Tour Tech: SRAM shifters, more on the Trek Speed Concept, Di2 glitches... and race radio

Shifting, profiling and tweeting from the Tour

by Dave Atkinson   July 14, 2009  

SRAM r2c shifters

Every second counts on those Tour time trials so it's important to be as streamlined as possible. And one thing I'm sure you're all thinking is, "what about all that drag from the TT shifters when they're pointing up or down? How can we eliminate that?" You weren't thinking that? Oh.

Well, SRAM were, and here's the answer: R2C shifters. Cancellara is among the riders who've been using them in the Tour TTs (he won both TTs in the Tour de Suisse and the Monaco prologue on them), and Armstrong has had a set for ages. Contador's got some too if he wants them, though judging by this pic he's opting for a standard set for now, and probably throwing away valuable microseconds in the process.

While we're on the subject of Contador, check out the great pic below of him warming up which shows some good detail of the Trek Speed Concept frame design, in particular the profile of the main tubes. Look! those rear surfaces really are flat! So flat, in fact, that there's room to write 'CONTADOR' down the back of the seat tube in big letters. That's a fairly drastic move away from the accepted design standards and Trek are pretty confident that the Kammtail Virtual Airfoil (which somehow translates to KVH in TrekSpeak) is a winner. You can read more about the design here from the man in charge of it, Trek's road product manager Tyler Pilger.

Antway, back to the shifters. R2C stands, of course, for "Return to Centre" and that's just what the shift lever does: push up or down to change, and the lever springs back to its centre position ready for the next shift. You get a minimalist dial on one side of the lever's barrel to keep track of what gear you're in, but hey: you're a pro. You know what gear you're in, right?

You can set the angle of the centre position to whatever you like to fit right in with your aero setup, and the levers themselves look slippery and cool with their Carbon paddle. Overkill perhaps for a rainy club ten on the A45, but just the job for the monied boulevards of Monaco.

Shimano's swanky Di2 electronic groupset has been much in evidence in this year's Tour, especially on the TT stages, but Michael Rogers got himself into trouble on the opening Time trial dropping his chain off the inner ring twice: each time he had to stop and manhandle it back on, and he lost around 20 seconds doing so. It transpires that Rogers had opted to swap his 39-tooth inner ring for a 46-tooth one just before the off, but no-one on the team had realised that the system is configured to work with the 39T ring and the massive inner ring threw out all its clever sums, causing the chain to ship.

“[53/46] is not a combination that is in the system, precalculated. It was just as much of a surprise for us, because it was working well before the start", explained mechanic Perry Moerman. "But just before the start [Rogers] decided to go with the bigger chainring. We we didn’t realize it was preset, everything,” said Moerman. “Now we know.", he added, to the sound of stable doors slamming across the principality.

While the manufacturers and teams strive to stride forward in techonlogical leaps and bounds, in other ways today's stage from Limoges to Issoudun will be a step back in time as the teams are required to keep radio silence. That's right, no radios, and although the radio waves are quiet there's plenty of talk eslewhere, especially Twitter. Here's some of the tweets from the pros... a bit of light hearted banter, but nobody seems that bothered.

Christian Vande Velde: Raining, no radios, hills, small roads, and Bastille Day. Old school biking tomorrow. Helmets or Hairnets?

Mark Renshaw: We are lucky to have @ghincapie on the team, he remembers racing back in 79 sans radio Smile

Michael Rogers: Good morning friends, cloudy & overcast this morning. We are motivated for a stage win 2day. No radio coms 2day. Old school.. Woolen jersey?

Thanks to www.theroaddiaries.com for the pics