This article originally published on BikeRadar
This year's Tour de France began with a 6.4km-long prologue around the urban streets of Liege, Belgium – a pan flat, blitzingly fast course that Fabian Cancellara (Radioshack-Nissan) completed with an average speed of 53.21km/h (33.06mph). Bike choice today was all about aerodynamics and efficiency, not weight.
Most of the gear today was rather standard stuff but a recent UCI technical ruling factored in yet again. This time around, the sport's governing body has decided that add-on friction material (i.e. grip tape) on saddles and handlebars was not permitted if it wasn't originally built into the product itself.
In other words, components with integrated friction features like TT-specific saddles from Prologo, Bontrager, and others are ok but even bicycle-specific accessories like fi'zi:k's grip strip are not. We haven't heard back from the UCI yet so how conventional bar tape fits into this scheme is currently unclear.
Riders still occasionally have a hard time maintaining their positions on the saddle, though, and now have to resort to other measures. Without the ability to increase friction, riders are now tilting the saddle noses upward slightly, maxing out the 3° variance currently allowed by the UCI.
There were a few new bits in the team pit areas, too. Lotto-Belisol captain Jurgen van den Broeck's Ridley Dean was fitted with what we're told is a new disc wheel from Campagnolo, which will likely replace the ancient Ghibli. We have no confirmed technical information at present but the full-carbon construction is guaranteed to be heaps lighter than the Ghibli with its aluminum tire bed and heavy sides. Van den Broeck's disc wheel was also equipped with an 11-speed cassette, which won't fit on a Ghibli.
Lotto-Belisol riders also sported new Lazer aero helmets for today's prologue. In keeping with recent trends, the new lid has no forward-facing vents in an effort to improve aerodynamics, plus a gigantic shield to divert air around the face. Also visible were two ridges running left-to-right – perhaps an offshoot of similar features used on the team's time trial bikes intended to keep air 'stuck' to the surface.
We didn't see any new items in the Saur-Sojasun team area but we did still spot one peculiarity. Time is the team's official bike sponsor but two camouflaged Trek Speed Concepts were hidden amongst the sponsor-correct RXR aero bikes. Interesting indeed.
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