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Aqua Blue boss: "This lab rat thing is costing us results"; so was he talking about the bike or its gearing?

To the sound of internet axes being ground we look at what was said, what might have been meant, and whether Rick Delaney had a point about that "lab rat thing"

The owner of Team Aqua Blue Sport has seemingly blamed the SRAM 1x-equipped 3T Strada that the Irish outfit is using for mechanical issues that have affected riders recently.

Rick Delaney, who was in a support car for stage six of the Tour de Suisse last week, Tweeted this:

Manx rider Mark Christian was in an eight rider breakaway with less than 30km (18 miles) remaining of the stage when he shipped his chain. He picked up a spare bike from the team car and joined a three-man group of riders who had been dropped from the break, but the mechanical issue put paid to any hope of taking the stage victory. The break stayed away but Christian and the riders he was with were caught by the bunch.

He was more than disappointed.

“I am absolutely devastated about how today’s stage went,” Christian said. “To be within touching distance of a result – I don’t know what it might have been, but guaranteed top seven or eight – and to have been let down by the bike... I’m absolutely gutted.

“I was on a good day today. I was feeling good on the bike and everything was going well. I don’t think there is any reason why I wouldn’t have stayed with the leaders and given it all on the final climb.

"Who knows what the result might have been, but for all of that to go out of the window because of a mechanical… I’m just gutted.”ABS_3T_Strada_2018 (17).jpg

We've held off reporting on this because we wanted to ask for some clarification on those remarks and to dig deeper... but we didn't get far. We asked Team Aqua Blue Sport whether Rick Delaney’s ‘lab rat’ comment was a reference to the 3T bike in general, the SRAM 1x system in particular, or both. We also asked whether the team could tell us exactly what the issue was, beyond the fact that the chain was dropped.

The team said: “Thank you for the query but we won't be making any further comment.”

Not entirely unexpected, but you have to ask! We have also contacted SRAM and 3T and they are both yet to respond. ABS_3T_Strada_2018 (9).jpg

Although Team Aqua Blue clearly thinks it has suffered a lot of mechanical issues this year, it’s unclear whether they've had a higher number than anyone else. 

We know that Mark Christian’s problem was a dropped chain, but that’s about all we do know. Some people have concluded that this means the team has an issue with the SRAM 1x but, again, that’s not entirely clear.

3T Strada 1x Aqua Blue - 2.jpg

Check out our story on the launch of the 3T Strada. 

Aqua Blue Sport created headlines towards the end of last year when it announced that it would race 3T Strada bikes in 2018. The Strada is an aero road bike that uses hydraulic disc brakes and a 1x (single chainring) drivetrain – there isn’t a rim brake version and there’s no mount for a front derailleur. Developed by Cervelo founder Gerard Vroomen, the Strada has clearance for tyres up to 30mm wide.

Here’s our 3T Strada frameset review. 

3T has concluded that there are aerodynamic gains to be had from going with a single chainring, with no compromises on gear choice. 

“A single ring drivetrain eliminates the front derailleur and one chainring, reducing frontal area, creating space for unobstructed airflow and freeing up the design of the seat tube to shield the rear wheel even better,” says 3T. 

SRAM is currently the only major manufacturer to make a dedicated single-chainring groupset designed for performance-type road riding (although our review bike came fitted with a Shimano Dura-Ace groupset with a Wolf Tooth chainring and a Shimano XT Di2 Shadow Plus rear derailleur). Top-level SRAM Red isn’t available in a 1x configuration so Aqua Blue Sport has been using Force 1 components. Whereas disc brakes have been used by a number of pro riders, SRAM 1x is new to racing at this level.  ABS_3T_Strada_2018 (13).jpg

1x comprises a single-chainring matched up to a wide-ranging cassette. SRAM initially offered 1x systems in mountain biking, before adding Force 1 for cyclocross in model year 2015 and then rolling 1x out on to the road for 2016.

SRAM says that a 1x system is simpler because there’s no front mech or front shifter, there’s no chance of the chain rubbing on a non-existent front mech, and it’s quieter on rough surfaces. SRAM also says that the interface between the chain and chainring is better because their X-Sync rings have tall, square teeth edges that engage the chain earlier, and the traditional sharp and narrow tooth profile helps manage a deflected chain. ABS_3T_Strada_2018 (15).jpg

The SRAM Force 1 rear derailleur features a “Roller Bearing Clutch” that is designed to control chain tension.

On the other hand, in some circumstances a front derailleur can help the chain stay on the chainring by preventing excessive lateral movement.

Certainly, chains can and do get dropped with front derailleur setups, and many pro riders have been frustrated with their bikes as a result of mechanicals in the past. Who can forget Bradley Wiggins throwing his bike at Giro del Trentino in 2013 (and parking it beautifully against a wall of rock) or Tom Dumoulin chucking his bike at the Abu Dhabi Tour earlier this year?

 Aqua Blue Sport’s reported mechanical concerns, the team has enjoyed some success this season, Lasse Norman Hansen taking the first UCI professional road race win with a 1x drivetrain bike at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour back in February, Mark Christian winning the mountains classification in the aforementioned Tour de Suisse and Adam Blythe sprinting to victory in the Euro Shop Elfstedentocht on Sunday using a 52t chainring and an 11-32 cassette. 

Of course, those results don’t prove a whole lot about the equipment used other than that, on its day, it can be ridden to victory. With none of the protagonists talking, we just can’t tell you whether 1x-equipped 3T Strada really is costing Aqua Blue Sport results – and even if they were, it might still be unclear. As it is, this one looks set to run and run. 

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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