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Road Bike Action Q&A

September 7, 2011
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Welcome to the first web installment of RBA Q&A – a festive question and answer column by former Pro and current RBA editor and licensed coach, Neil Shirley. Each month Neil answers an array of training and and tech questions.

If you have any tech or fitness questions you’d like answered, send them off to Road Bike Action Q & A.


                2010 Vuelta a Espana – Inigo Cuesta (Photo: Yuzuru Sunada)

Q: Is there an age limit for the Grand Tours, or could a 50-year-old conceivably race in the Tour de France?


A: Derek, let me guess, you just turned 50 and are having some sort of midlife crisis and thinking of selling everything and dedicating yourself to racing in the Tour? Close? Well, before you hand in your resignation at work and tell your wife you’re moving to Europe, keep reading.

While there is no age limit to racing in the Tour de France-or any of the other Grand Tours-it comes down to ability. Unfortunately, racing at the highest level in the sport doesn’t tend to shine on the 40-year-old-plus crowd. The oldest rider to ever compete in the Tour was 50-year-old Frenchman Henri Paret, and he not only finished the race, he ended up11th overall. But, that was way back in 1904 when the Tour was in its infancy.

In 1922, 36-year-old Firmin Lambot of Belgium became the oldest winner in Tour history-a record that still stands today. If Lance Armstrong had won his eighth Tour in 2009, he would have replaced Lambot as the oldest tour victor at 38 years old, but, as we know, he ended up third. In the most recent Tour, Christophe Moreau was the oldest rider at 39 years old and went on to retire at season’s end. So, while it’s conceivable that a 50-year-old could race in the Tour de France, it’s just not that realistic. I can’t say a 50-year-old will never race in a Grand Tour again, but I can say it won’t be this year, since the oldest rider with a shot to ride a Grand Tour is Spaniard I¤igo Cuesta, who will be 42 this June.


Q: When a component or frame company sponsors a team, how much of it is merely for marketing, and how much is for actual research and development purposes? It seems like the cycling companies hype up the fact that they get tons of feedback from the pro racers, but do the engineers really listen to the feedback and make changes?

Topher Webb

A: Alex Wassmann, SRAM road sports marketing, responds:

As a technical sponsor in pro cycling, keeping the mix right is a balancing act that needs to satisfy multiple ends. When sponsoring athletes, you seek validation through their success; in turn they want faster, lighter, better and newer from you. Sometimes you’re lucky and your product, as is, fills a unique purpose, and the marketing side can run with it. But chances are, either a need for customization or father time can conspire for updates to what for now seems ideal or even adequate. Significant advancements in high-performance products are a fact of life in racing, plus they spring almost exclusively from elite athletes. But, such endeavors can be shaped as much by factors outside of feedback and rationale. Cost, technology, prioritization, safety concerns, our own competitive landscape, even regulations by the sport’s governing body all temper the development process. So yes, engineers and the R&D department listen and act. They have to, and need to, in order for us to remain competitive. Better ideas start somewhere.


Q: My bike currently is all Dura-Ace 7800. Can I swap out the crank with an Ultegra FC-6750 compact crank? I got a slot in the Double Triple Bypass in July and want to go with compact so I can enjoy the ride a bit more!


A: Thanks for your question, Greg. You should be able to switch out your Dura- Ace 7800 crank with an Ultegra FC-6750 crank without any issues. They both use a Hollowtech II bottom bracket, so the new crank should work perfectly with your current bottom bracket.

Once you do the crank swap, you will want to drop your front derailleur down to within 2mm of the top of the big ring to ensure the best shifting. A front derailleur cable adjustment will be necessary after moving the derailleur, but that’s something that you can do if you’re mechanically inclined, or a shop can do it in a matter of minutes.


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