The race jury at the Tour de France has rejected claims that the skinsuits worn by Team Sky riders at yesterday’s opening time trial in Dusseldorf gave its riders an unfair advantage over their rivals.
The British UCI WorldTour outfit dominated the 14-kilometre race against the clock, placing four riders in the top eight to take control of the team classification.
Besides the stage win by Geraint Thomas that saw him take the yellow jersey, former time trial Vasil Kiryienka placed third and defending Tour de France champion Chris Froome sixth to take time from his rivals on the first day of the race, while Michal Kwiatkowski finished eighth.
But sports scientist Fred Grappe, who lectures at the Université des Sports de Besançon and is also performance director of the FDJ team, questioned the legality of the skinsuits worn by a number of Team Sky’s riders, which had small bubbles on what appeared to be panels on the upper arms.
The allegation was that the panels had been added to the Castelli skinsuits rather than forming an integral part of the garment and that they did not therefore comply with UCI regulations regarding equipment, which state:
Garments must not be adapted in any way such that they diverge from their use purely as clothing. The addition of any non-essential element or device to clothing is prohibited.
Writing on Twitter yesterday evening, Grappe said: “What aero advantage can you get from vortices [bubbles] placed on the side of the arms in a time trial? Is it within the regulations?” He added a link to his blog in which he highlighted an academic study on the subject.
Quels avantages aéro peut-on tirer de vortex placés sur les côtés des bras en chrono ? Est-ce réglementaire ??? https://t.co/kg51ktI6e9
— Fred Grappe (@fredgrappe) July 1, 2017
Reuters said that at least two teams had complained about the panels, adding that the performance director of one team, whom it did not name but is possibly Grappe, said it had tested a similar garment and found that it created an advantage of 1 second per kilometre.
But Philippe Marien, president of the race jury, told Reuters: “It is an actual part of the jersey, it was not added.
“We summoned the team’s sports directors to check the jerseys. Nothing was added to them.”
Speaking today, Team Sky sports director Nicolas Portal insisted: “There are other teams who have been using it.”
Other than being in the predominantly white design that Team Sky have switched to during the Tour de France, the skinsuits complete with those bubbles on the upper arms look identical to the ones worn by two riders in May on Stage 10 of the Giro d’Italia.
Those were Mikel Landa and Geraint Thomas, with the Welshman, who would abandon the race shortly afterward, finishing second that day to overall winner Tom Dumoulin of Team Sunweb.
It is not the first time the skinsuits used by Team Sky have come under scrutiny at the Tour de France.
When Sir Bradley Wiggins won the race in 2012 with Froome runner-up, questions were asked about the ‘wires’ sewn into the fabric of the skinsuit worn by Wiggins during the time trials on Stages 9 and 19, although the UCI confirmed that they had been cleared beforehand.
The skinsuit Wiggins wore, in the race leader’s yellow, carried the branding of Tour de France sponsor Le Coq Sportif but is believed to have been made by Italy’s MOA, a subsidiary of Nalini.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.