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That Tour de France TT
A competition to win some TT tech, and my honest thoughts
This article was originally written for Sync Ergonomics. All photos courtesy of Zac Williams.
It’s Stage 16 at the Tour de France - it’s TT time.
This year’s Tour has been one for the ages. There have been surprise stage winners, a battle for Polka Dots, domination in the sprints, and plenty of heartbreak to boot. We’re also in the midst of a generational battle for yellow.
It’s the morning of Stage 16, the calm before the perhaps yellow jersey defining storm. Jonas Vingegaard is sitting ten seconds ahead of Tadej Pogačar, their next closest rival is five minutes behind. With little to choose between the two, this time trial could be race defining.
Making up less than 1% of the overall race distance, the 2023 Tour has the least amount of time trial kilometres in living memory. Even then, the 22.4km that the riders tackle is hardly a traditional test against the clock.
The first 16 km is relatively rolling, with just the one steep kicker at the start, before the riders reach the Côte de Domancy. The climb is 6.3km long at 6.6% average, the final 2.5km being at 9.5%. It is on the Domancy that the Tour could be decided.
The preparation for Tour de France TTs, especially when in the final week of the race, happens months before. Team staff will be sent to drive the course and make notes. The expected contenders may even take time out of their early season calendar to ride the route.
Pacing strategy and equipment choice are the topics of conversation around the team bus paddock. Both UAE Team Emirates and Jayco-AlUla will be using our front-end, with Pogačar on the search for yellow and Simon Yates still in the battle for a Top 10 overall.
Marco Pinotti is the Sports Engineering Director at the Australian team, and is recognised as one of the brightest minds in the time trial world.
“It is a TT for the GC contenders. I don’t see that many others have a chance for results. I would have liked a longer TT but still I think it will be a key stage for Yates’ placement in the race. So far, the mountains have created small gaps and I think bigger gaps could come when riders are going alone without having visual references.”
To bike change or not to bike change, that is the question.
The final climb comes with a key question: should you bike change? For those who aren’t riding full gas, it’s not too much of a bother. For those who are going for a stage win or GC, it could make all the difference. Some basic calculations show that a bike change could save around ten seconds, but it also comes with the inherent risk of a bad change!
According to Pinotti, there are two key points to consider:
weight of equipment
ability of riders to climb on TT bike vs Road bike - What he call "power-ability"
How it Played Out in Real Time:
Pogačar versus Vingegaard.
White versus Yellow.
As I write this, the two favourites are out on course. There is still 10km, still the final climb to go and Vingegaard is flying. He has put thirty seconds into his rival. Has he gone out too fast? Is Pogi on a bad day?
Pogačar bike changes. It’s fast. It’s smooth. But, he’s the only favourite so far who has done. Both Yates and Wout rode the TT machine to the top.
Vingegaard reaches the bottom of the climb, the time gap hasn’t shown yet. Pogačar looks strong on his road bike, TTs with a climb to the line are his thing. Can he bring the thirty seconds back? It’s the a climbing white jersey like this that Jumbo-Visma had nightmares about after the 2019 Tour de France.
The time gap flashes up on screen. Vingegaard is almost a minute up on Pogačar. Advantage yellow. Even though Pogi crosses the line some X seconds ahead of second place, it’s damage limitation for the Slovenian.
Is Vingegaard on the ride of his life, or is Pogačar on a slight off day?
1.5km to go. The gap is over 90 seconds. It looks like Vingegaard could even catch Pogačar. I’m not sure anybody predicted that one.
The final time gap between Jonas and Pogačar is 1:38. Third place, Wout van Aert is a further 1:14 behind. What a time trial by Jonas Vingegaard. Unbelievable stuff.
The Best of the Rest
The top two will take the headlines, and on days like today, it’s easy to forget that there are another 154 people in the bike race. For Jayco-AlUla, it was a good day out, with Simon Yates placing fifth overall.
“I tried to pace it to my strengths, I was always going to lose time on the flat and I just tried to go full gas on the climbs. In the end I blew a little bit and I think it was more because of the heat, it is really warm and humid here and that really took its toll over the TT. I think I did an ok ride today, it was a really demanding course.” - Simon Yates
In collaboration with Jayco-AlUla Sync Ergonomics are giving away a full V2 Evo Ecosystem to assist your time-trial optimisation goals. This competition is taking place on their Instagram account and is open until July 23rd.
My Honest Thoughts
These thoughts are 100% my own, and do not reflect Sync Ergonomics or any of my partners.
Today’s ride was suspicious and social media is awash with doping accusations. My cycling group chats were quickly populated by questions of legitimacy, and that famous Lance “zip your mouth” gif.
To win that comfortably against a raging Pogačar was a shock to the cycling world. It’s easy to say that Pogi had a bad day, but he didn’t - he beat third place Wout van Aert by over a minute. He practically caught Carlos Rodriguez who sits second in GC
It’s horrible to point fingers, and cycling fans of an older generation quickly drew comparisons to the “Dark Ages” of the nineties and early two thousands.
I’ve always taken an optimistic perspective when it comes to doping accusations, but Stage 16 of the Tour de France sits uneasy in my stomach. Unbelievable - in every sense of the word.
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