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Tour de France Tech – July 4, 2005, part one

Edited by John Stevenson

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Part one of today's tech round-up is here.

Bontrager's super hoops

Tim Maloney-European Editor in Nantes

Bontrager Race Lite XXX climbing wheels
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Carbon fibre rear hub
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Bontrager's deep dish aero prototype Aeolus wheels
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Bontrager Aeolus hub
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Aero is good where wheels are concerned, and so is light. But not too light, as fragile wheels simply can't hold up to the pounding they take in a race like the Tour de France. For the 2005 Tour, Lance Armstrong and the Discovery Channel team will be equipped with several new wheel prototypes, created for Trek in collaboration with in-house wheel guru Keith Bontrager and go-fast wheel designer Steve Hed.

Trek's Scott Daubert told Cyclingnews, "Last year, the USPS team rode the tubular version of our Bontrager XXX Lite carbon fibre wheels and will use them again this year. Last year at the Tour's l'Alpe d'Huez TT, Lance used an even lighter one-off set of XXX Lite wheels made with a special aerospace 55GSM carbon fibre that weigh less than 900g without skewers. This year, we have 10 pairs on hand for the Tour's mountain stages."

Another new wheel for Discovery is the Bontrager Aeolus, named after the keeper of the winds in ancient Greek mythology. Daubert said, "With the Aeolus prototype, we've collaborated with our wheel aerodynamics consultant Steve Hed to develop this new wheel to create an efficient aero shape. With plenty of wind tunnel and rider feedback, Aeolus has a 60mm rim diameter, coupled to the DT spokes and hubs we've been using for several years." Daubert explained that Bontrager had used a special high temperature resistant silicone adhesive to bond a carbon fibre 'skin' to the carbon fiber rim used in the Race Lite XXX wheel.

Aeolus was designed, Daubert said, to "address the need for a fast race wheel for rolling terrain; the Discovery Team has found that a heavier aero wheel provides kind of a flywheel effect and is more efficient to maintain a steady speed." Aeolus prototypes weigh in at 1600 grams / pair and are still under development, but both Aeolus and XXX Lite climbing wheels may be available to the public in 2006.

FSA carbon TT crank
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Back view of the FSA TT crank
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FSA's new cranks

FSA is trialling some dramatic new aero cranks at the Tour - and they're already scored a huge success under Dave Zabriskie with the CSC rider's stage 1 victory in the fastest-ever Tour time trial.

The new cranks are appearing on CSC's, Cofidis' and Liberty Seguros' bikes, and feature a carbon fiber chanring intended to improve both stiffness and aerodynamics. FSA's Ric Hjertberg told Cyclingnews, "Our FSA TT Carbon crankarm has an aero profile and FSA is testing prototype bottom brackets using ceramic bearings, which provide lower friction and weight due to their harder bearing surfaces."

FSA has yet to decide whether the new cranks will become a production item.

Carbon fiber hub center
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Mavic Ksyrium ES
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Mavic rolls out red wheels

A few lucky riders are the Tour have been issued with Mavic's latest wheel, the Ksyrium ES. A special 'tenth anniversary' version of the Ksyrium the ES weighs 80g per pair less than Mavic's Ksyrium SL, according to Mavic sources, and is finished with eye-catching red hubs and one red spoke in each wheel.

Red center
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Unlike the Tour de france centenary special edition of a couple years ago, these aren't a limited run - they are starting to appear in shops already. Weight-saving features on the new wheels include carbon fiber centre to the front hub shell and Cyclingnews understands the new wheels use Mavic's first aluminium freehub body, though that is yet to be confirmed.

Part two of today's tech round-up is here.