Tech feature - February 8, 2005
Tunnel time takes Lance & co to next level
Lance Armstrong and his Discovery team have been fine-tuning their bike and rider aerodynamics in preparation for this year's time trials and Armstrong's planned assault on the hour record, European Editor, Tim Maloney reports.
Lance Armstrong appears to be as serious as it gets about taking a crack at one or both of Chris Boardman's UCI Hour Records some time this year. Armstrong mentioned last month that he was thinking about an attempt on cycling's most prestigious record and recently spent some time at in a wind tunnel testing both a possible 'conventional' bike for the absolute hour record and time trial bikes, along with other members of the Discovery team.
Trek's brand manager Zapata Espinoza told Cyclingnews about this "other" Discovery Pro Cycling Team camp. "While he was out in California, Lance Armstrong and some of his teammates took some time to get into the wind tunnel," explained Espinoza. "Lance was there primarily to test his position for his possible attempt at the hour record. The test took place at the Allied Low Speed Wind Tunnel in San Diego." Lance was joined by teammates Jose Azevedo, Yaroslav Popovych, George Hincapie (who replaced Savoldelli, who is out of action with a broken collarbone) and the 2000 Olympic TT champ Viatcheslav Ekimov.
"Lance's one-off track bike was actually a standard OCLV Madone road frame with some handmade horizontal dropouts installed that frame engineer Mark Andrews built," said Espinoza. "Besides testing the hour bike, the wind tunnel sessions also gave the team the opportunity to test their TT positioning and some of the latest Nike technology."
Located at San Diego airport, the Allied Aerospace Low Speed Wind Tunnel (www.lswt.com) was constructed in 1944 and has a circular shape, with the turbine and prop in one alley and the test center in the other. Aside from the data collection process, the tunnel's technology hasn't changed in 60 years. Discovery Pro Cycling Team sponsor AMD played a key role in the testing, with many AMD powered computers using custom programs to provide test data for the team to interpret. On hand for the tests were Lance's coach Chris Carmichael and his CTS team, aero gurus Chet Kyle and Len Brownlie, Steve Hed and Trek's Scott Daubert, Doug Cusack and Mark Andrews. Of course, Discovery team director Johan Bruyneel was also present. When talk turned to UCI frame regulations and what they might mean for the frame Lance would ride for the hour record, Bruyneel joked, "I don't care what it's made of as long as breaks the record…he can ride a wooden bike!"
During the San Diego wind tunnel sessions, Lance's team looked at every detail, from tire selection, body position, track elevation and UCI's technical regulations. "So I can't coast?!", joked Armstrong when he realized that once he gets pedaling up to speed there's no freewheeling on a fixed-wheel track bike. When Lance wasn't on his track bike, he was aboard his team time trial bike to evaluate new information about positioning and some new materials used in his Nike skinsuit.
Espinoza shared an interesting moment when he told Cyclingnews that a big highlight of the testing was when Ekimov took to the wind tunnel for the first time in his career. "I'm a bit nervous," Ekimov said as he suited up, "because today I learn whether I've been doing everything right or everything wrong for my whole career!" In the end, the Russian superstar proved to have been doing it right all along as his drag numbers were among the lowest recorded! After the January wind tunnel sessions, Lance Armstrong's quest for the World Hour Record has just begun.