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91st Tour de France - July 3-25, 2004
Tour tech - July 13, 2004
Edited by John Stevenson
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Zabel takes a different route
Erik Zabel has been sporting an unusual tech tweak in the first week of the Tour de France - gear cables routed under his handlebar tape. This, of course, is a standard feature of the Campagnolo Ergo power equipment that Zabel's T-Mobile team was equipped with until last year, but with the switch to Giant bikes for 2004 came a switch to Shimano's Dura-Ace components with STI levers.
Shimano doesn't route the gear cables under the tape, perhaps because gear cables generally work best when they follow long, large-radius curves. But in response to Zabel's preference for tidiness and not having his cables flapping in the wind, T-Mobile's mechanics have come up with an ingenious hack that tucks the cables away after they first loop out of the STI lever through short lengths of Nokon outer.
Nokon's highly-regarded cable casings shot to fame last year when Giant used them on its gold-detailed special editions to celebrate 100 years of the Tour de France. Rather than use steel wire strands for the cable outer, Nokon uses short lengths of aluminium tube with special joints to provide flexibility, and a fiberglass reinforced Teflon liner. The upshot is a cable outer that tolerates tight bends - and that lets Zabel get the tidy look he likes.
Mavic comes clean about new Carbone
Prototypes of a new incarnation of Mavic's venerable Cosmic Carbone aero wheels have been popping up at races for a few months now, but Mavic recently delivered official details of the hoops. Known as Cosmic Carbone SLs, according to Mavic (although as you can see the wheels at the Tour are marked as Carbone Pro) they use a combination of an aluminium rim and carbon fiber fairing. The new wheels are being used by Fassa-Bortolo - whose young rider Fabian Cancellara took the Tour's first yellow jersey with a front Cosmic Carbone SL - Saeco, Brioches La Boulangère, Quick Step, Euskaltel-Euskadi and Domina Vacanze.
However, as well as the Cosmic Carbone SL, there's at least one other new version of the Cosmic floating around at the Tour and other races with an all-carbon rim. Our Tour tech sleuths are on the case...
Postal's aero bar available
One component that's been crucial in Tour de France time trials since Greg LeMond blew Laurent Fignon out of the water in 1989 is the aero handlebar. Pioneered by triathletes and adopted almost universally for time trials since the late 80s, aero bars allow a narrow, tucked position that's substantially quicker than the position in the drops that riders used to adopt for time trials.
Lance Armstrong and US Postal have been using development version of Bontrager aero bars for the last couple of years, and with Armstrong's second place in this year's Tour prologue and the team's take-no-prisoners victory in the team time trial, Bontrager is now happy that the bar is ready for prime time.
Production versions of the bar, dubbed the Bontrager Triple X Lite Aerobar, will be available toward the end of 2004. According to Bontrager, Armstrong has tested proto versions weighing as little as 500g, but the production incarnation will tip the scales at 630g - still pretty feathery for a one-piece aero bar and stem.
The Bontrager Triple X Lite Aerobar features a standard 31.8mm clamp diameter with adjustable arm rests and internal brake cable routing. Both Team White and carbon weave finishes available. Aftermarket Team Issue extensions designed for Lance Armstrong will retrofit to the production bar.
Cost will be US$599.
Coming tomorrow in Tour tech: New Shimano wheels, Neutral support, Yellow widget mystery, Tyre topics