Val-d’Or, QC (July 20, 2018) – After taking the Brown Jersey at the Tour de l’Abitibi in the Stage 3 time trial on Thursday morning, Riley Sheehan (Team USA) extended his lead in the overall classification later in the day on Stage 4 by winning the field sprint and grabbing the six bonus seconds on offer. Team Canada’s Riley Pickrell, the winner of Stage 1, finished second and took back the Points Jersey.
The short 52.8 kilometre stage that began and finished in the town of Malartic was controlled by the U.S. national team, who quickly shut down any break attempts. Gusting crosswinds also discouraged efforts to get away, and the field came into the final kilometre intact. Sheehan lead up the false flat final straightaway, with Pickrell closing in the last 100 metres, but running out of road. Yoshiaki Fukuda (Japan) took third ahead of team mate Taisei Hino, who lost the Points Jersey to Pickrell. Robin Plamondon (Team Canada) also made the top-10, finishing eighth.
“It was a very good stage, but I would have been happier with the win,” admitted Pickrell. “It was a well raced stage by team USA, so I have to accept second. The wind was a huge factor; the main crosswind section was two kilometres before an intermediate sprint [won by Pickrell] so the pace was fast, and if you were caught out of the first echelon, you had to do a lot of work. The focus has shifted a bit [for the team]; we will still be going for stage wins, but the goal will be to come away from Abitibi with a jersey.”
Sheehan now leads his two team mates Kendrick Boots and Michael Garrison by 11 seconds, with Canadian road and time trial champion Ben Katerberg (Tag Cycling) remaining in fourth, now 15 seconds back. Garrison remains in the Blue Jersey as Best Young Rider, as does Kevin Cervantes (Alterra Home Loans) in the Climber’s Jersey, since there were no KoMs contested.
In the Points competition, Pickrell now has 72 points to Hino’s 64, with Sheehan moving into third with 54 points.
VALENCE, France (AFP) — The always good-humored Peter Sagan soaks in the ambiance at the Tour de France as much as any rider in the peloton. But even pro cycling’s life of the party is wary of overzealous fans that have already had a negative impact on the race.
“We’re not racing in the stadium or on a track, so it’s a bit difficult to control everybody, especially on the last climb,” Sagan said Friday after claiming his third stage win of this Tour de France.
That said, Sagan is used to trailing home among the late finishers on the punishing mountain stages of the Tour. That means being spat at or pushed, or crashing because over-enthusiastic fans get too close for comfort, is unlikely to happen to him.
It’s not the same for the men fighting each other for the yellow jersey.
On Thursday, race leader Geraint Thomas was booed while on the podium after claiming his second successive Alpine stage to reinforce his grip on the yellow jersey.
“To be honest, we’ve had a few boos from the start, we just ignore it,” Thomas said. “Like I said before, as long as they don’t affect the race, touch the riders or inhibit the riders. You prefer everyone to cheer you. I’d rather be on the podium being booed than be getting dropped on the climb.”
Not so fast. (Forgive the pun.) For the vast majority of riders, those of us not racing through France this July, an aero bike might actually be the better tool, even on some climbs. But there is a reason you won’t see the likes of Romain Bardet or Chris Froome ditching their featherweight climbing rigs any time soon.
First, consider what actually constitutes an aero bike: a frame built with truncated airfoil shapes, mated to deep-profile wheels, and integrated cockpits. Those elements combine to reduce drag at various yaw angles you’ll encounter in real-life riding situations.
Next, consider a climber’s bike: It has a frame built with mostly round or slightly shaped tubes, mated to low- to mid-depth wheels, and far less integration. All of those elements combine to make the lightest bike possible (while meeting the UCI’s 6.8kg minimum weight rule, though production bikes are often much lighter than that). Climbers’ bikes are perhaps the most likely to stick to rim brakes for the foreseeable future in the pro peloton, again to shave grams.
However, those two categories are beginning to overlap. Now, you can find a few crossover bikes that feature aerodynamic touches while maintaining the overall look and feel of a climbing bike. Take BMC’s Teammachine SLR 01, for example. While the truncated airfoil shapes aren’t as pronounced as they are on something like a Trek Madone, they’re still there to help reduce aerodynamic drag. It’s likely we’ll see more of this crossover type of bike in the near future.
That’s because, as it turns out, the benefits of aerodynamic tube shapes outweigh the light weight of a climber’s bike, even on the majority of climbs. When Cannondale engineers were designing the new SystemSix aero bike, they quickly realized that riders would benefit from aerodynamic tube shapes on climbs up to a 6 percent gradient.
“For most people, aerodynamics is the most important design constraint,” says Nathan Barry, Cannondale’s road design engineer. “If you want to design an ultra-lightweight bike that’s five kilos or something, you’re not going to be able to have tubes that are as deep as we have on SystemSix. Now that doesn’t mean that bike is going to be faster most of the time. In fact, it’s going to be slower most of the time unless you’re going up a very steep hill. For most people, aerodynamics is the most important design constraint, so you can add a little bit of weight to that system in order to reduce its drag. We’ve talked about what the performance gains are. For a bike like SystemSix, that tipping point is around 6 percent grade.”
So why aren’t the pros giving up their less aerodynamic climbing bikes anytime soon? Those guys are most likely to encounter steeper grades with regularity. Stage 12‘s finish on Alpe d’Huez averages right around 8 percent and kicks up to 13 percent in places. Monte Zoncolan averages 11 percent and maxes out at an astounding 22 percent. Even Mont Ventoux averages right around 8 percent grade.
It’s clear that a climbing bike would benefit riders on long stretches of steep climbing.
Couldn’t a climber like Rafal Majka outfit his Venge with superlight components to combine aero and light weight? Yes, he could, but it wouldn’t quite reach that 6.8kg mark — and every detail matters for Tour de France riders.
But for the rest of us, it’s likely an aero bike might be a more appropriate choice than a climber’s bike. If you still love the feel of a climber’s bike, you’re in luck: The categories are melding rapidly.
“Within the 6.8kg rule, with the Venge we’ve got pretty close to one bike that can do it all,” says Eric Schuda, road product manager at Specialized Bicycles. “Our teams do have Tarmacs still, and they’ll ride them on the mountain stages or the ones that have the key climbs because it still is a lighter bike.”
But it’s only a little bit lighter — about 300 grams. Schuda says comfort wasn’t a design goal of the new Venge; it was all about weight savings while maintaining aerodynamic advantages. That meant tailoring the truncated airfoil tube shapes to shave weight wherever possible and measuring that against the aerodynamic trade-offs. “We knocked 460 grams out of this Venge,” he says of the new bike. “And the comfort goes up significantly as a side benefit.”
In other words, the Venge comes close to giving the rider all of the advantages of the Tarmac — Specialized’s all-around bike — and all the advantages of its aero lineup.
But it’s still only close. There will always be a tradeoff between aerodynamics and light weight, simply because the most aerodynamic shapes require that materials be added to the frame. A full airfoil — one that is not truncated, or chopped off at the rear end — would certainly add the most aerodynamic gains. But that comes at a cost, both in added weight and ride characteristics. A full airfoil would essentially act as a sail in crosswinds, making the bike difficult to control. It also reduces lateral stiffness, which in turn leads to pedaling power loss.
So for now, you’ll still need to choose between aero bike and climbing bike. Fortunately, the choice should be somewhat easy: If you routinely climb pitches that are steeper than 6 percent or thereabouts, a climbing bike is probably your best tool for the job. For just about everything else, an aero bike probably benefits you more. Of course, if you’re looking to conquer all types of terrain, perhaps consider something that bridges the gap between the two categories.
Fortunately, that group of bikes is growing in size every year.