Okay, so we know that the Garmin-Sharp team
didn't have the best of Tour efforts this year. Sure, David Millar took a big win on stage 12, but other than that, the team was shaken by crashes, injuries and the subsequent rider withdrawals. Not helping was the Dutch newspaper headlines on the morning of stage 5 that implicated team director Jonathan Vaughters in the on-going USADA investigation of Lance Armstrong. From a team that from it's very inception has dedicated itself to clean sport, this was a minor catastrophe.
But, in typical Garmin tradition, the team stayed focused on the race and doing their best at it. By chance, I was able to spend quite a bit of time hanging around the team in the days leading up to the race as well as during the first week of racing. Here's some of the people I met and the products I saw that caught my attention.
We first spied upon Rotor’s new Flow crank at the Garmin-Sharp team hotel and just as I started to talk to Rotor Crank
rep Arthur Espos about it, in his shadow stood a smiling young lass who he was just about to introduce me to when I got the call that my chance to find out about Specialized’s new S-Works+ TT helmet was a now or never opportunity. Goodbye Rotor info.
However, as I was scouring the Village Depart the next day prior to the TT
prologue kicking off, I once again ran into Arthur and with him, again,
was Christie Harris who I would soon find out played a key role in the development of the aero crank. As always, I found myself more interested in
the personal story behind the cranks development than the crank itself.
And as Christie told the story, it was a pretty good one.
Christie proudly shows-off the new Rotor Flow crank that she helped develop.
For Christie herself, she got involved in the project when she was a student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and for her master’s thesis she was testing to see what the real performance impact was from elliptical chain rings. For the test she was using Rotor Q-Rings and eventually she found that the Q-Rings were faster in her 1k test (indoors on a Computrainer). That was in November of 2011. Fast forward to the 2012 Sea Otter Classic and Christie decided to give a cold call at the Rotor booth. Next thing you know she’s hanging out in Spain (where Rotor is located) and working on the Flow project which, too, was less than one year old.
“The crank was designed with input from Garmin team aerodynamicist Robby Ketchell,” she began. “Basically, it started after the team had won the TTT at the 2011 Tour and after the race the Garmin guys came to the same conclusion – they wanted to get faster! So for the last year almost we’ve been working on the design. All of the initial testing was done relying solely using computer fluid dynamic software. We never got into the wind tunnel.”
What Rotor claims is a crank that is stiffer and lighter 562 grams w/o rings & 750 grams with rings. More importantly are the rider performance numbers which Rotor found the rider is 26.4 seconds faster with the crank when averaging 200 watts over a 180km distance. While the Flow cranks use the Rotor’s own weigh-saving Trinity internal drilling process, a key new development over previous Rotor cranks is the new Micro-Adjust System which allows for bolt hole positioning at 2.5 degree increments (versus Rotor’s standard 5 degree).
A new aero crank to make cyclists faster. More important still, Christie was realizing a long-held dream of attending the Tour de France – it was a long way from her earliest days working in a bike shop in New York!
Although the legion of French chefs throughout the country have taken severe umbrage over the growing numbers of race teams bringing along their own chefs to the races, the next step up in the teams bringing their own kitchens (on wheels) as well. Here's the Garmin kitchen on wheels.
All I can say is I wish my kitchen at home was decked out as well as the Garmin kitchen on wheels.
Garmin team mechanic Alex Banyay shoulders every bike that comes of the team car in the morning and runs through (and adjusts) all the gears.
When it comes to the Tour, everybody doubles (and triples up on job duties). As the team Director of Sports Science, Robby Ketchall
is there to maximize every conceivable advantage in weather conditions and aero technology, however, when he's not doing that he's running down the line of bikes dusting the Garmin 500 head units.
I first met Robby at the Mavic CXR80 wheel debut in June and right away he became one of the more interesting people I've met this year. Showing both serious and comical sides, but always with a mind towards winning, Robby is at a place in the aero world that few people can fathom. Not just for the Tour de France, Robby said he has studied and modeled the weather conditions for all the cities that host major TT races on the calendar long before the race is even close. By studying the air velocity & density and wind speed & direction, he and Team Director Jonathan Vaughters are able to dictate what equipment will be used. One key take away, "You don't feel speed as much as you feel pain!" Once they drill down all the variables between weather and equipment, Robby creates a plot for the race at hand and he related how once rider Christian Van deVelde questioned his equipment choice, but Robby replied, "Trust the math!" And so it goes.
It's always great news when a new sponsor comes to the sport and this year Jonathan Vaughters has been happy to announce the arrival of two: first came Barracuda and then just days before the Tour began, Sharp joined in on the fun. The day before the prologue the new Sharp graphics were still being added to the team trailer.
Trust me, when it comes to cleaning expensive carbon race bikes, Pro Tour mechanics are not shy about breaking out the high pressured nozzle and getting up close.
The team was split between riders using the carbon 3T Integra stem with the integrated mount for the Garmin 500 computer and the...
aluminum RRX-team stem. Rare to find was the use of the bigger 800 unit (with touch screen GPS)
. The Integra stem sells for $350 and the actual Garmin Edge mount is sold separately.
For stage four, David Millar broke out the aero enhanced Cervelo S5 along with a set of deep section Mavic Cosmic Carbone 80 wheels. The Cervelo frameset starts at $3000.
Like David Millar, Robbie Hunter was another Garmin rider who preferred the deep section Mavic wheels (these on stage 5) but had them mounted on a Cervelo R5 frame.
U.S. National TT champ David Zabriske has his own overseas fan base. "DZ" had a pretty quiet Tour, but still hung in there to the finish.
David Zabriskie's quickly realized that utilizing the latest in technology doesn't always make for a tidy front end. Things got a bit complicated with the combination of his Shimano Di2 motor and the junction box for the Magura hydraulic brakes. In the end, DZ switched back to standard brakes on his road bike.
AND THE BEST PHOTO OF A GIRO D' ITALIA WINNER EVER....
When I asked Ryder Hesjedal to stand still for a photo as he was rushing between the team bus and the hotel, he wanted to make sure I wasn't planning to make fun of him for his fashionable attire. I reminded Ryder that I was as far from some square peg from Pennsylvania that could be imagined. Ladies and gentlemen, how awesome is it that the winner of the 2012 Giro d'Italia would look like this? A man after my own fashion heart - I tip my sombrero to you Ryder!