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Check out Ben Healy’s Cannondale SystemSix

Irish rider put in an incredible solo performance to win Stage 8 of the Giro d’Italia at the weekend on this aero road bike

Ireland’s Ben Healy (EF Education-EasyPost) produced a stunning 50km (30-mile) solo break to win Stage 8 of the Giro d’Italia, and here’s the Cannondale SystemSix he rode to victory.

2023 Giro d'Italia stage 8 Ben Healy © Zac WiLLIAMS (t-a Photography Hub Ltd) - 2.jpeg

Healy, aged 22, is racing in his first-ever Grand Tour after a stellar spring that saw him win GP Industria & Artigianato di Larciano and finish on the podium in Amstel Gold and Brabantse Pijl. He also took fourth place in Liège–Bastogne–Liège

Healy rode away from the bunch on a hilly 207km (129-mile) stage from Terni to Fossombrone and won by 1:49mins.

Cannondale was late to the party as far as aero road bikes are concerned but the SystemSix made a big impact when it was introduced in 2018. The US brand said that it was “the world’s fastest road bike” – although it would, wouldn’t it?

> Cannondale launches new aero-optimised SuperSix Evo 4 with threaded bottom bracket — all the details + first ride review 

“The SystemSix is built on a six-part foundation – frame, fork, seatpost, bar, stem and wheels that all work together as a system,” says Cannondale.

2023 Giro d'Italia stage 8 Ben Healy © Zac WiLLIAMS (t-a Photography Hub Ltd) - 3.jpeg

Pics above, including main pic: © Zac WiLLIAMS (t-a Photography Hub Ltd)

“The disc brake-only design freed SystemSix from the constraints imposed by rim brakes, allowing engineers to achieve new levels of drag-reducing integration between the frame, fork and wheels. Precisely truncated airfoil profiles in the frame, fork and seatpost maintain air flow attachment across important yaw angles and minimise drag, while delivering world-class stiffness and ride feel.”

At the time, Cannondale didn’t have the aero expertise to develop a bike like the SystemSix so it recruited aerodynamicist Nathan Barry as a design engineer. He’s still with Cannondale today. Using the usual tools of CFD (computational fluid dynamics) and wind tunnel testing, the SystemSix was a three-and-a-half-year project.

“SystemSix is the result of a ground-up design where each element is optimised in pursuit of speed,” said Nathan Barry. “Aerodynamic drag is the single greatest resistive force that riders have to overcome so it is important to everyone, not just racers. SystemSix delivers more speed, to more riders, more of the time.”

Cannondale tailored the airfoil profiles of the various parts of the frame “with differing degrees of truncation designed to maintain flow attachment across important yaw angles to minimise drag”.

It has also introduced what it calls a chine at the base of the head tube – a moulded area designed “to redirect air flow coming up the back of the fork leg, channelling it downstream”. Other brands have since followed suit.

The proprietary fork is airfoil-profiled with a crown that’s integrated into the junction of the head tube and the down tube. Cannondale has made the legs asymmetric to handle the forces of the disc brake.

2023 Giro d'Italia stage 8 Ben Healy  - 1.jpeg

EF Education-EasyPost use Vision Metron wheels, handlebars and stems (or one-piece cockpits), and FSA – which owns Vision – provides the chainsets. Healy was using the Corsa Pro tyres that Vittoria called “the most advanced cotton road tyre ever made” at their launch a couple of weeks ago.

> Vittoria claims new Corsa Pro is “the most advanced cotton road tyre ever made” 

The rest of the groupset components come from Shimano’s Dura-Ace range. You can see how far Healy angles his shifters inwards to reduce his frontal area and drag.

Healy says that he was planning to go for victory on Stage 8 of the Giro. The aerosuit and overshoes suggest he meant business. A few kilometres in, he and a dozen other riders got away. With the GC favourites marking each other behind, the break always stood a chance of staying away, but no one expected Healy to attack 50km out from the finish.

“If you can go solo, it is always better,” he said later. “I know in big groups like this, group dynamics can play a pretty big role, so I backed myself for a long move. I didn’t want to take any chances today, so I went solo. I knew I had good legs and managed to hold it to the finish. It’s a really good day.”

The super-colourful aerosuit is part of the changeout kit that EF Education-EasyPost is wearing for the Giro. Rapha has taken surplus fabric that would otherwise have gone to waste and turned it into race clothing.

2023 Giro d'Italia stage 8 Ben Healy  - 1 (1).jpeg

“The team issue [clothing] consists of 72% majority excess material, owing to UCI rules around team kit consistency and garment requirements,” says Rapha.

Cannondale has also supplied the team with SuperSix Evos that have been finished with recycled or excess paint from its custom paint shop, although the SystemSixes haven’t undergone a similar process.

EF Education-EasyPost says that these are visual indications of changes it is making towards a greener future.

Check out loads more Bikes at Bedtime here. 

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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