (and forks) with every tube profiled to the limit of the UCI rules (LeMond’s was more or less round tubing, apart from some added fillets). We also have minimal brake levers & various other details that all shave off watts, the big similarity remains the use of tri-bars.

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The Gist Of It

Stage 21 of the 1989 Tour was by no means the first time aerodynamics was considered of prime importance, but it was the event that caught the imagination & made ‘aero’ position & equipment just as important as training.

Just consider if the 1989 final stage had been a sprint into Paris rather than a time trial, if this event had not taken place in the spotlight of the world, how different would pro cycling look today? Would the UCI have rapidly banned ‘tri-bars’ without the drama & revenue generated from a thrilling end to the Tour to preserve the look of the machine to the Merckx era, as with their Hour Record rule changes. In UK cycling, would ‘that Lotus bike’ have existed, would Obree & Boardman have been able to use their innovations & skills on the world stage? Would the various people & technology that combined to create the advances that allowed British Cycling to rapidly ride to international track winners, and the subsequent influx of riders being provided a living while rising to the higher echelons or world road cycling, like Wiggins & Armitstead?

This defining event in 1989 opened all sorts of opportunities in cycling, ‘aero’ had been done many times before, but not displayed previously in such an establishment shocking manner. Development in cycling aerodynamics had been a slow boil most likely due to tradition, significant gains had been made, this blatant new position could not be ignored, it was the catalyst for others to look further & see what could be achieved. The results are now evident in your local bike shop.

(Note: All non-Getty images were identified as having a ‘Creative Commons’ licence on Google image search & Flickr.)

Testing Relationships

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A very interesting post has appeared on the Scottish Cycling website regarding time trialling & the emergence of CTT in Scotland HERE. I had expressed my opinion in ‘Calendar Conundrum‘ that CTT in Scotland may be a blessing in disguise for Scottish Cycling, that would allow them to focus more on road & track, but they now appear to be defending & reinforcing their future position as the host of time trials in Scotland. A bit of healthy competition & new ideas into the sport, with a minor scrap between promoting bodies can only be good for time triallists in Scotland, it’ll result in better (or more) events & a bit more focus on what they want, whichever way it ends up going.

CTT/SC Relationship

Perhaps the initially most interesting part of the Scottish Cycling update is about their relationship with CTT, in particular, the removal of it with no correspondence. But when you look into it, it’s perhaps not interesting at all.

“We had hoped for dialogue and some sort of collaboration with CTT, however, despite numerous attempts it has not been forthcoming. We will continue to seek clarity but what we know is that CTT have exercised their right to terminate the long-standing agreement between themselves and Scottish Cycling but have given no background or detail as to what they believe the implications now are for Scottish riders wanting to ride events in England and Wales or riders from South of the border entering events in Scotland.”
Read more at https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/scotland/article/20160226-scottish-cycling-news-Scottish-Cycling-and-Time-Trialling-in-Scotland-0#g1LmxHmOswCYCYUB.99

The two points made are probably pretty irrelevant to most competitors, one being no access to CTT BAR tables for SC time trials & the other being that Gold & Silver BC members will have to pay a surcharge to ride events in England.

Not many people are really all that interested in BAR competitions these days, so it affects a tiny number of riders who compete in time trials. With a quick glance, I find zero men or women riding for Scottish clubs listed on the 2015 BBAR tables, see for yourself HERE, so it’s unlikely anybody really cares about that point.

As for riding events down south, for CTT events it’s the club being registered that matters, not individual membership. So we can reasonably assume that any clubs who sign up to CTT Scotland will be the ones with most riders being interested in time trials, who are more likely to travel down south. Even if your club isn’t registered, you can simply join another one that is 2nd claim & ride events down south that way. Again, it’s all pretty irrelevant.

All in all, the lack of an agreement between Scottish Cycling & Cycling Time Trials holds almost zero consequence to anybody, I’m not really sure SC should be bothering too much.

Levies

I’ve been banging on about levies for a while, so this was quite refreshing to see that Scottish Cycling are at least paying a little attention to it, although I’d still like an answer on why we pay more than people in the rest of the UK (see my 2103 post ‘Would You Like To Go Large?‘ for more on this, although numbers are slightly different now).

As a reference, CTT levies are £2 per rider as far as I can see, while SC levies are £3.95 per rider, unless it’ a mid-week TT series, where it’s £2.60 per rider. I’ve not actually seen the breakdown from SC on this before, but only £1.50 goes towards BC insurance, the rest is apportioned to whichever of the 5 regions the event was registered with (bizarrely, it could be held in a different region, which many events are, such as the Tour of the Trossachs, held in ‘East & Central Region’, by a ‘West Region’ club), or to ‘development of cycling’, such as equipment, commissaires etc. Scotland CTT is a volunteer organisation, while SC has paid members of staff, so a difference in price is expected, but we also expect a bit more in the terms of service if we pay more. As CTT Scotland is only just beginning, it’s impossible to determine if that’s the case, we’ll have to look again at the end of the year.

Other Issues

Scottish Cycling list some other issues that they see as relevant, I’ll briefly go through these.

Annual Calendar Compilation: SC point out that they provide a coordinated calendar. Had it been the previous few years, where the event calendar has been abysmal, with it being published once the season had started, they wouldn’t have had a point. With the active work being done by SC’s Regional Development Officers in the last half on 2015, this has been rectified in 2016. So now it’s valid, as I can see only 5 CTT Scotland events on the CTT website as 26/2/16, four 10 mile TT’s up to June & the Boomerang 2-up in August, so I assume plenty are missing? I also see that there’s not much info, apart from some Facebook posts on CTT Scotland. Again, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on this, as they’re completely new & are organised via committee, always an area of stalling & delays in any organisation. A simple (and free) WordPress blog could list events & information, to make it more visible, I’m sure that’ll come.

National TT Championships: The point SC in making here is that they arrange the calendar to accommodate championship events throughout the season, working with race organisers. It’s pretty well-known that it’s relatively easy to find an organiser for the ’10’, the rest get increasingly harder as the distance increases & the interest reduces. The hill climb, is perhaps one that has had more interest than it used to. My opinion on the number of historical & poorly supported time trial championships is well documented, so I’ll leave this up to you to decide if it’s important, I assume it’s a very personal thing for most people.

Course Risk Assessments: This has changed in 2016, there is a greater involvement in helping to complete these, with organisers being assisted by the SC RDO’s. I can’t really comment on it, as I’ve not been involved in it this year, but in the past risk assessments are a genuine pain in the race organisers posterior. So this may be a real benefit, not just for convenience, but perhaps to make sure the race organiser doesn’t get themselves in bother by omitting a danger, spreading the blame perhaps.

Officials Appointments & Training: There are more trained officials required for an SC event, I’m really unaware of what’s currently required for CTT, so I’ll not comment, for now.

TT Course Recording: As far as I’m aware, the CTT events are going to be using the same courses as SC ones, so essentially CTT is piggy-backing off historical SCU courses. It could also be argued that it was volunteers who measured these courses anyway, so possibly another non-issue.

Legislation Compliance: This one has some significant implications. In CTT events elsewhere in UK helmets that comply with a safety standard are not required (except for some younger age groups), so this could be an important point if CTT Scotland are wanting to be seen as a modern race organisation. Not requiring helmet use would set them apart form all other sports in Scotland that use bikes, would also make the TT side of the sport look backward is relation to other sports & could cause some insurance issues & a potential conflict with Police Scotland who don’t see this issue arising in any other sports that use bikes, in racing or participation. I’m completely unaware if this issue has been addressed, I hope it has before any events take place.

Event Management System: The British Cycling system does appear to work reasonably well, but CTT Scotland events could use resources such as EntryCentral for an online entry system, so it’s not really a big issue.

National BAR Table: As I’ve said in previous blogs, nobodies really particularly bothered about this, presumably apart from the person who wins the average of average competition.

The Gist Of It

I’m all for a bit of healthy competition, something did need done in order to push Scottish Cycling into some decisions on this. I think we’ll maybe see SC reduce levies a little to be more competitive from 2017 onwards, but not by very much. As far as I can see CTT Scotland are currently mainly interested in running events on the ‘fast’ but busy Westferry course, whether that expands to other courses & distances during the year remains to be seen, hopefully it will. The big ‘but’ is that I can’t really see CTTS moving away from ‘fast’ imperial distance courses (you know I don’t like these if you’ve been reading my blog for a while), so it does open up an opportunity for SC to perhaps look at diversifying their side of time trialling to other demographics (as I’ve also discussed at length previously).

Perhaps we can have two distinctly different sets of TT’s running alongside each other for a while. The old-fashioned standard distance events which are getting squeezed due to traffic, then the more ‘road’ orientated events on quite more interesting courses, which would encourage a crossover of riders from sportive & perhaps wouldn’t put parents off allowing their kids to race on a semi-motorway. Either way both organisations are going to have to look at their current ‘model’ & taking a good hard look at a sustainable future for time trialling, whoever does this well will be the long-term winner in controlling TT’s in Scotland.

 

100% Time Trialling

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I’ve blogged about time trialling before, about the reduction in availability of what are deemed ‘suitable’ courses & the sustainability of sticking to the outdated model of standard distance, relatively flat courses. There are other ways of looking at measuring performance & progress in time trialling, than just looking at times at set distances, we could use a new method to modernise this side of the sport & open it up to appeal to a larger demographic than just some old guys with money for expensive funny bikes. Here’s one idea.

The % Method

Is there a way of measuring your performance & improvement across a season, on any length of course, on any terrain, against the best rider in the event?

I’m going to suggest that there really is, all it requires is an additional column in the event results. If a chump like me can easily create this extra column in Excel (I’ve just tried), it’s likely that it can easily become a standard template that organisers can record the times on, if so desired.

If riders times were displayed as a percentage of the winners time, there’s a multitude of uses we could put this information to, here’s just a few….

  • At the top of the table, the leading riders can get an idea of how form is improving or otherwise as they get closer to championship dates. If their % gap on their rivals in increasing, the training is going well, but if it’s closing, it’s time to look at improving. This can be measured not in seconds over the same distance, but in all distances in %, which allows direct comparison without taking into consideration the changes made by weather, courses & distance.
  • Any rider, in any position, can see how they’re improving relative to their closest rivals, club mates, or random benchmarks, irrespective of the course or weather.
  • If you change an aero setup or your training, a sudden increase or decrease in % against your rivals may indicate how good (or bad) the new setup or training is, regardless of the distance of the event.
  • Rapidly improving riders can be easily & quickly identified across a season or just a few weeks, a shortening of % and how it relates to not just winners, but various riders in the event will be very easy to spot, no matter where in the results the rider currently lies.

The Effect

If the riders target moves away from aiming for specific times over specific distances, then having results recorded as a percentage of winners time can help us move away from set distance courses.

We could use the type of roads cyclists generally choose to ride on, more suitable roads for cycling, we could remove the necessity to measure the courses to be exactly 10 or 25 miles, we could pick a course anywhere & retain a comparative measurement to performance against any other course. The focus could switch to reducing your % loss to the winner, or a comparison % loss to your ‘rivals’, be they club mates, enemies, chain gang buddies etc.

So if this was adopted to be included in the results, you can compare performances across various events, on different terrain, different weather, all year-long. You can see much easier which courses suit you better, or where you need to improve. Chasing specific times on different days, even on the same course can be a losing strategy sometimes. If conditions are bad & all times are slower, you may be upset with your recorded time, but in reality, your % loss to the winner may be less, you may actually have performed better in relative terms than the ‘float day’.

Technicalities

If we’re going to do this, it may require a little thought on how to go about it, plus exactly what you need to stick into your Excel sheet. We also don’t want to get tied up too many decimal points, 2 will suffice as I’ll show in my example below.

To keep things simple, if somebody won a ’25’ in exactly 50 minutes, that’s 3000 seconds. The minimum gap we see on results is 1 second, that’s approx 0.03% of the winners time, so 2 decimal places will be fine for every time trial up to around 3 times the winners time. So unless you’re riding one of the incredibly few 100 mile TT’s in Scotland, and your gap to somebody else is less than a second, this will work for every other TT, than that one.

As an example, here’s my revised finish sheet for the first five riders in my theoretical ’25’.

TT_percentages

Max Tester won the event, he gets 0% allocated to him, as all winners of events do. Two minutes down was Chanty McMuffin, his % difference was 4% down on the winner (2 minutes, i.e. 120 seconds, divided by winners 3000 seconds, all multiplied by 100 to give a percentage). As we can see, Marjorie Gains was only one second down, her % loss was 4.03%, so each second is accounted for with just the two decimal places being included in the results. As we go down the results, 5 minutes equates to a 10% loss on the 50 minutes of the winner. Then we have the hour specialist, doing as he does best & riding for exactly one hour, but losing 10 minutes, which is 20%.

The formula you’d enter into the Excel file starting at cell B2 if it was laid out the same would be as follows. Then you just copy it down the page, the $ sign means those cells remain tagged to the winners time, while all others will change. Remember to format the cells as a percentage & restrict it to 2 decimal places.

=(((E2*3600)+(F2*60)+G2)-(($E$2*3600)+($F$2*60)+$G$2))/(($E$2*3600)+($F$2*60)+$G$2)

Conclusion

In every event, we’ll have varying times, one second will have a different % value depending on the winners times. This allows a comparison, not against time, but against performance relative to the winner, which gives a very different perspective. This also allows every single competitor to compare themselves across different events, different weather conditions on the same course etc. A whole new way of thinking about things.

There must surely be multiple ways in which time trialling can be modernised, this is just one. It may remove the perceived need for standard distance courses, it may initially just allow riders to compare performances against other riders on the same course, but in different conditions. It could allow riders to see how their form is coming on as a season progresses, but if things remain the same, courses will continue to disappear & time trialling will become a forgotten discipline.

Position, position, position

Embed from Getty ImagesThe adverts in bike magazines try to convince you that their components are more “aero” than somebody elses, the tech time trial geeks in your club are obsessed with “aero”, aero wheels, aero frames, aero handlebars, aero seatpins, aero chainrings, even aero pedals, the list goes on. This is all well & good, aerodynamic kit does make a difference, especially in a time trial, but if you’re concentrating on having the most aerodynamic bike, you’re maybe spending vast sums of money on vanity, rather than first dealing with the real issue, you.

The ‘You’ Issue

A quick study shows that somewhere between 65 to 85% of aerodynamic drag is reported to be caused by the rider, the rest by the bike. The massive 20% variance across riders is caused by many factors. For example, take two riders with the same limb & body lengths, but one carries lots of weight in muscle or fat (or both), while the other is running at ‘pro-level’ body fat. The two riders would therefore fit exactly the same size bike, which has the same drag for both. Where it varies is that the large rider’s forward motion is affected by his size much more than the smaller rider, so of his overall greater drag, his bike’s percentage share is smaller. There is no standard percentage drag apportioned to your bike, it’s different in everybody, it’s even different depending on what clothes you’re wearing. So any figures you see on ‘time saved over 40km’ for any particular component, are based on many assumptions. We can safely assume the marketing information is going to be at the more generous end of possible savings, while not being untrue, only a very small number of people may get this maximum benefit.

Bits n Pieces

This brings us back to component choice (I include the big items like frames in this, but not wheels, see later for that). If you’ve not got your optimum position, or something reasonably close to it, buying all the aero kit in the world may not to help you at all, it may even hinder you. Bad equipment choice, from a ‘fit’ aspect, can lock you into a less than perfect position by not allowing your body to get as aerodynamic as possible. It’s all too common, when I see time trial pictures posted, there is a strange draw to have a look at the bike-cost versus position, quite often it’s incredible that so much is spent without ever going for a proper bike fit or taking good advice.

As a start, a fully adjustable set of aero-bars & an adjustable stem are very cheap options considering the cost you’re intending to spend. That should allow you to set up a position correctly on your current bike, which, may not make your bike look pretty, it may save you a lot of money in the long-term. Then you have the opportunity to know exactly where your saddle & handlebars should be in relation to the bottom bracket, a quick check with a tape & a spirit level on your desired frame (with wheels in) should indicate which size it is you’ll require. Not going along this route may result in you buying what would be your normal road bike size. Often, riders will require a different size, with a longer or shorter top tube, or a lower stack height. You’ll need to get your body to fit this new fast-looking bike without compromising your ideal position, while using available kit. So if you buy one with too short a top tube, you may not find a stem long enough, time trial bike fit is not simply a case of ordering a medium, if you normally ride an off-the-peg medium road frame. It requires a bit more work, you may require something different to what you expected.

The Wheel Question

This is another vastly complicated subject, in this instance it comes under a completely separate topic, as wheel choice has zero impact on position. So you can probably buy your wheels first, use them on the new bike, especially as wheels have a relatively large impact on your speed. But as with other components, there’s no hard & fast rule as to which wheels are best for you. Weather conditions, a rider’s weight & ability to buffer cross winds also come into play here, so trying wheels before you buy could be another valuable piece of testing before you reach for the bank card.

The Gist Of It

Spending some time really looking at your position, or getting somebody with some knowledge to look at it, probably doesn’t give you that instant gratification of buying a shiny new component, or a flash time trial bike. It’s maybe the non-sexy option, maybe it’s difficult, maybe you’ve “not got the time” or maybe you believe the adverts to the letter. The fact is that you could buy ‘the fastest frame in the world’, but if you buy a size you can’t replicate your ideal aero position on, then you’re going to be catching a lot more wind.

The golden rule should be to sort your position first, then (and only then) find the aero frame & components that allow you to replicate that position. This is where buying your new TT frame from a local bike shop really helps, they should be able to let you ride a bike of similar geometry & give some valuable advice on the matter, before you spend your hard-earned cash.

Time trial bikes look great, having one makes people feel ‘a bit Formula 1’, they’re a desirable addition to your stable. But always bear in mind the advantages you get from components are minimal compared to your body position. Be sure you can transfer your highly efficient position across to the geometry of a new time trial frame.

Don’t get carried away by a bit of shiny aerofoil bling, choose the correct bike by spending some time getting your aero set-up dialled in on another bike first.

 

 

 

 

Discussing Development #1

Embed from Getty ImagesThis new blog series is starting out with a few key issues that effect the development of the sport in Scotland (potentially the same issues as elsewhere) & will grow & expand into other blogs, but all will be linked here. I’m very open to receiving ideas & printing them too, even if I don’t agree with them. I’ll start off on two subjects, cyclo-cross & time-trialling, both of which have very different issues, but both could suffer losses to other governing bodies if not looked after correctly.

Cyclo-Cross

Cyclo-cross has blossomed, it’s now the most inclusive discipline in Scottish cycle sport, with hundreds of riders at each race meeting pinning a number on & having fun throughout the winter. This huge success is down to individuals, clubs & Scottish Cyclocross managing to join it all together in a progressive manner. Series events have to meet a required standard & as a result, the events provide great racing & an excellent environment for all ages to compete. Cyclo-cross also has the advantage that road racing does not, that you don’t have to meet a high minimum ability level or you’re dropped & out of the race, in ‘cross you just get lapped (several times for some), but you keep racing & continue to battle with those around you of similar ability. I’ve been to a few, but not turned a pedal in anger at them for a long time, but even I’m getting interested in giving it a go.

Having said all that, ‘cross has reached this level through pure bloody-mindedness, by people who had a vision for where it could go in Scotland. It didn’t do this as a result of help from the governing body, some would say that this lack of support actually caused cyclo-cross harm, while others may suggest that removing itself from ScottishCycling/BritishCycling (apart from race insurance & commissaires) has allowed it to develop in a productive manner, without outside influence. There may be a couple of reasons for this lack of interest, funding & tradition. Cyclo-cross is not an Olympic sport, so the British Cycling plan doesn’t pay it any notice as there are no medals available, for them it could as well be bicycle polo or cycle speedway.

This funding attitude may have rolled down into Scottish Cycling, but it’s a rather shortsighted approach, with one glaringly obvious reason, Scotland doesn’t have an Olympic team (yet). We’re not chasing Olympic medals, we should be chasing event & rider development. Cyclo-cross isn’t a stand alone niche discipline, on the international scene we find road & MTB riders take part in ‘cross, so it seems like a missed opportunity to not look to an accessible sport like ‘cross & use it to feed into other disciplines. If all you’re interested in is sending riders to the GB squad for Olympic disciplines, perhaps cyclo-cross is going to work as a talent feeder into both road & mountain biking to identify those riders at an early stage, so it’s well worth looking if the primary focus is medals in other disciplines.

If Scottish Cyclocross want assistance, now is probably the time for Scottish Cycling to start offering some help, otherwise they could lose this valuable side of the sport to another governing body, TLI. The League International already have some ‘cross races in Scotland, so it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see more shift across in the next couple of years. With the recent success of ‘cross in Scotland especially amongst youth riders, is it really wise to ignore it when there’s a UCI World championship in the discipline? Those young riders could be taking part in non UCI recognised events & although of great ability, could never gain the licence points to enter UCI races down south & then move on to races on the continent.

Time-Trialling

I’ve written a fair bit about the future of time-trialling in the past, read ‘Comparing the Incomparable‘, ‘A Demographic Time Trial‘ & ‘Fixing Time Trials‘ for more info. There’s one huge issue with this discipline, it can be done much cheaper outside British Cycling insurance. Event levies in CTT events (Cycling Time Trials) are £2 per rider, in Scottish Cycling time trials they are £3.95 per rider. The CTT events are often held on very busy roads, but provide a very similar insurance cover. The problem is that BC (British Cycling) insurance is designed to cover bunched road racing on open roads, it goes beyond the requirement needed for time-trialling, so it could be done a lot cheaper. (British Cycling provide cover for only a handful of time trials in England, virtually all time trialling south of the border is run by CTT)

This could go one of three ways, allowing another organisation to step in & undercut administration & entry fees, Scottish Cycling deciding to arrange their own insurance, or the status quo.

  1. An organisation like TLI, or one of the groups running sportives who are used to dealing with insurance issues could step in & take over time trialling in Scotland with only a little organisation & some friendly chats. I’m quite surprised it’s not been done already actually. It would also remove the need for riders to conform to the UCI bike & position rulings, making it an oddball sport internationally, but it would keep some people happy. It would obviously create a war, as Scottish Cycling like to see money flow through their organisation, regardless of whether or not it funds anything, they need to be seen to raise funds & there are plenty of time trials & riders each paying the £3.95 levy to SC every year. There is that tricky UCI rule, where they may try to place a ban on riders taking part in non UCI events, but that would fall at the first hurdle if anybody decided to test it legally. For amateurs that ruling would hold the same weight as SC telling somebody they can’t play non UCI regulated darts, they can’t regulate what you do in your spare time, pressing the issue would likely wipe them out if a well funded individual took offence. So this is a viable alternative & there really isn’t a lot SC could do about it if it was well organised, it’s really up to them to provide an alternative.
  2. Scottish Cycling could relatively easily set up their own event insurance for time trialling. By the example of CTT, they could do it for half the cost of their current British Cycling insurance. As a sweetener to those vocal riders who don’t want to conform to UCI rules & result in the binning of their current bike, they needn’t run it under the rules & it could be out with the UCI rules of the affiliated body of British Cycling. So equipment rules could be waived but I’d suggest they should still stick to the position rules, the CTT ones allow the sport to drift quite far away from international sporting regulations. Maintaining the UCI position rules would help the development of young talent to & from track & into international careers, rather than allowing them to sit in triathlon style positions & then having a difficult change in order to take part in UCI recognised competition. This would allow SC to retain the time trialling side of the sport, but also address the issues raised by the membership regarding rules. Otherwise they may lose it in the near future by not providing value for money, which they are aware of, or if not, they will be now.
  3. The status-quo isn’t going to work in the long run, as I said before somebody will eventually get round to taking it over & there are plenty of voices of dissent out there on this subject. SC can’t really sit on this one forever, they can start work on No.2 (above) any time they like.

3600 Seconds: Part1

Embed from Getty ImagesThat old fella Jens Voigt ended my ‘199 Laps’ series of blogs, simply by doing more than 199 laps, so I’m carrying on with a more permanent title for the Hour Record blogs, ‘3600 seconds’. A new era of record-breaking has arrived, which I don’t expect to continue in large numbers beyond 2015 (for men anyway) where somebody will put it at a level that will take a momentous effort to beat. Whether that’s Wiggins, or somebody who can beat the performance I think Wiggo is capable of, the record will be stratospheric in a years time. My archive of Hour Record blogs is HERE.

Quick Update

Jens Voigt was first to have a go at the Hour Record after it was reset by the UCI, but we’ve covered that before, plenty of times (check out my Hour Record archive for more info). He covered 51.110km on the 18th September 2014 at the 250m Velodrome Suisse in Grenchen, that’s a fine start to rebirth of this record, not quite as fast as the mark set by Francesco Moser of 51.151km in 1984. Followed by what one must assume was a nice retirement party & the obligatory watch was hopefully presented, quite fitting for what he’d just done. Then, on 30th October 2014 we had a rider I had little or no knowledge about, Matthias Brändle. He broke Jens record with 51.852km on the short 200m track at The World Cycling Centre (Aigle, Switzerland).

Since then we’ve had several riders talking about attempts (hopefully outside Switzerland for a change), thankfully including one woman, here’s a run down on what we have confirmed & what we have rumoured in anticipated chronological order. It’s looking like a lovely year for the Hour Record, plenty of attempts, unless of course, somebody knocks it out of the park very early, which is the trouble with a record attempt, you either win or lose, there is no 2nd place.

  • Jack Bobridge: January 25th, Melbourne
  • Rohan Dennis: February 8th 2015, Velodrome Suisse
  • Alex Dowsett: February 27th, London. (updated)
  • Sarah Storey: February 28th, London (confirmed) 46.065km womens record to beat.
  • Thomas Dekker: rumoured spring 2015
  • Bradley Wiggins: June 2015, likely London.
  • Alex Rasmussen: rumoured Autumn 2015, likely Copenhagen
  • Rasmus Quaade: likely Copenhagen
  • Ondrej Sosenka: Date unconfirmed, likely Moscow.

The Women

The 2003 record set by Leontien Zijlaard-Van Moorsel will be first assaulted at the Olympic velodrome in London by a rider with too long a palmarès to list, Sarah Storey. She’ll go at the Revolution meeting on 28th February, the target to reach is 46.065km. For old timers, that’s as fast as riding a ’25’ in 52 minutes, but I think Storey will break it, possibly by no more than a km. Actually I hope it’s not by too much, an incredible performance at the first attempt may put the womens record on the shelf, I’d like to see as much interest as there has been from the men (hold a little back for the rematch Sarah). There could be a multitude of riders capable, tried & tested track riders like Sarah Hammer & wild cards like accomplished time triallist Emma Pooley might promote their tri-bike to another audience with a rapid hour (remember she took silver in the Glasgow 2014 TT only a few months ago).

The Men

Looking at the above list, it’s highly likely we’ll not see an attempt by Rasmussen later in the year, the record will likely be well out of reach by then. We can probably also discount Rasmus Quaade unless he does it very soon. Ondrej Sosenka, who held the ‘Athletes Hour’ & was later caught for doping, also looks unlikely, he needs to wait a while until he has some biological passport data after his break, so he may have ditched plans already. That leaves us with some high quality riders who can all set a very high mark, by March this record will only be taken seriously by the riders at the very top of the sport, in their very top condition. There’s plenty of online chat about Tony Martin, but I don’t believe he’ll ever hold this record. His style won’t work well on the track even if he produces more power than everybody else & could smash them in a straight line, the Hour Record is a different beast, it rewards a mixture of souplesse & power.

The Gist Of It

An incredible year ahead & at last the Hour has come back into the spotlight. The mens may be considered unbeatable by June, but the womens may become more interesting during the second half of the year. If Sarah Storey gets plenty of press it may spur some others into having a go. The womens peloton may be more open to embracing it in future as they attempt to increase their earning power & try to add additional value to sponsors, to a side of the sport given much less TV time & publicity than almost every mens discipline. A great year ahead, but those 3600 seconds will be some very painful & memorable ones for the riders.

199 Laps (pt4)

Before we move on, you should read the UCI’s press release from the 15th May 2014 below.

From now on, the Hour record can be beaten using any bicycle that complies with the rules governing bikes used in endurance competitions on the track. The new rules are less restrictive than those that, since 1st October 2000, have governed the technical specifications of bikes authorised to tackle the Hour record.

In parallel, the distinction between “Hour record” and “Best hour performance” has been abolished. This distinction was introduced on 1st October 2000 after the UCI had adopted (on 1st January 2000) a new Equipment Regulation defining the technical characteristics of bikes that could be used in competition, excluding the use of prototypes and introducing an approval procedure for any new technology. Backdating the new regulation, the UCI considered at the time that the last Hour record established with a bicycle in compliance (with the regulation it had just introduced) dated back to 1972 for men, when Eddy Merckx rode 49 km 431, and 1978 for women (Cornelia Van Oosten-Hage, 43 km 083). Consequently, all records established since then, up until and including the records of Chris Boardman (56 km 375) and Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli (48 km 159) in 1996, received the new name “Best hour performance.”

According to the regulation in force from today, all successful attempts on the hour that respected the rules applicable at the time the record in question was achieved are considered “Hour records.” In the light of the current regulation, the records to be beaten today are those established by Ondrej Sosenka (49 km 700) for men and Leontien Zijlaard-Van Moorsel (46 km 065) for women, as these two athletes beat the Hour record using equipment which is still within the regulations currently applicable to track endurance events.

UCI President Brian Cookson commented: “This new rule is part of the modernisation of the UCI Equipment Regulation. Today there is a general consensus that equipment used in competition must be allowed to benefit from technological evolution where pertinent. This kind of evolution is positive for cycling generally and for the Hour record in particular. This record will regain its attraction for both the athletes and cycling fans.”

In order to be validated, any attempt at the record must be organised with the agreement of the UCI, which will appoint a Commissaire and other officials who must be present at the chosen velodrome.

UCI Communications Services

Previous Hour Record Blogs for reference

The Protagonists

I’m going to choose 4 riders, all of whom can ‘relatively’ easily break the 49.7km record on a bike built to meet UCI track pursuit rules. Recent smasher of the ’10’ record, Alex Dowsett, suddenly interested Bradley Wiggins, grumpy drop bar lover Fabian Cancellara & the man who looks like he destroys equipment, Tony Martin.

Dowsett

Embed from Getty Images

If any rider is a clear example of what’s possible after making a decision to leave Sky, including a glimpse at the talent they may be using for less than ideal domestique uses, it’s Alex Dowsett. He has flourished since joining Movistar & is now looking to be a little quicker than Brad in domestic TT’s, which in itself means nothing, but does hint at what he’s capable of in the future. Wiggins has tested his form in ’10s’ in the past, prior to riding the Tour, but Alex has smashed his competition records & I’m expecting him to perform very well in the penultimate Tour stage, a 54km TT, that should take about an hour? If he outperforms everybody there, it wouldn’t be too tough a step to expect him to set an Hour record soon afterwards, he has plenty of track pedigree.

Wiggins

Embed from Getty Images

We know that Wiggins was training on the track at Manchester on June 4th, see this blog from @familytandem for info. From the photo, Wiggins is on a GB track bike, with tri-bars, this leads me to a couple of ideas. Brad has no intention of riding the Tour, that’s a media frenzy that he’s not interested in this year, he’s preparing for the Commonwealth Games track events in the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome, the presence of Shane Sutton confirms this to me. I’m also looking with quite a bit of hope, that he’ll be using this opportunity to test things out for an hour record. Can we safely assume that he’s doing a 6 to 8 week track phase, forgetting about preparing for France in July. Would provide plenty of status & media attention for the Games, along with them being included in the UCI calendar, could points be available for Brad to ride the next Worlds. Is he genuinely becoming a track rider again?

Cancellara

Embed from Getty Images

After recently going in a bit of a huff after the UCI announced the rules he knew were changing (well if we knew..), he reckons he’s not interested anymore & wants to break Merckx’s record on a a Merckx style bike. I’d say nobody is stopping you Fabs, do it on a drop bar track bike if you like, that’s UCI compliant too, but get it done before the others turn up on their pursuit bikes. I think we’ll only see him attempt it after it’s been broken a couple of times & he’s sure he can get it. I get the impression he’d either want to smash it & put it on the shelf for a while, or not at all.

Martin

Embed from Getty Images

The unknown, he’s not suggested he’s interested, but he could certainly set an incredible marker to any current riders. The only thing that would worry me about Mr Martin is his style. The big gear crunching full body effort he uses so well isn’t going to work quite as well on the track, he can monster the Hour, but he’ll be using more energy keeping that bike on the black line than the others.

The Gist Of It

The rules are open now, anybody can go for it whenever they like. Let’s hope we get another set of battles on the velodromes & re-configure The Hour as a major prize in world cycling.

 

Wiggo Comes to Glasgow, again…

Wiggins
Brad in the Team Sky ‘Death Star’ bus.

A source close to Team Sky has provided some startling information regarding the motivation behind newly bearded Bradley Wiggins decision which was announced today, that he is taking part in the Commonwealth Games time trial in Glasgow. It transpires that the choice may have been heavily influenced by some new-found friends he encountered during his ‘winter of discontent’ after his 2012 Tour de France victory.

Brad allegedly fell asleep on a train after a particularly wild night out in Manchester, then woke up in Glasgow Central station several hours later. Not wanting to waste the trip, the Olympic hero decided to explore the local culture as an accidental tourist & happened upon Glasgow Cross, where the patrons of the long-established Tollbooth bar welcomed him in with open arms. There he entertained the locals for two whole days with his tails of conquering France & the finer points of cultivating facial hair, the latter of which was a speciality of many of the regulars. During this time many stories were told of the amazing opportunities that exist for bearded gentlemen that simply did not exist for the sideburned Sir, his mind was made up & a full beard was planned for Glasgow 2014. Not only would this provide some additional warmth for the Scottish summer (marginal gains), but he would also win the hearts & minds of an otherwise potentially hostile public, not partial to a shaven legged Englishman, wearing a St Georges cross skinsuit in Glasgow City Centre, just a few weeks prior to the referendum on Scottish Independence. With the finest ginger beard seen on the face of any professional cyclist the world had ever seen, he could woo the Scottish crowds & this time sit on the Commonwealth throne (rather than the Olympic one) as his rivals recorded their times on the leaderboard. The scene was set for a relatively relaxed 2013 race programme, followed by winter 2013/2014 spent cultivating the secret weapon, the fastest ginger whiskers in history, designed to create adoration from the Scottish public. Then a full assault for the Glasgow 2014 Time Trial title as his primary objective. As it’s transpired, this is exactly what is happening.

A source close to somebody who watches ‘The One Show” has confirmed that Hugh Porter will not be the BBC commentator during the Commonwealth cycling events, but instead they will be using Brad’s close friend & doppelgänger Frankie Boyle, also a big fan of the monarchy. Unknown to most, Frankie is also a keen cyclist & has an in-depth knowledge of the finer points of aero helmets & race pacing, it should provide much better coverage that Hugh’s constant “full of riding” commentary we see in every event. The post race interview with Brad & Frankie is scheduled to be broadcast after 9pm for some undisclosed reason, so Frankie’s wife Susan Boyle will be interviewing riders during the daytime & providing post race soundbites.

In a recent poll of attitudes towards Bradley Wiggins from a wide demographic of Scottish cycling fans, it showed a very large swing towards “Good Guy”, in a stark contrast to a pre-beard poll which showed the majority chose the other option. The strategy appears to have worked well & I urge all spectators to cheer on Bradley when you see him on the course. He’s certainly made a huge effort & deserves our support.

If you’d like to meet Brad after the time trial on 31st July, it’s almost certain you’ll find him in his favourite Glasgow bar, seeking advice on his next career goal.

199 Laps (pt3)

Having failed miserably in my Hour Record predictions in my previous blogs, I’m obviously going to continue & make some more ‘informed’ & potentially inaccurate predictions as to Wiggins behaviour.

Fabs

Fabian Cancellara has been reported today in the Italian press to be aiming for an Hour Record attempt after the Tour this year. We knew last year an attempt would be made by ‘Spartacus’ at some point in 2014, but this is the closest we’ve got to anything definitive. We also have no confirmed venue, hopefully he’ll not go for the Aguascalientes track in Mexico, which was used for a UCI Track World Cup in December 2013, placing the record out of reach of any attempts at sea level. The UCI don’t differentiate anymore between altitude records & sea level records, most of the competition records are now at altitude, which isn’t important for direct competition & medals, but is very important for world record attempts.

Positions & Bikes

The UCI has been reported to have been looking at changing the rules on the Hour record, currently you have to adopt an Eddy Merckx style velocipede & modern developments like aero rims, triathlon handlebars, profiled tubes & power meters are banned. Which makes putting together a competitive Hour record bike actually quite difficult to get the best aero advantage. An off-the-peg frame probably isn’t going to give the best extreme position for an hour locked in a drop bar position as they’re set up for bunch racing, while pursuit bikes are set up for riding with tri-bars. We saw Chris Boardman have one specially built & Graeme Obree’s planned attempt had a bike with a very long top tube. The UCI’s ‘progressive’ idea was to stop technology playing such a big part in the record, but ended in destroying any interest in the former ‘blue riband’ event in cycling records. Former Tour winners & cycling champions would often attempt it at the end of their careers, this tradition has now ended, but there is a resurgence in interest now with time trial specialists like Cancellara, Tony Martin & Bradley Wiggins all interested.

Hopefully we’ll have a relaxation in the rules before Cancellara’s attempt, so a current UCI legal pursuit bike can be used. The record has always progressed aerodynamically, with riders from different era’s not being compared directly by the fans, it was a mistake of the UCI to attempt to lock the medal at the technology of 1972, that was never really going to work. You can see the iconic names on the all time list of Hour Record holders in THIS link.

My Latest Wiggins Prediction

I’ve been reading a lot of interviews with Brad recently, he seems to have his head re-attached after a lacklustre 2013 (for him). Looking at his goals for 2014, an Hour Record will fit in nicely, but I’m going for a much later date now that my previous prediction of a late 2013 or early 2014 attack on the record, which has been well & truly discredited.

I’m looking at his build up to the 2014 World Time Trial Championships, which will be held in spain on the 24th September. The Worlds preparation includes the Vuelta, where he can do plenty of Hour Record specific muscular adaptation work on the drops, possibly without anybody noticing.

The UCI have a Track World Cup scheduled the 7th to 9th November. Would it be too much for Brad to ask if British Cycling would like to include a sneaky wee Hour Record attempt in there. With the Commissaire’s & officials all present, plus a partisan crowd, wouldn’t it be even more exciting for him if that World Cup was held at the London Velodrome? So there’s my latest prediction, 8th November, London, Bradley Wiggins Hour Record attempt. (Disclaimer. I don’t even know if that World Cup is being held in the UK, but let’s get some interest going in the Hour Record again, prove me wrong, but we’re all missing out by not having our top time trialists attempting it)

Glasgow 2014 TT Route?

Click for detailed PDF route.
Click on map for detailed PDF route.

The McLennan Arch looks a most likely venue to host the riders start ramp for the cycling time trial of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. This Glasgow Green landmark will provide an atmospheric launch site for the riders as they tackle the unexpected course, it could also provide a little shelter if we get some ‘unseasonal’ rain in Glasgow in late July.

The Event

31st July is the date, with riders competing between 10am & 3:30pm to avoid any clash with rush hour, on what are normally some very busy roads. The official route hasn’t been confirmed yet, but if you click on the map you’ll see a PDF file that’s been lurking on the Scottish Government site for some time.

1. The Start & False Flat (to km7)

On leaving Glasgow Green, the riders will turn right onto the Saltmarket, passing Billy Bilsland’s bike shop on the left, which will be doing good business that day. We head north to meet the Gallowgate at Glasgow Cross, a stones throw away from one of Glasgow’s main shopping roads, Argyle Street. Heading east along the Gallowgate until a left turn just before the Forge Shopping Centre, then it’s north over Duke Street & onto Cumbernauld Road, where the riders should be able to start settling down into a rhythm. This takes us onto the boulevard of the old A80, which is slightly uphill all the way, could fool a few riders as it looks like a big fast road. As we cross over the M8 & reach Hogganfield Loch the most likely scenario is to take a sharp left turn onto Royston road.

The course will have been steadily rising to this point, from a start at sea level, we’re now at the highest point of the course after only 7km, peaking around 100m. So hardly a flat TT for these guys, which may rule out riders such as Michael Hutchison from a medal & allow the World Tour riders to shine. It will guarantee a fast finish. The road previous to the sharp left we just negotiated is mostly covered on the return stretch, there are some long fast shallow descents back into Glasgow Green. A rider could easily blow themselves to pieces on this initial sector of the TT, it will require a measured ride & a curtailment on the big event enthusiasm for some.

2. The Lumpy North Segment (to km17.5)

Following Robroyston road round, we eventually come to a big roundabout, with a hopefully well traffic controlled large Asda. The road rolls past housing estates & into open countryside for the next few km’s, with views over the Campsie Fells to the left through your visor. This is quite a sticky up-and-down road, still not ideal for the big gear testers, you can expect plenty of retired clubmen to be on these small slopes, enjoying a Thursday out on the bike with their pals & watching a great event unfold in front of them.

The sweeping bends & small inclines lead the way to suburban Lenzie, where we take a left turn, followed closely by a right turn onto the fast Lindsaybeg Road section. Which takes us up to the additional segment I expect only the men to ride.

3. Men Only Segment (to km24.5)

On a small rise, we turn left onto an uncategorised road called Burnbrae Road, this is a sudden change for the riders, we move from wide fast roads, to technical single track farm roads. This is getting quite interesting now. I’m assuming that the different distances the men & women ride will be decided by the inclusion of this segment for the mens TT only.

This section consists of some short, but relatively steep (for a TT) inclines, guaranteed to steal some strength from the legs. If I managed to avoid work that day, I’d watch the men’s event on this section, preferably on the steepest sections, you’re sure to witness some pain.

As we continue & skirt Moodiesburn, the roads return to the wider, more open roads we saw on segment 2. The terrain hasn’t stopped rolling yet, it’s still a hard time trial. We detour through Chryston & then head north again to reach the point we originally turned left onto the segment.

4. The Stepps (to km28.5 for men, to km21.5 for women)

We turn left onto a smaller road again, this is more of what we’re used to so far, rolling hills & lots of changes in direction. The wind may become an issue for pacing strategy, there really is very little consistency of direction, which should create a worthy winner, this is a proper time trial. We speed towards Stepps & the A80 once more, to return at ‘full gas’ to Glasgow for the finale.

5. Big Gear to Glasgow (to km 38.5km for men, to km31.5km for women)

This is where you’ll be hanging onto to the biggest gear your legs will manage, all the way to Glasgow along Cumbernauld Road & following the same route we climbed on the way out to Hogganfield Loch in segment 1.

This is going to be a very fast final segment, when we return on The Gallowgate in the city centre, we detour from our original route & turn left onto Moir Street, then onto London Road. This takes us into Glasgow Green, past the Peoples Palace & to the finish. I’m assuming we’re using the same finish as the road race (& last years British Champs) as it will be ‘dressed’ for the event anyway.

The Gist Of It

This is a very interesting course, not what we would have expected, especially since what was imagined to be the trial-run was near Stewarton last year. The road is constantly changing gradient & direction, there’s a really good mix of different types of roads. While the road race course showboats Glasgow landmarks, the time trial course shows a different side, it looks to have been decided more on sporting terms than blatant marketing. It’s a bold move, but to me, it looks like a very good choice, viewers around the world watching the events will get their glimpse of the mountains from afar, it could be good TV. I’m giving this a thumbs-up, although, I don’t really know if it’s the real course, we should find out in the near future, but it looks highly likely.

What’s certain is that a UK style motorway tester won’t win this, it looks like a route for a World Tour style rider. I’ll put my neck on the line here & go for a podium of Scotland, Wales & Australia. I’ve got a feeling David Millar & Gerraint Thomas will do very well in this type of course & event.

Additional Info: 1 – Another proposal HERE

Morphologically Correct

For several years we’ve had a UCI rule in place, it requires the saddle to be placed at least 5cm behind the bottom bracket in all events other than track sprint or kilo, with the end of TT bars to be not more than 75cm forward of the bottom bracket. This is being changed for 2014, it’s long overdue.

The Rules (Pre 2014)

A morphological exemption was required to allow you to deviate from the rules, this demanded approval from the commissaires of the event you were riding, who then used a plumb line and a measuring device to determine if your application was valid. As you can imagine, this can be open to interpretation or ignored completely due to time constraints, it’s very easy to say no & the comms decision is final. So somebody having trained in one position & then being told they can’t ride it on the big race day isn’t exactly ideal. In the UCI’s February Sport & Technical communication they stated that 80% of riders were claiming morphological exemptions before the start of the race, so the rule has become unworkable & very time-consuming for officials.

The old saddle rule is shown below:

UCI Rules

The following shows the old 75cm rule:

75cm

The Rules (Post 2014)

From 2014 onwards the rules will be slightly different in concept, but very different in real terms, as it will allow a bit of certainty & consistency in bike setup for time trials, pursuits, team pursuits & domestic record attempts outside the UCI Hour Record rules, which hopefully will also be changed.

The rider will get to choose to just one of these previous morphological exemptions, regardless of whether or not they’ve been measured by the event commissaires. Effectively, everybody gets a morphological exception, but only one of the two, there will be no circumstances where they will both be allowed. You will be allowed your saddle up to a vertical line at the bottom bracket, or you will be allowed the end of your handlebars up to 80cm in front of the bottom bracket. The rider is therefore not required to attend the bike measurement from this point on, your bike can be measured on the jig, reducing time & complication at events, while giving everybody clear guidelines on how to set up their bike without any room for interpretation.

There are other changes too, previously tri-bars had to be flat, you are now allowed a 10cm differential in height & the 75cm/80cm rule now includes your gear levers, measured to the point they extend to when positioned in line with the bars. You can see more information on the UCI’s October Sport & Technical communication for information on rule implementation, plus the details of the new rules from the UCI’s February communication.

How will the rule changes affect riders?

Moving your saddle 5cm forward doesn’t sound like much, but bear in mind there are now many products on the market that help mimic this, by creating shortened time trial saddles manufacturers know there is a desire to move further forward. It’s all about aerodynamics, being able to get your body into a more streamline position & still be able to produce the watts. Your thigh/torso angle is crucial here, as that angle gets smaller & your back gets lower you lose power through the pedals. So there’s a ‘sweet spot’, where for a target speed you can’t get your back any lower without recording a slower time. Having your saddle pushed forward allows you to open up this angle slightly, getting more aero without losing power, so if you choose this method (of the two options) you should be able to go faster. The 75cm rule being extended 5cm will also make you more aero, see Graeme Obree’s ‘Superman Position’ for an exaggerated effect of this.

In practice, it’s likely that riders will choose to move their saddles forward by 5cm, rather than extend their arms by the same distance. This is down to the relaxing of the tri-bar angle rule, so you can compensate for the arm extension by tilting your arms upwards while benefitting from the lower position allowed by a further forward saddle position. This also ‘closes the cup’ & has an effect to stop air rushing between your arms & your head & hitting your thighs to slow you down, while lowering your shoulders. So the new position could actually be faster than the current one, but only wind tunnels will tell this for sure, the teams & nations will be testing this now. There’s certainly plenty for the amateur cyclist to look at in the meantime with a quick study over the changes.

Effect on Domestic Racing

In general, the rules are not applied to time trialling in Scotland, this has been a bit of a controversial subject over the last couple of years, as applying the full UCI rules to TT’s will exclude plenty of old-school machines & some triathlon equipment which contravenes the aero tube profile rules. So it’s unlikely that the rules will be fully applied to TT’s, but we really don’t know, especially as these changes may make some of the positions legal. Lots of recent Scottish TT championships have been won on positions that do not comply with UCI rules, a quick look at the side profile of our champions in action will show just how far forward their positions lie.

The track is a different matter, bikes are measured for championships & riders will have to conform, it’s all a bit more up to speed with modernity. The jigs will have to be modified or re-issued for 2014, but track racing will be UCI compliant. Hopefully the commissaires will be up to speed, otherwise there will be a gap between what’s legal in Scotland & what’s legal everywhere else, especially important for avoiding any embarrassing questions at the Commonwealth Games. The individuals involved in the Scottish Commissaire Commission are usually on the ball, the info just needs fed down to all commissaires who will be working on any track events, then applied to all Scottish track events from 1st January 2014.

The Jist Of It

If you race track pursuit, or intend to, it’s probably going to affect you. If you intend racing internationally, then you really need to become aware of the UCI rules & how they are implemented, so it’s best practice to adopt them on your TT bike now. If you’re racing domestic TT’s, then keep an eye on any announcements from Scottish Cycling regarding positions. I’d prefer these to be adopted in TT’s, at least in championships, in order to give a consistent ruling across all disciplines, possibly disregarding the other aero rules so everybody can ride their old bikes. The position changes are easily adopted & will give a comparison of ruling between Scottish events & international events, currently the rest of the UK operates under CTT rules, which conform to no international ruling, this is one area of cycle racing where Scotland can be forward thinking compared to the rest of the UK.

It’s time to get the measuring tape out, a turbo, a spirit level & plumb line & see how close you can get to the rules. As Chris Boardman said, the rules are there for you to bump-up-to, they describe what a fast position is, so it’s up to you to get as close to the limits as legally possible to make your body cut through the wind more efficiently. Happy measuring.

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Comparing the Incomparable

Standard distance courses measured in miles, (a unit rarely used by cyclists worldwide), on flat roads (a road type rarely found in Scotland), using expensive special time trial bikes (a steed rarely found in the stable of anything other than a ‘tester’ or a tri-antelope). Time trials, how did we get here & how do we deal with it?

(I wrote a piece on how we can go about modernising TT’s & moving them into a lower age bracket ‘A Demographic Time Trial‘, this blog is some explanation as to how I came to that conclusion.)

Era-Change

Time trialling should be an ideal entry platform to the sport, theoretically it’s a simple concept, ride a certain course as fast as you can, anybody can do that on any old bike, yes? This perhaps was what happened in the past, I’d venture to put a specific date on when things changed, pre-1989. We saw Greg LeMond win the Tour by 8 seconds in 1989, his eight second advantage over Laurent Fignon was mainly due to some aerodynamic technological advances. From that point on, your club rider realised that by simply purchasing a pair of funny handlebars, they could gain a good advantage over their former self. Previously we’d seen some glimpses of the future, with riders like Francesco Moser used aerodynamic technology (among other things) to gain ‘free speed’, but those technologies were mostly out of reach to anybody else, tri-bars were so much cheaper than a ridiculously large disc wheel & gave a much bigger speed advantage. In previous times the fashion had been to drill holes in everything, resulting is presumably much more turbulence & churning of the air over components with non smooth surfaces, but as of the 1989 Tour, we had now entered the ‘Aero-Era’, smooth surfaces & more emphasis on making the human body create less drag rather than look at individual components.

Time trialling in the UK was still mostly on spoked wheels & drop bars pre-90, the more advanced had ‘lo-pro’ bikes, with a normal sized back wheel & a 26″ or even 24″ front wheel & cowhorn handlebars. Some riders were mounting the front brake on the back of the forks, running bladed spokes on as light a wheel as possible. Had they had wind tunnels back then, you’d have seen riders not going so low, but being more stretched out. Lo-pro’s disappeared after the rules changed, where both wheels had to be the same size, so most frames stayed as 700c (27″) front & rear, with only some triathlon specific bikes adopting 650c (26″) front & rear, but those are rarely seen in time trialling.
Such has the sport changed since 1990, that it has become an aero arms race, with riders deeming it necessary to spend much more £ on a time trial bike than a road racer would on their race bike. Aero frames, deep section carbon front wheels, carbon disc rear wheels, carbon aero seat pins, bars with teardrop profiles, aero helmets etc, the list is endless.
The mould breaker, who influenced things even further was Graeme Obree, I don’t think we fully appreciate the impact he really had on the ‘Aero-Era’, he went against common perception & developed the two fastest positions in history, like many musicians are influenced by certain artists, Obree was the artist who influenced pro riders & helped develop an industry. He demonstrated some of the advantages that somebody with modest means could obtain to make themselves faster, so much so that most things he did were banned & it’s likely that he sparked the UCI’s current obsession with conformity & stickers, reducing innovation & increasing the likelihood that most race bikes look more or less the same. Robert Millar’s latest article which appears in Rouleur issue 41 takes a shot at the standard conformist black carbon bike.

A Changing Sport

The ‘Aero Era’ changed time trialling, it became an arms race, an expensive side of the sport if you wanted to be competing at the sharp end of the results. Previously (pre ’90) you could have competed perfectly well on your road bike, now you needed a specific TT bike. This is where things started getting distorted & time trialling became something that roadmen didn’t venture into as much as they used to, the usefulness of TT’s became less as you were in a different position to the drop bar style you would adopt for a breakaway. The two disciplines began moving further away from each other. The past had seen some of our best roadmen regularly taking part in time trials, this rarely happens now, our Elite, 1st or 2nd category riders are a breed rarely seen at a domestic TT. This needn’t be the case, but having more courses & ‘rules’ suitable to a crossover market would make a difference, i.e. non aero-bar TT’s, on road bikes, also encouraging the sportive type rider too.

The PB

Personal bests are really a very odd thing for me to comprehend, the variables are so great, getting a PB has a huge element of luck about it, rather than necessarily your best performance.

For example, one twitter user who has been riding some 10’s recently is @MaKluskie, he tweeted: “Best ever average power output for a 10 today @338W but didn’t translate to PB. A minute slower than last week #windy windy.”

This shows that huge differences, such as a full minute time loss, even though your body performed better, result in a slower time, the PB is a moving target, it’s value is very limited if it exists at all. We really are comparing the incomparable when we look at times on different courses, or even the same courses in slightly different conditions, with the widespread use of power meters, we can prove that you did more work but you come away with a slower time. So next time somebody who you consider your equal tells you that their best time is a minute quicker than yours, they may just have had a favourable ‘float day’ on a certain course. PB’s are not an absolute, they are a mix of luck with the weather, sometimes even dubious ‘luck’ with high traffic volumes on a dragstrip course. As an example, I reduced my PB by nearly 1min 30s over 10 miles by riding a course down south, which was probably my last flat TT, as the experience put me off them for life, it was a virtual motorway, not somewhere I’d ever like to ride my bike again, especially when I saw some older plump gentlemen putting out times that would have won races north of the border, the reality of the post ’90 TT scene was clearly evident, an aero arms race & ever more traffic heavy courses.

Placings by Omnium

If PB’s are something that we know are based on favourable weather & how much traffic flow is on a course, how do we, or should we, compare performances? One of the main draws of TT’s to some riders is the PB chasing, which although false, gives some kind of carrot, but may incentivize something which doesn’t result in a progressive & inclusive area of the sport. Surely there is another way?

One method I could throw out there is to take an idea from track racing, the omnium, and use it to give an indication of TT performances. In the omnium the winner gets one point, the second placed rider gets 2 points, third 3 points etc. So in TT’s, we could allocate season long points, then divide that number by the amount of events that are ridden. It’s not particularly complicated compared to vets standard times, BAR averages of averages & such things that are currently used, so we’d be simplifying time trials, along with adopting the UCI masters designations, so we’d effectively have 5 year age groups too for everybody above 30 (or is it 35 now?).

With the TT omnium system, we’d directly compare performances against other riders, rather than hoping that you’ve chosen to enter the correct course on the correct night. So lets take the scenario of 2 fast riders, who are battling against each other every week. So if we take the omnium points & divide them by the events ridden, we get an effective average placing, so the lower the number, the higher the ranking. If a rider only enters one event per season & wins that, obviously their average omnium score is 1, so we’d probably start scoring at, say 4 events, to make sure there’s some consistancy.We could develop a system where we get an average placing, rather than chasing a PB. This would equate to all courses, so you wouldn’t have to stick to one type of event, you could improve your average omnium placing across several different events, or different types of event. This may result in a national ranking system based on TT performances across all types of course, perhaps removing the need for dragstrip courses on roads you’d not normally want to ride your bike on? At the end of the year, we’d have a national TT omnium champion, who has consistently performed against their rivals, rather than the current BAR system, which is completely out of date with the reality of what TT’s people are actually riding.

Opening Up The Sport

An omnium scored ranking would allow different types of event to take place, such an non-aero retro time trials, without tri-bars & disc wheels. This would allow riders who hadn’t invested large amounts of money in ‘fast’ kit to score low points on their road bike, road riders could enter these time trials & also get a relative TT ranking. Could this possibly make TT’s more popular? I’m not against TT’s, but I’m not comfortable with them in their current format, we could really open up their appeal & a relative ranking system such as this removes the need for incredibly fast average speed courses, we’re measuring performances against performances. The older rider can use the UCI masters system to rank their performances against their peers too, so we could have each age category battling against each other in omnium ranking, rather than outright time. Team performances could also be measured with this system, so a team of three in a championship would be ranked by the lowest combined score of their placings in an event, rather than combined time, again comparing performances rather than one outstanding time. After all, if you’re beaten by one place in a time trial, does it really matter if that was by one second, or sixty.

Maybe it’s time to rethink things & allow this area of the sport to develop & evolve as it decides, rather than searching out courses that are getting driven more & more towards high volume traffic semi-motorways. It could be time to find a better comparative measure of performance, this is just one way of doing it, but it could be one solution for time trialling in a modern world & make it more attractive to all riders, not just those with TT rigs & funny hats. Keeping TT’s in Scotland under the British Cycling insurance blanket could result in a very different & varied TT scene to that which exists south of the border outside UCI rules, but with their own even stranger ones, I know which I’d prefer.

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199 Laps

When a rider such as Wiggins decides that a weight penalty of (reportedly) an additional 8kg is for winning the Worlds time trial, when he’s beaten the opposition at his low le Tour weight, we know there’s something else going on, could it be a UCI record attempt?

Recent Patterns

We saw Brad winning the Tour de Pologne TT by some margin, this was over a distance of 37km, it took him approx 47 minutes, in this event he beat Taylor Phinney by a margin of 1min 14seconds. Roll on a couple of weeks & we see him finish 5th but beat Phinney by the much reduced margin of 2 seconds in the Eneco Tour, but in a much shorter & punchier 13km effort. When we wonder why he’s putting on some extra weight right now, the answer could be glaringly obvious, he’s preparing his body to withstand an hour & 400 velodrome bankings at 50kmh, it’s very hard to do that if you’re skin & bones like the 2012 Tour Wiggo. I’ve blogged previously about how reduced weight leads to reduced cross-section of arms, body, legs etc, resulting in reduced aerodynamic drag, we know Wiggins can TT with the best at his Tour winning weight, so putting that weight back on (as muscle) can mean only one thing to me, a dual objective to salvage & make his season exceptional, to bow out on a glittering career as I’ve suggested previously. I think he’s on for a pop at the UCI Hour Record, to write his name into that record book too.

The Worlds TT is 57.2km, he’s doing that in full aero kit, so the comparable time could be just over the hour, the double objective is so close physiologically, that it would be an opportunity to miss. This could explain why he’s not so good against the opposition over the shorter distance like in the Eneco TT, he’s possibly not training for that distance at all, so going into the higher zone over a shorter distance isn’t going to show him at his best, CP16 Versus CP60 for those power nerds (including me).

Why Muscle?

If you’ve ever ridden behind a Derny at 50kmh on a 250m track for a few minutes, you’ll understand what it takes to do that for an hour. The first visit to the track after you’ve been riding road for a few months is usually quite painful, not just in the legs, but arms, hands, neck & back, the G-Forces you encounter are something you just don’t have to deal with on the road, it’s a different sport.

To counter that you’ll find a lot of the to track riders carry a bit extra muscle in order to ensure they can deal with the additional forces the track applies to you, when riders leave the track to ride road again, they try to lose that extra upper body bulk, it’s not doing anything to help you in road races, in fact, quite the opposite. We can assume that his body fat percentage will be as low as possible to reduce drag, he could potentially go even lower as the temperature is carefully controlled in a velodrome record attempt, there’s no risk of getting chilled.

Where & When?

London would be the incredibly likely venue for a Wiggins Hour attempt, it’s due to open for public on March 4th, a precursor to that could be a Brad Wiggins Hour attempt, otherwise it would likely be Manchester. I can’t see him missing the opportunity to perform in front of his ‘home’ crowd at London, if he goes for it I’d expect it to be London.

The Worlds time trial is on 23rd September, I doubt that an attempt would be within 2 weeks of that, there’s probably a fair amount of adaptation to do, to get from tri-bars to drop bars & adapt to riding those for an hour at that speed, it can’t be done overnight. He can use this time to also reduce weight & possibly train exclusively at a currently ‘closed to public’ velodrome after the Worlds?

The Record

The current record is 49.7 km, so he’ll need to do about 199 laps to beat it, the magical 50km & 200 laps in one hour is right there as the big carrot. The UCI somewhat ruined the Hour Record when they introduced their current bizarre rules which negated years of technological developments & put the Hour Record back a few years. They wanted everybody compared to Eddy Merckx, but as we know, historical comparisons are pretty useless as there are so many different factors, sports science, diet, aerodynamics etc. So wouldn’t it be lovely if Wiggins, along with going for the ‘Athletes Hour’, also went for the UCI’s ‘Best Human Effort’ record of 56.375 km (held by Chris Boardman), which allows riders to use what would be a UCI legal pursuit bike & position.

For the ‘Athletes Hour’, Wiggins would have to use a non aero frame, shallow rims, a helmet within an agreed standard & dropped bars. So we could see an additional marketing opportunity for Pinarello to produce a special ultimate steel bike, “As used by Bradley Wiggins”. If this record attempt is actually going ahead & not just a figment of my imagination, the bike probably already exists, in BC’s secret squirrel lab & Brad’s already been in the wind tunnel on it.

What Will Happen Next?

If it’s on, you’ll not hear about it, I think they’ll wait until just after the Worlds and announce something then, possibly in October. I could be very wrong, but I find it hard to work out why else Brad would be putting on extra weight when he can potentially beat the likes of Cancellara at his Tour weight. It’ll all come out in the wash, but it would be a fitting finale to his season, it would turn an entire year of disappointments right around & leave him in the position to move on or stick out another year of classics & other objectives.

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A Demographic Time Trial

If time trialling continues in the format that currently exists in Scotland (and the rest of the UK), predominantly older men competing, using busy, main & trunk, or dual carriageway roads, it will eventually create its own demise. If we start changing things now & re-invent time trialling, Scotland could have one of the most vibrant, relevant & modern time trialing scenes of anywhere in the world. Making it feel safe, accessable, & relevant to youth, junior, under 23 & female riders is going to have a much wider appeal. Resulting in a younger demographic & the removal of the time trialling stereotype among other disciplines, that of the fat old man of cycling, stuck in his ways & entrenched with out of date ideas. This blog is going to upset a few people (it maybe has already), but if we need to change cycling for the better we need to take an honest look at exactly what we’re dealing with, Scottish (and UK) time trialling has to change the most, but its the discipline where that change is going to be hardest fought.

Where are we now?

We have Scottish senior individual time trial championships at 10miles, 25miles, 50miles, 100miles (If anybody considered it in any way relevant & organised one in Scotland, we’d have a 12 Hour championship too). Along with that there are the much more ‘future friendly‘ championships of the Hill Climb & the Team Time Trial, I’m going go leave those alone for now, I think they are sustainable.

Unless you’re in total denial, you will know for a fact that we have lost a great number of time trial courses over the last 25 years. If you consider that the prerequisites when choosing these courses are that they have to be fast, i.e. high traffic flow, good surface, as flat as possible. Then you consider that we live in Scotland, which isn’t exactly renowned for being all that flat, or having that many great surfaced roads, you can see that the English time trial model isn’t really something we should have adopted all those years ago.

Demographically, time trialling is mostly middle-aged & old men, there are a few bright young stars taking part, but they are few & far between, almost everybody has a ‘V’ next to their name. This isn’t the environment that attracts new riders, perhaps some people start watching time trials at le Tour & get inspired, but the reality is quite different, nobody watching, buzzed by fast-moving traffic & having to negotiate a roundabout by moving into the outside lane in front of 70mph vehicles, a different sport from that we see on the TV.

Imagine the scenario, a 14-year-old youth rider wants to get into cycling because he sees Bradley Wiggins looking incredibly fast in a time trial, his parents encourage him to “join a club” and they look on in horror as his first event is on the Westferry Course, which is essentially a continuation of the M8 Motorway, after club riders were telling him he’d do a fast time, as if that was more important than relevant performance against his peers. That’s one kid lost to the sport & a very bad reputation spread among other parents about what cycling is all about (I’ve seen a letter from a very angry parent regarding a very similar situation, I had to deal with this as a club secretary & I agreed with everything the parent said). We need to change this, we’re not acting responsibly if we try to seek out these courses, we require a very much more realistic approach in order to help time trialling flourish & become relevant again.

When you look at how many of these longer courses are left to use compared to a few years ago, if we don’t address the issue now, we’ll be 10 years down the line & wishing we had set up an alternative modern approach, rather than trying to do it in a mad panic.

What could we do? : The ’10’

The ’10’ is a much easier event to keep, it’s also relevant to road & track riders too, it’s roughly the length of a ’20 minute test’ which many riders use to estimate their functional threshold (I prefer a ramp test), so it’s very relevant to anybody training scientifically with power. There are lots more choices for suitable courses, finding 10 miles of flat road is much easier than 25, 50, or 100 miles.

What could we do? : The ’25’, ’50’ & ‘Olympic’ style TT’s

If we look at placings on the ’25’ & ’50’ especially, we can probably predict who is going to win the other by looking at the results, both are physiologically very similar. If you look at who wins what is called the Scottish Time Trial Championship (or Olympic Time Trial Championship), the podium of that looks very similar too. So we have three events of a very similar physiological ability, that seems a bit odd to me, so why don’t we just have one, the one that can be held on our lovely Scottish roads away from heavy traffic? We can let the veterans have their own ’25’ title if it’s really necessary, but the rest of the sport has to move on & stop hanging onto the old imperial view of what time trialling is, otherwise just keeping irrelevant championships to appease the dinosaurs is going to be detrimental overall. (There’s an argument to allow the dinosaurs to do their own thing, as CTT/RTTC down south & let the sport modernise & progress without them)

So, given a free rein, I wouldn’t intend keeping the 25 or 50 mile time trial championships, replacing them both with the more manageable ‘Olympic’ style course of a similar distance (this will have every dinosaur reading this boiling by now, if you hadn’t realised you are one until now, this is your wake up call). This is much more relevant to something like a Tour TT, a Worlds TT, the things people see on TV, we can set them in stunning countryside, the Meldons & Trossachs are recent good examples of this. It also helps us find the talented riders at these events, rather than the ones who had the best day, or were brave/stupid enough to ride as close to the passing traffic as possible.

Where are we now? : The ‘100’

I would have other plans for the ‘100’, it’s popularity is on the decline, but in reality it could be one of the most popular events if we think a little differently. People travel from far & wide to ride Sportive’s on our wonderful roads, they could ride the Scottish 100 mile championship time trial on similar roads, we could have hundreds of riders taking part over a day. Riding 100 miles is a huge challenge to many riders, I think this could revive the distance, numbers are way down in its current format (see below). We either radically change it or watch it disappear very soon, like the 12 Hour has, the 100 in the flat-road format IS next to go, then the 50 if nothing changes. So lets change things now, we’ll be upsetting 20 or 30 riders by choosing a scenic 100 route, we may be delighting hundreds. There are lots of routes which require very few marshalls, we have the roads, people want a challenge, riders can say they’ve ridden a Scottish championship, what’s not to like? Organisers could even get creative & run it as a point to point event & put some buses on the next day, keeping riders in the area & developing good community relations with councils, hundreds of people staying in the finish town having achieved a 100 mile goal, the B&B’s, guest houses & pubs would be full. Cycling doesn’t have to be anti-social & early in the morning, it can be part of a community event & part of helping tourist areas survive out of their regular season, extending it by a week on either side. Glasgow to Oban? Aberdeen to Aviemore? Ullapool to Skye? If we start thinking away from ‘fast’ & ‘flat’, suddenly our least marketable time trial distance becomes very marketable.

  • 2009 Scottish 100 Mile TT Championship finishers: 29
  • 2010 Scottish 100 Mile TT Championship finishers: 27
  • 2011 Scottish 100 Mile TT Championship finishers: 24
  • 2012 Scottish 100 Mile TT Championship finishers: Can only find 10 finishers listed!

Whatever last years finishers may actually be, this event is obviously dying, without a drastic change in format it WILL go the same way as the 12 Hour, I can’t see it lasting another two years as it is.

Recommendations

So here’s my potentially unpopular recommendations, but I know many agree that change is required, the resistance to change from the dinosaurs will be incredible, bitter I expect, but it requires radical change or there won’t be time trialling in the near future. It’s up to you to put your ideas forward, publish them, send them to SC, do whatever, but get your ideas out there or time trialling will collapse in the next few years.

Senior Championships

  • 10 Miles: Keep this event as it is, but get a bit more creative about choosing safe courses, they don’t need to be traffic assisted, it’s placing that count in a championship, times are irrelevant.
  • 25 Miles: No requirement to keep this event. Was once ‘blue-riband’, is now a broken rich tea biscuit.
  • Olympic Time Trial: Keep, a distance of between 40km to 60km, but cannot be run on standard distance non-sporting courses.
  • 50 Miles: No requirement to keep this event.
  • 100 Miles: Keep the event, but radically change it, use a Sportive style scenic 100 mile course, one which people will want to ride in large numbers, this is what Scotland does best.
  • Hill Climb: Keep this event.
  • Team Time Trial: Keep this event.

Youth  & Junior Championships

  • 10 Miles: Keep this event.
  • + 2000m (Youth) & 3000m (Junior) road time trial. This allows the riders without access to a track to measure themselves against other riders without having to learn to ride the track, we could identify a lot of talent from the Highlands in this manner, a ’10’ may not show how good they are at pursuiting.

The ‘New’ Time Trialling

The above is a series of ideas about what could happen to an ageing race scene with a few changes. But it will require an appetite for change, which could be the major stumbling block, as those clubs with a high interest only in  time trialling are generally the least progressive & modern of the clubs we have in Scotland. Many clubs have plenty of time trialling interest, but also have others regularly competing in different disciplines, these are a totally different case, I’d go as far as calling multi discipline clubs ‘vibrant’. The resistance to change is less likely to come from there.

I can see this post causing some debate & some old school feedback/ranting. But without change, the loss of courses will continue as traffic volume increases. We will have to deal with it at some point, it’s best to have that plan now, implement some of it & prepare ourselves to welcome some of the new riders into an area of the sport which should be assessable to all, not just old guys on five grand bikes. Time trialling isn’t dead, it just needs a younger & more diverse audience, the current format cannot achieve that, a bit of creative thinking & some changes certainly can make it a huge & forward-looking area of our sport. We’re in a demographic time trial in this discipline, we need a new course.

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Power Struggles

Possibly not the blog you thought it was from reading the title, but really some down to earth answers to questions on a piece of kit you may be considering as a tool to help your training. Before you read on, please be aware that purchasing a power-meter & sticking to a power based training programme will put a huge dent in any ‘social cycling’ you currently do. It may also turn you into a number crazed power nerd, if you read on & decide to purchase one, make sure you decide on a suitable power/life balance beforehand, otherwise you’ll end up with as much social ability as a ’50’ TT specialist.

What is a Power-Meter

It’s a device that is attached to your bike which directly measures your how hard you are working. We’ve gone through era’s of coaching ‘perceived exertion’, moving onto heart rate monitoring, now we have another better way to monitor your cycling, power, measured in Watts. The benefit power has over heart rate as a measurement is that power is a direct measurement of what you are doing right now. Heart rate is a historic measurement of your exertion levels & is also affected by lots of other factors & will rise (cardio-drift) during a sustained effort. Power measures what you are doing right now, heart rate measures what you were doing a minute ago, including the accumulated stress of what you did before that time. As a simile, you know that annoying delay you get on an internet stream of a race, where you see the result on Twitter a minute before you see it in pictures? That poor quality delayed coverage is heart rate, the up to date HD Eurosport coverage is power.

Power-meters come in two major types, hub & crank.

  • Hub based power-meters are generally the cheapest power measuring option. The cheaper versions are less accurate on the power reading & weigh quite a bit. Powertap hubs can be bought separately & built on a rim yourself, or by a local shop. So you can ride them on different bikes, but if you’re buying one, get one that you’ll be riding in your training & can race to gather data if need be. A race only Powertap wheel (i.e. with a tub on it) isn’t going to get you the desired benefits unless it’s a 2nd wheel, you need to be using it for most of your training.
  • Crank based power-meters are currently much more expensive, accuracy is very good, but you’ll have to do a bit more fiddling with calibration. SRM’s are the standard for crank based power-meters, but lots more coming out slowly over time, at what looks like much cheaper pricing. You’ll be using this on the bike you use for training & racing, but possibly not put it on a winter bike, which could be useful.

Do I Need One?

Nobody ‘needs’ one, but if you’re struggling for time, it may help you go faster. It’s a great tool for removing ‘junk miles’ from your bike riding & helps you monitor progress, you can squeeze your training into a much smaller time-space. Power-meters are yet another expensive bike part, so I’d suggest that it’s going to make a much bigger difference to your performance than a frame upgrade or a set of ‘fast’ wheels, for a much smaller outlay. The only thing is that new frames & wheels look ‘bling’, power-meters look a bit drab & clumsy sometimes, so if your thing is posing & not going fast, a power-meter is not for you. You can probably buy a professional bike-fit, a power-meter for racing, a power-meter for training & individual coaching for the same money you’d spend on a new carbon race frame or a pair of top branded carbon wheels. It kind of makes sense, a new frame might not make you any faster, a properly used power-meter certainly will.

I’ll emphasise again, that a power-meter without analysis is just a toy, with the occasional, “I did the (insert local climb) at (insert respectable number) Watts last week”, which means nothing to you or anybody else. There are a large number of ‘power users’ doing this kind of thing, so just having one is going to make zero difference to your performance, but spending the time to work out what it’s for is required.

You need this book, “Training & Racing With a Power Meter” by Andrew Coggan & Hunter Allen, it has all the information you need to make use of a power meter. It might be wise to buy it first if you’re really serious & you are coaching yourself, then if it’s too much for you, sell the book on & you’ll only lose £3 or £4 on it, people want this book, it’s well used. If you’re using a coach, check they know about power, can analyse your files & tell you what you want to know, many can’t, but they’ll tell you.

There’s an argument too that riders who have incredible amounts of available time won’t benefit as much from a power-meter, if you have all the time in the world, to ride your bike during the day, ride chaingangs, race a bit during the week & weekends. It’s probably likely you’re getting all the training you need, plus it would ruin your enjoyment of the bike over long periods sticking to a set power output. I’d advice those people to stick at what you’re doing, how you’ve managed to get kind of lifestyle I don’t know, but you are living the dream, don’t ruin it with a power-meter.

What will it tell me?

The first thing you do is build a ‘power profile’, this is basically how well you perform over various times. These are 5 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minutes & Functional Threshold (FT). So an average power over the first three, then the functional threshold is what you can produce for an hour, but an hours testing is a bit of a drag, so it’s often taken as 95% of your 20 minute output, which is enough of a drag in itself. I tend to extrapolate it from a ramp test, but you’ll need the technology to do that, which many don’t have at home, so the 20 minute test should work for most. You also have to look at your events & see what timeframes are important. Simplistically, if you’re a road racer, then 5 minute & FT are very important, you can read a chart (in the book) which will show you where you stand on an international scale in each timeframe, be prepared to be humbled.

Once you have a profile, you can see if your abilities match in any way the events you’re trying to perform at, maybe you decided you were a kilo riders, but your 1 minute power turns out to be naturally rubbish, but you FT is great, could be you’re doing the wrong events for your natural talent.

One of the best tests is to actually run a power meter in a race, especially useful to look at data where you were struggling, or even better where you were dropped. This will tell you, in no uncertain terms, exactly what was going on, especially as your heart rate is likely shown too, so you can see how well you recover between efforts & which a particular efforts cause you big problems. We call these demanding efforts ‘matches’, you only have so many ‘matches’ you can burn in a race before you are totally spent, so identifying what your own matches are (different for everybody), then training that area specifically will help you perform. Then after some training, you can theoretically increase the number of matches you take into a race, the efforts of others will have less of an effect on you, then you can survive & perform to a higher level. This kind of thing is impossible to identify with just a heart rate monitor.

So imagine a rider who trains by heart rate, he does lots of 5 minute intervals, but keeps getting dropped in races when it goes ballistic for short periods of time. The initial power profiling would likely show a poorly developed 1 minute output, resulting in tha rider starting to do shorter intervals & performing better. So you can help pinpoint things like the length of interval sessions you could be doing. This is assuming you’ve not digested the entire book, it gets quite technical, so I’m demonstrating what you can do before you’ve really grasped the mechanics of it, which you will be capable of if you’ve read this far & not given up.

Conclusion

Power measurement is going to become almost standard, prices will drop massively for measuring devices & knowledge will grow regarding how exactly to use them, but that’ll all take some time. If your club has a ‘power-nerd’, see if they’d be willing to help you find out about it, maybe borrow theirs, or get your club to think about purchasing a Powertap wheel (you’ll get problems with Shimano & Campagnolo cassette wars though, so be aware, but it’s easy to change if you buy both freewheels, which just ‘push-in’). A club power-meter could be a valuable device, I can see that becoming more normal, something that will actually make a difference to riders, but you need somebody who knows how to use the data to tell you something useful.

That’s the jist of it, power is useless without knowledge, the same as has been displayed for centuries by many, many people.

Scottish Cycling: Review & Renew (Part1)

Following the recent ‘Strategic & Governance Review’ of Scottish Cycling by ‘Renaissance & Company’, a strategic management consultancy, we finally have some idea what exactly is going on inside SC, along with some much-needed answers. In this blog & the following parts of ‘Scottish Cycling: Review & Renew’, I’ll be tackling the tricky questions that arise & look at some ideas of how things can be moved forward. In some of my previous posts, you’ll have seen that sometimes I’m echoing the widespread frustration in the sport with regards to SC (historically SCU), this review now shows some light at the end of the tunnel. If Scottish Cycling do not take on board what has been said, act on it in an open manner & listen to the membership, they will cease to exist in the not too distant future. Our sport needs a strong governing body in what could be potentially a massive growth period, across all cycling, not just the traditional road & track scene, we need solutions looking into the future. I’d like to commend Scottish Cycling on implementing the review & making it available for public consumption (although it’s not exactly easy to find on the website, an initial worry about transparency is brought about by this, although I can see why they wouldn’t want every visitor to read it).

Before continuing, I’d advise you read or skim through the review, keep it open on another browser tab & refer to it if needed.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE FULL REPORT

Who Wrote The Review?

I don’t know exactly where the pressure to commission this came from, perhaps Sport Scotland who fund the majority of SC’s activities, but the management consultancy chosen, Renaissance & Company, are an ideal choice having dealt with many sports governing bodies in the past. They specialise in helping sports bodies, HERE & HERE are some links to sporting bodies they have worked with previously. We can have faith that what has been said by them is credible, they’ve seen plenty other sporting governing bodies & they know how they work, or should work.

What the Review Said?

It’s probably beneficial to read it yourself, but the findings are quite scathing, possibly to those who’ve dealt with SC regularly, there are no surprises whatsoever. I’ll not dwell too much on these, looking more towards the future, we all know there have been mistakes & issues, some will feel vindicated, so a short paragraph resume of some of these is valid, here we go..

The report recognises that cycling is complex, supporting various disciplines. SC displays plenty of logo’s of other organisations they have a relationship with, but it says these relationships do not actually exist (British Cycling, Cycling Scotland etc). Middle aged men interested in road racing dominate the membership, the membership don’t know what SC does. It’s an unhappy place to work, they lack effective leadership & there is no master plan!

Please read the report linked further up the page if you want the full story, it’s quite grim regarding what they found.

Solutions

The report flags up a number of solutions, they start on page 9, under section 3, if you’re following the review, skip to that part now.

The first area they look at is ‘Reforming the Business of Scottish Cycling‘, with the following key areas:

  • Strong Participation
  • Excellent Competitions & Events
  • Scotland Winning
  • Excellent Communities of Cycle Sport
  • Effective Leadership, Service & Governance
  • Working in Real Partnership

For increasing participation, we’re seeing that a plan is recommended (we’ll be seeing a lot of this, there currently are no plans), along with an executive in charge of this area. It seems that currently there is no strategy aimed at this, the membership demographics need a serious overhaul, if it continues as a middle-aged man’s domain, then the progress we require in order to develop cycling will not transpire. It will stay as the same old, same old, with an ever ageing emphasis on veteran racing & APR’s, this isn’t the future & whether you like it or not (I assume if you’re reading this, the chances are that you are a middle-aged man, based on the review findings) things are going to change, dramatically.

So how do we change the demographic? There isn’t going to be any kind of exodus of middle-aged men, the Mamils will stay, only we’ll add everybody else into the mix. The report states that SC has only 7000 official members, of the estimated 200,000 regular cyclist in Scotland, the reason that they are not members is likely that they believe SC does nothing for them, or they have no idea that SC exists. Basically SC do not currently provide the service they should in the modern world, they are outdated & stuck in the past, it needs to change, some won’t like it, but cycling is changing & if we (you, your club, your governing body) don’t change, you won’t have a governing body left to cling onto. What everybody outside of the progressive areas of our sport in Scotland (youth development & coaching etc) is that change is inevitable, cycling has got much bigger, we need a strong governing body to look after it and guide it, this review sets out a plan to achieve that.

I’m slightly uneasy with the review comments about events, the calendar stuff is great, but it appears to suggest that it’s OK for SC to organise events. This has gone very badly for the UCI, putting them in direct competition with established race organisers & seemingly using UCI anti-doping funding from pro teams rumoured to fund events in China, these events run by a company funded by the UCI but run by their controversial figurehead, Pat McQuaid & family. Governing bodies shouldn’t be running events other than their championships, it creates competition between the governing body & others, in Scotland’s case, between SC & clubs. There have been moves by groups of clubs to run a track league at Glasgow, but this was stopped for some reason. It’s hard to work out how clubs could raise the funds to block book expensive track time, while its common knowledge that SC are still negotiating their hourly track rate & haven’t actually paid for any yet. We’re not going to get any progressive race organisers getting a look in with that kind of set up.

The calendar does need to be completely demolished & rebuilt, as the report says, it’s got far too clogged up with ‘traditional dates’, if we want a modern sport this needs categorised, with championship events given priority & the other events slotted in around them. I can see some conflict with clubs & organisers over this, but if the clubs have valid reasons for when their event should be on they need to put that across, “it’s always been on that date” isn’t a valid reason, everybody has to accept change.

There’s plenty of solutions involving ‘regions‘, this would involve a complete rethink regarding the ‘centres‘. For some information on how out of balance these are, I wrote a blog on a potential regional road race league system a while ago, ‘Out of Our League‘. The old ‘centres’ simply don’t work as they should, finding ‘less-mature’ club representatives to go along to these would help, but many of the people who actually have any spare time to travel to these meetings still think 6 speed down tube friction levers are state-of-the-art. The regions need to be split evenly into areas with a similar amount of clubs, with a similar projected growth & the meetings need to be modernised. We are in the bizarre situation that some regions cover such a vast area that it’s impossible to get everybody to turn up. Why would somebody from Shetland travel to Aberdeenshire for a ‘centre meeting’, or somebody from Oban visit Glasgow, it’s just not practical. There’s really very little need to actually meet in person, if big business can carry out meetings by Skype, it’s absurd that you can’t decide who’s running your regional ’10’ champs by the same manner, it’s not exactly tricky, you can all sit at home and have a meeting, even on the train, time to move things forward, if you’re shy just do voice meeting rather than video. That’s the only way you can have effective meetings over the geographic distance of the 4 to 6 regions the review advises. The harsh reality of this, is that if you don’t have a computer, you’re not going to be a productive part of a sport trying to modernise & rebuild, you’re also not reading this, so I’ve not offended anybody!

What’s in Part 2?

So that’s the Part 1 basic overview on where we’re going with this over the first part of the review, we need a new SC, a modern sporting governing body with progressive clubs & a strong regional structure, a completely rebuilt calendar.That’s probably enough for Part 1, in Part 2 we’ll start getting into the nitty gritty, looking in depth at where the growth is coming from & there are also some problems with lobbing all the disciplines together where you ‘get a bit muddy’, those are where the real participation growth is coming from, so they need a little more individual attention than that. SC have to be very careful that they don’t change winning formats that are actually attracting their new target demographics.

I can see this drifting into 4 or 5 blogs, we’ve still got to look at how to grow each discipline, bmx, road, sportives, track, cross country mtb, downhill mtb & cross! We’ve only just scraped the surface, I’ll let you read the review yourself before I release Part 2.

Border Raiders

Today, the CTT ‘National’ 10 is already kicking off, as the CTT (formerly RTTC) is not a UK wide body, the term national in slightly dubious, but this event is generally considered the British championship over the 10 mile distance.

We have a couple of strong riders in there who have the potential to break into the top 10, with the event being held in Norfolk using some B roads, it is potentially more relevant to Scottish courses than many of the semi-motorway courses used for a large amount of events down south.

Sandy Wallace Cycles duo Alan Thomson & Silas Goldsworthy are riding, Alan is off at 12:38 & Silas at 12:52. Silas has been tweeting about the course after a recce, says it’s technical, so I’m hoping to see some good results, both riders are capable of getting right up there, Silas also has ‘some previous’, with 7th in the CTT ’25’ last year.

We expect Hutchinson & Bottrill to be racing for the win and the silly hat photo at the end, both have been absolutely storming recently, but if it is as technical as expected I’d assume Bottrill may have the edge on one of Northern Ireland’s fastest time trialists, Hutchinson (Note: Martyn Irvine, world scratch champion is also very rapid in a TT). But we also have riders like Olympic medalist Steven Burke & Russell Hampton in there, who was as good as Dowsett as a junior & trains with him now on his return, so there is a possibility for an upset if the course demands changes in pace, there’s a lot of quality riders lurking in there.

Will be interesting to see what happens today, I’ll be tweeting about it later on @spokedoke.

Start List link here.

Medals for Pedals?

We know where & when the Scottish Scratch Championships will be held, due to the organiser informing us last week. But where are the rest of them?It’s time to look at which events are confirmed & have a date on the calendar.

Let me know if I’ve missed any, you can’t filter the calendar by Scottish Championships, so my eyes may have crossed over and missed some while I was searching.

Confirmed Events

Here’s what I’ve got so far confirmed from the published calendar….

  • 14th April: Time Trial Championships (tt)
  • 12th May: ’10’ Time Trial Championships (tt)
  • 19th May : Womens Road Race Championships & Scottish Road Race Championships (rr)
  • 2nd June: Junior Road Race Championships (rr)
  • 9th June: ’25’ Time Trial Championships (tt)
  • 30th June: ’50’ Time Trial Championships (tt)
  • 13th/14th July: Downhill Championships (mtb)
  • 1st September: Cross Country Championships (mtb)
  • 7th September: Scratch Championships (track)
  • 22nd September: Youth TT Championships (tt)

What’s Missing?

As far as I can see, we’re missing the following….

Road Racing:

  • Youth Road Race Championship
  • Veterans Road Race Championship
  • Criterium

Time Trialling:

  • ‘100’ TT
  • 12 Hour TT
  • Team Time Trial
  • Hill Climb

Track:

  • Sprint
  • Individual Pursuit
  • Team Sprint
  • Kilometre Time Trial
  • Junior Sprint
  • Junior Pursuit
  • Womens Pursuit
  • Womens 500m Time Trial
  • Keirin
  • Womens Keirin

Youth Track:

Lots, including sprint, madison, points, pursuit etc  for different age groups.

Undoubtably Scottish Cyclo Cross will be well organised & have their champs sorted out.

What’s going on?

It’s hard to tell what the problem with championships in 2013 is, but in the absence of an official championship calendar (that I could find anyway, I had a good look), it looks like the championship events have not been allocated. Now this could be down to a handful of reasons, perhaps nobody came forward to host these events, but if that’s the case there’s barely been a word about it, not much publicity at all to encourage clubs or bodies to get involved (again, not that I’ve seen, but open to being proven wrong). It could be the way the calendar works now, that you have to enter your own event on it after getting it approved through Scottish Cycling & British Cycling (if anybody knows the official method for this let me know please, I couldn’t find that either!).

So we have to draw the conclusion that Scottish Cycling must be running these, at least the track events, similar to last year. I think we can all agree, it would be nice to know, why the secrecy, it just creates distrust, please tell us what’s going on.

That’s 2 blogs in a row on Scottish championships & I’m more confused than ever, I think I’ll choose something more logical next time, this stuff just isn’t helping the sport.

Weight a minute.

Across all UCI events, there is a minimum bike weight limit of 6.8kg (that’s around 15lb to any SuperVets reading). Where the UCI got this number from is unknown, but is it really a valid rule in this day & age, where the governing body seemingly assuming there has been zero bike development in the last 10 years since they introduced this rule. What makes bikes immune from engineering advances?

The Rule (UCI Article 1.3.019)

Most manufacturers can build a bike much lighter than 6.8kg, probably many of us own one lighter than that race in ‘race trim’, so why is there a rule to stop us racing a commercially available bike that we can ride on the road any day of the week. The original rule was reported to have been introduced to allow developing cycling nations to compete on a level playing field with rich cycling nations. We now know that it wasn’t the bikes where the performance advantages were generally coming from, but that issue was too tricky for the UCI to deal with, so they focussed attention on bike weights & positions to show they were doing something to even things up.

Here’s the actual rule below: LINK HERE

The minimum weight of the bicycle (in working order) is 6.800 kg, considered without on-board accessories in place, that is to say those items that may be removed during the event. The bottles, on-board computers and GPS systems must be removed during the weight check. However, the bottle cages, fixture systems and clipped-on extensions are part of the bicycle and stay in place during the weighing. This is the mainly UCI regulation that is solely concerned with safety. This minimum weight may be reduced or withdrawn in the future, but only when it is possible to prove that each of the constituent elements of the bicycle conforms to specific safety standards that apply to competition.
The UCI has received several complaints concerning the quality of carbon frames, forks and handlebars that fracture immediately in a crash. It would be irresponsible to remove this regulation without putting a reliable system in place to promote the riders’ safety. Work is currently under way with the cycle industry to move towards a solution that is more in line with the current situation. Above all, the UCI wants to avoid competition between manufacturers to reduce bike weights to the detriment of safety.

Who does it benefit most?

Lets take two examples at the extremes of pro cycling to get an overall view, a 55kg climber & an 80kg sprinter. We’ll assume those are the clothed weights for this example & we’ll stick them both on a 6.8kg bike. We now have the climber with a total weight of 61.8kg & the sprinter with a total weight of 86.8kg. By adding the minimum weight bike, our climber increased his overall weight by 12.4%, the sprinter only increased his overall weight by 8.5%. So we can deduce that a minimum weight limit handicaps lighter riders more than heavier riders, what makes it more absurd is that frame breaking ability is much more likely to happen at sprinting wattages than at climbing wattages. By this UCI rule, the rider most likely to break a frame has a frame less able to withstand his maximum power output than the climber. If we take a guess at the climbers peak power of 1000 watts & the sprinters peak power of 1800 watts, both riders have an equally strong bike, but the climber has no ability to take it anywhere near the level required to cause damage. Surely the lighter riders should be able to race on lighter bikes?

In Practice

I understand that this may throw up additional & more complicated problems if we base it on rider weight, you’d have riders taking part on boxing style weigh-ins to hit the lowest weight possible & risk dehydration, so that’s not practical. What makes this rule even more unfair is that the UCI now have their infamous frame stickers to show which frames (and other components now) are strong enough to be allowed to be raced in UCI events. The weight limit is still in place, so bizarrely we can have a frame which has passed the UCI strength test but still cannot be built into a bike weighing less than 6.8kg.
Take another example: 2 sets of identical components, 2 different frames. Both frames have passed the UCI strength tests, record the same results & have a UCI sticker to prove it. Frame one weighs 100g more than frame 2.
Our build on frame 1 comes out at exactly 6.8kg and the bike is ok to race. The build on frame 2 comes out at 6.7kg, but this bike is banned, even though it has recorded the exact same strength measurements as frame 1. It throws the safety argument out, weight is not a measure of strength or safety, the UCI have this one very wrong.

The Answer

Hopefully we can get to a point where there is a solution, in the past pro teams have been found to place ice cubes in the seat tube for the weight-in, then the melted ice will flow out the bottom bracket holes during the very early part of the stage and the bike will be below the weight limit. Ingenious, but the UCI are onto that one now. Many track riders will also have found their steeds getting measured at national competitions around the UK, which is another absurdity, track bikes have no brakes or gears, yet have the same UCI minimum weight limit. It’s unlikely we’ll see any over zealous officials in Scottish events getting their scales out at the local Cat 4 road race, but they have every right to do so under UCI rules. The rule is plagued with badly thought out errors & does not account for any engineering material developments over the last decade, where stronger components & frames can be manufactured for less weight using state-of-the-art materials in the correct manner.
Please UCI, level the playing field, open up more technological bike development & stop placing a handicap on our skinny wee mountain climbers, they won’t break many frames, they have trouble just opening jam jars!

Giro Air Attack Data

I found some information regarding some of the daft helmets in my previous post HERE. Getting power outputs from this requires a small amount of schoolboy maths, so here it is for one of the silly looking helmets on the market.

The maths

Giro have published their drag in Newtons (N) on their website, you can get to it through the following link. Giro Air Attack, then looking at the COMPARE tab. this shows you the difference between the new Air Attack & the established vented Aeon helmets, which is reasonably aerodynamic looking in itself. But if this data is accurate it should give us a good estimate of the power saving that Giro sponsored teams get by using the Air Attack over a standard Giro vented helmet.

The figures are at 25mph or 40kmh, the Aeon has a drag of about 4.2N, the Air Attack approx 3.7N. The drag will increase significantly as speed increases, this isn’t linear, so going twice the speed produces much more drag than a multiple of two, here’s the figures.

25mph/40kmh

Aeon: Power requirement is Force X Velocity. 4.2 (N) X 11.176 (m/s) = 46.9 Watts

Air Attack: Power requirement is Force X Velocity. 3.7 (N) X 11.176 (m/s) = 41.4 Watts

So we see that at 40kmh, our pro riders are saving approx 5 Watts of power by wearing a silly hat. Now lets look at what happens when we consider sprint leadouts & other high speed situations at 80kmh.

50mph/80kmh

We are not given the drag forces at this speed, so we’ll have to do a calculation to determine CdA, which is the coefficient of drag X area, we just need the value so it can be approximated by using the 25mph figures as follows.

F = CdA X p X (v squared / 2)

F = Force i.e. our drag value in Newtons.

CdA = Drag coefficient X area

p = Air density in kg/m3

v = Velocity in m/s

At 25mph we have F, p (normally approx 1.225 at sea level) & v (25mph is 11.176m/s). So to save you a headache, I’ve calculated CdA as the following.

CdA Aeon = 0.0549

CdA Air Attack = 0.0484

So using the same formula we can alter the speed and we now find that the drag on each helmet is as follows:

Aeon:

Drag = 16.6 N

Wattage required = 16.6 (N) X 22.222 (m/s) = 369 Watts

Air Attack:

Drag = 14.6 N

Wattage required = 14.6 (N) X 22.222 (m/s) = 325 Watts

Conclusion

We can see from the above that power requirement is huge at 80kmh compared to half that speed, approximate savings at the lower speed are about 5 Watts, while at the higher speed we see about 44 Watts. We can assume that most sprinters & lead out men require over 1500 Watts. The above calculations are solely for the helmet, not the total power requirement, so we can see how a series of so-called ‘marginal gains’ will produce a few watts here, a few watts there and you see why the sprinters & lead out men are using any aero benefit they can to deliver their sprinter to the front at as high a speed as possible. Also bear in mind that these are all estimates, but likely not particularly far away from the actual wattage savings. As I said before, silly hats are here to stay, in fact they may get even sillier until the UCI steps in.